Top 20 Audiobooks of 2010

4 01 2011

I am a recent convert to audiobooks. It came about from a change in Job position which made it impossible to read novels, but feasible to listen to them. Before that, I was one of those people who scoffed at the idea that by listening to an audiobook, you can actually take credit for reading it. Heck, reading is active, and listening is passive. Or at least you would think so. I have since come around to the idea that while it’s a different experience, both forms are valid.

This year I have listened to over 150 audiobooks. Mostly mystery/thrillers, science fiction and fantasy. When I sat down to make my top 10 list, I realized that it just wouldn’t be enough, so I decided to make it a top 20 list, with some honorable mentions.

A few notes about the lists. First, in order to make it on this list, the audiobook form must have been produced in 2010. The book itself may have been written at anytime, but the audiobook in 2010. Also this is in no way a “best of” list. This is a list of the 20 audiobooks I most enjoyed. I am no literary expert. I listen to what I think I will enjoy, no matter how unpretentious.


Not surprisingly 8 of the top 20 have Post Apocalyptic Themes, two of which are Zombie novels. I was surprised though that one of those zombie novels nearly took the top place. Other than that. I think there is a nice mix of genres.

1. The Reversal by Michael Connelly

Narrated by Peter Giles
Hachette Audio

Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch are a great team. It’s as simple as that. Defense attorney Mickey Haller switches sides and takes on a hot potato of a case as a special prosecutor with his half brother, gruff LAPD detective Harry Bosch. A brilliant legal thriller combined with Connelly’s typical police procedural excellence make this one of the most entertaining novels of the year. Peter Giles brings a solid reading style that doesn’t try to overshadow the story.

2. The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

Narrated by Tai Sammons
Blackstone Audio, Inc.

One of the best Zombie novels I have read/listened to in years. Beautiful, lyrical prose, with outwardly simple, yet inwardly complex characters.  Our protagonist, Temple, reminded me greatly of Ree Dolly from this year’s (in my opinion) best movie, Winter’s Bone. She’s young, and seemingly simple on the outside, with a complex inner dialogue showing her to be wise beyond her years. Her relationship with Maury, the mentally retarded man she is attempting to lead to family, was touching and very human. Tai Sammon’s country twang seemed a bit affected at times, but other than that she handles the story brilliantly. My pick for “Surprise Novel of the year.”

3. Changes: The Dresden Files, Book 12 by Jim Butcher

Narrated by James Marsters
Penguin Audiobooks

Changes is an utterly appropriate title for the latest, and probably best, addition to the Dresden Files universe. Harry Dresden is one of the most likeable ongoing characters in Scifi/Fantasy today, and what writer Jim Butcher puts him through in this novel should be criminal. While often called Harry Potter for adults, and with no offense to young Mr. Potter, Changes pushed this series well beyond that, finishing a major story arc, and leaving the readers with such a cliffhanger, it still hurts months after reading it. There are a few narrators that actually embody the character they portray, and no doubt about it, James Marsters is Harry Dresden. Ghost Story, the next novel in the series, due out in April, is my most eagerly anticipated book of 2011.

4. So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Hachette Audio

If you would have told me that one of my favorite novels of the year would have been about haunted mineral water I probably would have said, hmmm… I guess I can see that. So Cold the River is one of the most haunting books I have read/listened to in many years. Much of today’s suspense/horror novels seem to think that murder and gore is enough to make a book scary. It isn’t. So Cold the River is atmospheric, and moves slowly, and deliberately allowing the sense of disquiet you feel build and build. Yet, what really works is the redemptive transformation of the main character, who slowly realizes how much his wallowing in self pity has distorted not only his world view, but his view of those closest to him. Robert Petkoff handles the narration with building intensity that matches the story perfectly.

5. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Narrated by Wil Wheaton
Audible Frontiers

While some aliens think the best plan is to just take their giant saucers and land it front of the White House, theatrically declaring “Take Me to Your Leader” others try to take a more practical approach. Agent to the Stars is perhaps the funniest science fiction novel of the past decade. John Scalzi’s aliens are just that – alien. They realize not being cute and cuddly little puff balls may make the people of Earth a bit uncomfortable, so they what so many other potential celebrities do, they hire an agent.  Wil Wheaton is the perfect narrator, with the right touch of snarkiness to deliver the goods.

6. The Lost Fleet: Victorious by Jack Campbell

Narrated by Christian Rummell
Audible Frontiers

When it comes to science fiction, I enjoy smart, yet simple tales more so then overly complex hard science fiction. One of my favorite series has been the Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell. In Victorious, the story of Black Jack Geary and his ragtag Fleet stuck behind enemy lines, moves in direction from defensive, to offensive, moving his reformed fleet, ripe with fresh ships, and fresh political problems, into Syndic Space in attempt to finally end the war. Yet, with the end in sight, an even greater threat may be surfacing. Fast paced and well written Victorious is another highly enjoyable space yarn. Christian Rummell handles the many characters of the series with ease, and brings depth to Black Jack.

7. Far North by Marcel Theroux

Narrated by Yelena Schmulenson
Macmillan Audio

While many books in the past year or so have attempted to replicate the bleak yet beautiful setting of The Road, few have succeeded, Yet, in Far North, Marcel Theroux at least come close without seeming like  a blatant rip off. Here, the world have once again moved on, and former constable Makepeace may just be the last person left in her Yukon enclave. Far North keeps the listener on their heels as they follow Makepeace thought the artic Tundra as she travels through her dark world, looking for something more than dead towns and slave camps. Makepeace is and extraordinary POV voice and brings a new perspective to the post apocalyptic novel.  Yelena Schmulenson is absolutely prefect for the role, and brings a rhythmic pattern to her character’s speech that is a delight to hear.

8. The Passage by Justin Cronin

Read by Scott Brick,  Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden
Random House Audio

The Post Apocalyptic Vampire novel that redefines the Post Apocalyptic Vampire Novel. The Passage is a huge, epic novel that reminds you of such novels as The Stand, and Swan Song, yet is nothing like them. There is a feeling you get with some book, where you know that you are being lead on a journey that will stick with you for a long time, and the Passage definitely brought that feeling in spades. My only complaint has to be with the reading of the book. I think Scott Brick is one of the top readers of mysteries and thrillers, but sometimes a reader can be too professional for the material. I would have loved to hear the tale read with someone with a little more grit, and less of an obvious cadence. I would have preferred more of an Orson Scott Card Style, with different readers handling different POV, since this novel switched pace often. I should note that they did bring in two female narrators to handle small parts of the novel, but an additional male narrator would have been useful as well.

9. Gator A-Go-Go by Tim Dorsey

Read by Oliver Wyman
Harper Audio

If you ever need proof that, in some cases, listening to the Audio version of a book can bring more to a novel, and that it can be a joyous experience you should listen to Oliver Wyman’s handling of any Tim Dorsey Serge Novel. Wyman is brilliant, funny and perfectly suited to our wacky serial killing hero, Serge. In Gator a Go Go, Serge and Coleman do Spring Break. If you know anything of the series, I shouldn’t need to say more, but for those unfamiliar, let me just say, hyjinks ensue. The experience of this audio book reminds me why I love listening to a well told story and why Oliver Wyman is my favorite narrator.

10. The Dessert Spear by Peter V. Brett

Read by Pete Bradbury
Recorded Books

Todays fantasy world is about trilogies and series. I’m cool with this. I like a good stand alone novel, but I also like to know that characters I have grown to enjoy will be around for a while. In The Dessert Spear, sequel to The Warded Man, Peter V. Brett masterfully accomplished something that is very hard to do, have the second book in a series be as equally compelling and satisfying as the original. The Dessert Spear does this by not being a typical sequel. Brett reveals more of the world, and allows the reader to see events that occurred in the first novel from new perspectives. The Dessert Spear is bigger, and more epic than The Warder Man and almost as equally satisfying. When I first listened to The Warded Man, I was unsure of the narrator. Yet, by the end he really grew into the story and in The Dessert Spear, Bradbury really takes off and delivers an amazing performance, that enhances without overshadowing the story.

11.  The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

Read by MacLeod Andrews
Brilliance Audio

One of the most intriguing characters of the year. Hamilton’s brilliant novel is a great example of surviving your own past.

12. The High King of Montival by SM Stirling

Read by Todd McClaren
Tantor Media

Stirling’s Post Apocalyptic series offers one of it’s best entries to date.

13. After America by John Birmingham

Read by Kevin Foley
Tantor Media

Not as satisfying as Without Warning, still an entertaining story with some great new characters, and some old favorites in new situations. The change in narrator offers some issues, but by the end, you are pretty well adjusted.

14. Innocent by Scott Turow

Read By Edward Hermann
Hachette Audio

Edward Hermann brilliantly handles this sequel to Presumed Innocent. Full of great court room battles, his is a must for legal thriller fans, like myself.

15.  World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler

Read by Jim Meskimen
Blackstone Audio, Inc.

A fresh look at the Post Apocalyptic novel, more akin to Alas, Babylon than The Stand. Here we follow the lives of the citizens of a small town, trying to survive the changes of the new world.

16.  Dancing on the Head of a Pin by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Read by Luke Daniels
Brilliance Audio

In the second book of the series, Detective Remy Chandler is finding it tougher and tougher to keep his humanity. Especially since he is in fact, an angel living as a human. This novel is worth the listen for many reasons, not least of which is the relationship between our main angelic character, and his dog.

17. Blue Belle by Andrew Vachss

Read by Phil Gigante
Brilliance Audio

Andrew Vachss Burke series finally comes to audio book with the most excellent Phil Gigante handling the load as narrator. Burke’s world is like a tragic traffic accident, brutal to watch, but once you look, you can’t turn away.

18. Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne

Read by Jay Snider
Audible Frontier

Day by Day Armageddon is exactly that, a day by day diary account of a zombie apocalypse. Highly readable, and full of instantly likable characters, this audio book is a quick fun listen. Jay Snyder is a veteran  narrator and makes the undead come alive.

19. The Fall (Book Two of the Strain Trilogy) by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Read by Daniel Oreskes
Harper Audio

For those who were disappointed that the brilliant Ron Perlman didn’t handle the sequel to The Strain, take heart, Daniel Oreskes does a good job. The Fall definitely suffers a bit from second book syndrome, but sets up enough that I eagerly anticipate the final book in the series due out in 2011.

20 The Last Lie  by Stephen White

Read by Dick Hill
Brilliance Audio

Stephen White’s main character Alan Gregory is something you don’t find in most ongoing mystery/thriller series, a normal guy. Neither he nor his best friend are highly skilled martial artists. He doesn’t have a closet full of illegal weapons, nor does he bed a different beautiful women every book, heck, he’s lucky if his own wife will put out. Yet, some how he bumbles around the situation until, often despite his actions, a crime is solved. Oh, and it’s read by Dick Hill… enough said.

Honorable Mentions

Battle Hymn by William R. Forstchen
Directive 51 by John Barnes
Freedom  ™ by Daniel Suarez
Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Special Honorable Mention:

This year I was lucky to discover the Hap and Leonard series by Joe R. Lansdale, which are funny, highly entertaining, and full of extremely interesting characters.  These book are made even better by the narration of Phil Gigante, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. Unfortunately, none of these audio books were produced in 2010 so they didn’t make my list. Also, I read two other books by Mr. Lansdale, The Bottoms and A Fine Dark Line, both of which were excellent.




5 responses

14 05 2011
Audiobook Review: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] cluttered down with bells and whistles. He was brilliant in Agent to the Stars, which was #5 in my top 20 audiobooks of 2010, and continues to impress here. Wheaton finds the right tone for each character, not overacting, […]

6 06 2011
Audiobook Week: Day One :Your Audiobook Year « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] Top 20 Audiobooks of 2010 […]

6 06 2011

I enjoyed So Cold the River and The Lock Artist last year, too. You remind me that I need to complete the story Daniel Suarez started with Daemon. Thanks.

29 05 2012
Armchair Audies Roundup: Science Fiction « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] My Review (Stroll Down to Entry #5) […]

21 07 2017
John Scalzi – Agent to the Stars | Fyrefly's Book Blog

[…] Reviews: The Guilded Earlobe, My Books My Life, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine. Have you reviewed this book? Leave a […]

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