Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The official topic for this list was Books I Hope Santa Brings, and, while this did sound like a fun topic, I instead decided to continue my annual end of year wrap up of some of the best books of 2021. In previous weeks I highlighted some of the best debuts of 2021, as well as the best pre-2021 novels I read in the last year, but this week I am going to look at something near and dear to my heart, the best audiobooks of 2021.
Readers of my blog only need to check out my extensive audiobook category to know that I have a lot of love for the audiobook format. In my opinion, the audiobook is often the best way to experience a good book, and in many cases, this format makes a book a lot more enjoyable for me. As a result, I listened to quite a few audiobooks this year, and while several of them are books that had been released before 2021 and featured in my Throwback Thursday posts, a large majority of them were released this year. There were some truly outstanding and impressive audiobooks released this year, and I already know that I am going to have an extremely hard time coming up with the final version of this list.
For this list I have only included audiobooks released in 2021 that I have listened to and completed, so I am excluding a few audiobooks that were probably pretty awesome, but which I didn’t have a chance to listen to. Despite this, I still ended up with a long list of extremely good audiobooks, all of which were extremely worthy of appearing on this post. To help cut this down, I too into account a range of consideration, including quality of the original novel, skill of the narrator, production value, pacing and other factors, including any featured music or sound effects. Looking at all this I was eventually able to cut the list down to the absolute best 10 audiobooks (as well as an extended honourable mentions section). I had to make some very hard decisions here, and I ended up losing several extremely good audiobooks from this list. Still I think it really represents the best audiobooks I enjoyed this year, and there are some amazing productions down below. So let us see what made the cut.
Jeremy Robinson’s brilliant talent for writing incredibly entertaining novels once again combined perfectly with the fantastic narration of R. C. Bray (who gets a few mentions in this article) to produce an excellent and impressive audiobook production.
A clever and intense spy thriller from the master Mark Greaney that is extremely well adapted by veteran narrator Jay Snyder.
After his sensational first novel/audiobook, The Thursday Murder Club, blew everyone away last year, comedian Richard Osman continued his cool series with The Man Who Died Twice. This second book featured another brilliant audiobook adaption narrated by the talented and perfectly cast Lesley Manville, which is really worth checking out.
Following on from Planetside and Spaceside, Michael Mammay produced another exceptional science fiction thriller with Colonyside, which was massively enhanced by R. C. Bray, whose voice works incredibly well for the gruff, military characters.
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There was no way that the latest epic Joe Ledger audiobook by Jonathan Maberry, Relentless, was not going to make this list, especially as it once again features the fantastic narration of Ray Porter. Relentless is the sequel to Rage (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2019), and contains an impressive story about Mayberry’s iconic protagonist, Joe Ledger, going on a revenge rampage. Porter, who is one of my favourite audiobook narrators, once again expertly inhabited the main characters of this book, ensuring that listeners get a real sense of Ledger’s pain and torment. An incredible production that perfectly brings this novel to life.
Joe Abercrombie’s outstanding dark fantasy Age of Madness trilogy came to an incredible end this year with the captivating and moving The Wisdom of Crowds. Containing a brilliant story and some wonderfully dark and complex characters The Wisdom of Crowds is a terrific read that did a fantastic job wrapping up the stories started in A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020). The excellent Steven Pacey’s amazing voice helped to turn this into an excellent and compelling production, and I cannot wait to grab Abercrombie’s next book in this format.
After enjoying physical copies of the first two novels in Alexander Freed’s Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron trilogy, Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall, I checked out the third novel, Victory’s Price, on audiobook and was absolutely blown away by it. The Victory’s Price audiobook was just exquisite, combining a perfect and dramatic narrative with amazing Star Wars sound effects, music, and the exceptional voice work of January LaVoy. This resulted in such an amazing audiobook, especially with the iconic Star Wars score working to enhance some of the more intense scenes.
Another great trilogy that ended this year was The Tide Child trilogy by R. J. Barker (previously consisting of The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships), which finished with the impressive The Bone Ship’s Wake. Containing an exceptionally moving narrative, The Bone Ship’s Wake was an incredible book that takes the readers on a wild emotional ride. I really enjoyed the audiobook adaption of this cool book. The Bone Ship’s Wake was voiced by the talented Jude Owusu, who expertly brought the compelling characters and brutal nautical setting to life through his narration. The Bone Ship’s Wake was an incredible audiobook that will really drag listeners into this brilliant series.
Earlier this year I listened to my first Jeremey Robinson novels, The Dark, something that I am extremely thankful I did. The Dark was a clever and entertaining novel that followed a group of characters as they attempted to survive an invasion from hell. I have a lot of love for this book, not only because of the great story, but because the exceptionally talented R. C. Bray narrated the audiobook. Bray does a beautiful job with this book, expertly narrating the crazy story and enhancing all of Robinson’s unique humour and over-the-top characters, with his great voice work. A fast-paced and brutal novel, The Dark audiobook was a lot of fun, and Bray will ensure you stick to this bonkers story right to the end.
Leading fantasy author Anthony Ryan produced an excellent brand new fantasy series this year that started with The Pariah. The Pariah followed a complex and interesting protagonist as he tells the reader the story of his life through a chronical narrative. Not only is this a great story, but the audiobook is narrated by the excellent Steven Brand, who perfectly portrays this central figure and ensures that the reader really gets to grips with Ryan’s powerful and detailed story.
After wowing us with Skyward and Starlight, one of the best authors in the world today, Brandon Sanderson, dropped the third entry in his epic Skyward young adult science fiction series, Cytonic. Cytonic is another captivating read that takes its unique characters to an incredibly weird setting and pits them against impossible odds. Narrator Sophie Aldred is just great here, especially when it comes to portraying the novel’s unpredictable point-of-view protagonist or highlighting the many awesome fighter combat sequences. Cytonic was a brilliant addition to the series and I am extremely glad that I checked it out on audiobook.
Acclaimed author John Gwynne produced a brand new fantasy novel this year with the much-loved The Shadow of the Gods. Split into three separate storylines that followed some great characters as they traversed a dark fantasy world, each narrative thread was greatly enhanced by the excellent narration from Colin Mace. Not only does Mace perfectly portray all three amazing point-of-view characters, but his impressive voice really brings you into the Norse-inspired fantasy world the story was set in. This was such an amazing audiobook production and I would greatly recommend this format to anyone interested in reading this outstanding fantasy novel.
Last year, Nick Martell produced one of the best debuts of the year with The Kingdom of Liars, a truly awesome and exceptional read. Martell followed this debut up in a big way with the sequel, The Two-Faced Queen that featured an exceptional narrative, loaded with an unbelievable number of twists and reveals. The Two-Faced Queen was one of the best books of the year, and I had an incredible time listening to it on audiobook thanks to the talented Joe Jameson. Jameson, who has been narrating some awesome novels lately (such as the Warhammer 40,000 book, Fire Made Flesh) did a great job of enhancing this fantastic novel, and I loved the cool voice and personality he gave to the central character. Jameson’s brilliant narration also helped me follow the many, many complex elements of this novel, and this was a great way to enjoy this impressive novel.
The final audiobook on this list is another Star Wars novel. This time it is the final entry in the Thrawn Ascendancy series by Timothy Zahn, Lesser Evil. Following on from Chaos Rising and Greater Good, Lesser Evil was a brilliant and powerful novel that perfectly wrapped up a great trilogy. Like Victory’s Price, Lesser Evil made exceptional use of the iconic Star Wars music and sound effects, but it also features the notable talents of narrator Marc Thompson. Thompson does a great job coming up with cool voices for the various characters of Lesser Evil, especially its protagonist and villain, which helps to tell the book’s amazing narrative. That, combined with the production values of a Star Wars novel adaptation, helped to turn this into a compelling and enjoyable audiobook that was just amazing.
Well that is the end of this latest Top Ten list, and as you can see, I have been lucky enough to listen to some awesome audiobooks this year. All the above audiobooks are extremely good and I would highly recommend each of them in their audiobook format. There is still a little time for me to listen to a few more great audiobooks this year, and I cannot wait to see how they all turn out. Let me know what your favourite audiobooks of 2021 were in the comments below, and I will have to try and check them out as well.