It was quite hard for me to come up with a definitive Top 10 list this year. In 2015 I listened to just over 80 audiobooks, ranging from Amazing to well, meh. I was more brutal than usual, quickly stopping any book that didn’t grab me pretty quickly. When putting together this list, my rules were pretty simple, I would stick to 10 books, they would be books produced in 2015 and they would be books that hit that sweet spot between performance and content. When I narrowed my selections down originally, I came up with 20 contenders, with about 5 absolute Top 10 books. It took me a while to whittle the final 15 books into the five final slots, but I put my emphasis on the performance at this point, and that helped a lot. I think this list has a lot of diversity with genre and style, and hope all my readers can find something that suits their tastes.
And yes, it’s been a while since I have posted here at the old ‘lobe. 2015 was an interesting year personally, mostly in a positive way. There has been some ups and downs, and my audiobook listening time has been a constant source of positive influence. A big shout out to the storytellers who helped me through this year.
My Favorite Audiobook of 2015
The Cartel by Don Winslow
Read by Ray Porter
If you are going to invest over 40 hours in an audiobook experience, who better to lead you through it than Ray Porter. When I completed THE POWER OF THE DOG, I felt there was so way Winslow could top this story, and was expecting the sequel to be a bit of a let down. It wasn’t even close. THE CARTEL was even more riveting than it’s predecessor, taking characters you already knew in surprising new places. Yet, what truly amazed me about THE CARTEL was the slew of new, fully realized peripheral players, each one brought to life so completely they could have carried a novel on their own. THE CARTEL taught me things about the War on Drugs and the formation of the Cartels that I never really wanted to know and shined a light on the drastic effects our policies can have on developing nations, but more importantly, it told a hell of a story. Ray Porter was simply brilliant, taping emotions I didn’t know I had. I have always believed that Porter was the best 1st person narrator in the business, but here he proves his skills are just as effective in a 3rd person narrative.
My Favorite Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2015
The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell
Read by Sasha Dunbrooke
I have a feeling people are either going to love this audiobook, or hate it. Me personally, I found it absolutely friggin’ brilliant. More importantly, Sasha Dunbrooke gives my favorite performance of the year, taking a complex idiomatic tale and seamlessly infusing life into it. Her performance is as much music as it is narration, creating a unique rhythm to the patois of this post apocalytic world. Dibolla explores uncomfortable truths about motherhood and survival and has created one of the most unique and memorable characters in the flooded post apocalyptic subgenre. Her slow burned post pandemic world feels scarily plausible.
My Favorite Horror Audiobook of 2015
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Read by Joy Osmanski
I think it’s very hard to legitimately scare people. You can thrill them, disturb them, nauseate them, creep them out and disgust them, but to literately invoke fear into the hearts of your audience is a very, very hard task. I can probably name 5 books and movies that actually scared me, not counting that weird train episode of Laverne and Shirley that gave me nightmares when I was 5. Well, A Head Full of Ghost is legitimately, check your underpants for stains, scary. Yet, even better, it is so cleverly written, so well crafted that it may contain one of the most effectively surprising endings that is impossible to spoil because each person reading it, in essence, creates their own ending. Trembley plays on your preconceptions and biases so well, that it feels like he tailors the book to each person who will experience it. Joy Osmanski’s performance is exceptional, capturing the feel of the book, and never getting in the way of the story. In fact, her performance brings added levels to a novel that deserved nothing better than a stellar reading.
My Favorite Hilariously Uncomfortable Audiobook of 2015
Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
Read by Brad Sanders
Joe Lansdale’s tale of Nat Love, aka Deadeye Dick, former Buffalo Soldies and African American Cowboy on the run from an unstable racist upset that a black man looked at his wife’s ass, is maybe the most hilariously uncomfortable audiobook of 2015. There were so many moments that had me laughing out loud, then wondering just what the hell I was laughing at. Lansdale’s punchy, uncluttered prose combined with the ruminations of the main character kept me spellbound, through comedy and tragedy. Brad Sanders performance was delightfully uneven, capturing the essence of Nat Love perfectly infusing the appropriate amount of likeable unreliability into out hero.
My Favorite WTF Did I Just Listen To Audiobook of 2015
The Great Forgetting by James Renner
Read by David Marantz
“OH, this is an interesting premise….
But that makes no sense…
I mean, really, can he do that? He can’t do that, right?
What did I just listen to….”
Really, that sums up my experience with THE GREAT FORGETTING only to add that David Marantz does a great job with, well, whatever the hell that was. Brilliant…. I think…
The Final Five
The Crossing by Michael Connelly
Read by Titus Welliver
There were a lot of stellar continuations of long running series this year, but top of that list was Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller legal/crime thriller. There has been much debate over who should be the voice of Harry Bosch, but with the wonderful new Amazon Prime series, BOSCH, I’m hoping the narrator question is settled for a while. Titus Welliver performance is the perfect blend of stoicism and emotion that befits the main character. Bosch should never be emotive, but Welliver captures the subtleties of the character better than some of the past narrators. Connelly delivers both an effective mystery as well as his best courtroom work since THE BRASS VERDICT.
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Read by Christy Romano
Wong’s first novel not featuring David and John is an effective dismantling of the superhero genre. OK, maybe that’s too fancy a way of saying it. Basically, this novel bitch slaps the normal superhero novel and then screams nasty invectives at its stunned face. Wong has matured as a writer, and while there isn’t the uneven glee of John Dies at the End, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits introduces us to a unique main character and a bunch of weirdos then forces them to deal with duplicitous mayhem using means that defies the norms of genre fiction. Christy Romano is absolutely having fun with this tale, as if she knows she may never get the chance to read something this bizarre again, so she may as well go all out.
Predator One by Jonathan Maberry
Read by Ray Porter
Maberry continues his tradition of making me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood with his latest Joe Ledger science thriller. This times its not alien space bats, or zombies, or mutant animal hybrids plotting to take over the world be releasing a vampyric strain of hemorrhagic fever into Wawa’s delicious coffee. No, instead he just has a drone attack my favorite ballpark leading to a tragedy even worse than the Phillies 2015 season. And that’s just the beginning. Ray Porter should just legally change his name to Joe Ledger, because they are the same dude. So, if you see Ray Porter walking in your direction, I’d say run.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Read by Patricia Rodriguez
Hodder & Stoughton
Well, it may be a stretch to include this book, because it is currently only available at Audible UK, but in a year with a lot of wonderful space adventures from authors like John Scalzi, James SA Corey, Jack Campbell and Ernest Cline, Becky Chamber’s THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET is the most fun you’ll have hopping around the galaxy in a while. Full of colorful characters and a flexible narrative that comes together so well, this book is a joy for pure scifi fans. Patricia Rodriguez gives a delightful performance teetering between whimsy and seriousness. She never downplays the tension but still manages to keep it fun at all times, no matter how grim it seemed.
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Read by Almarie Guerra
I didn’t want to read THE WATER KNIFE. Although I know for many this is heresy, I hated THE WIND-UP GIRL. Well, by hated I mean, found boring and couldn’t get more than a third of the way through before flinging it out of my ears and searching for an erotic paranormal thriller to cleanse the palate. But, everyone said “Read THE WATER KNIFE” “THE WATER KNIFE is so good.” “Stop being a stupid poopy head Bob!” Well, grudgingly I listened to it. OK, so, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Great characters, interesting world, and an actual story that went, like places and shit. Plus, it was goddam funny. To make things even bettery, the narrator, Almarie Guerra was fantastic. So, yeah, I loved THE WATER KNIFE. I still stand by my opinion of that other Bacigalupi novel.
So, yeah, that’s my Top 10. I’m sure there are many of you screaming “What abouts…” So, here are my What Abouterable Mentions:
Robert Crais told a solid story in THE PROMISE with two of my favorite narrators, Luke Daniels and MacLeod Andrew’s duking it out.
I loved MORTE by Robert Repino, but surprisingly found Bronson Pinchot’s performance a bit flat.
Two Thirds of Neal Stephenson’s SEVENESE was amazing. The last third was pretty crappy.
AURORA by Kim Stanley Robinson was well done, and pissed me the fuck off. Screw you, Mr. KSR, you party pooper. I can haz my space colonies.
Will Collyer delivers a fun performance in Chris Holms The Killing Kind, featuring one of the most fun final shootouts any book of 2015.
John Grisham may have his own Lincoln Lawyer in Sebastian Rudd the titlular ROGUE LAWYER, in this series of vignettes that makes a fun listen.
While I didn’t like Claire North’s TOUCH as much as THE MANY LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, it was still a fun listen thanks to a good performance by Peter Kenny.
Dan Wells picks up his John Cleaver series with a bang in THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND, and Patrick Lee continues to blend scifi and thrillers together in THE SIGNAL.
In Print, I really loved Brian Keenes, THE LOST LEVEL. Pulp scifantasy at it’s best.