10 Exceptional Audiobooks Written and Narrated by Women

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10 Exceptional Audiobooks Written and Narrated by Women

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’ve curated a list of 10 of our favorite audiobooks both written and narrated by women. Many of the authors and narrators below will be familiar to you, but many will be new additions to your queue. As always, we wish you happy listening on all of them!

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1. A Brief History of Montmaray / The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

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Narrator: Emma Bering

Run time: 8 hours and 38 minutes / 14 hours and 29 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Told through the intimate journal entries of Sophie FitzOsborne, middle sibling of the last generation of an island kingdom’s royal line, Michelle Cooper’s Montmaray Journals trilogy is set in Europe leading up to and during World War 2. Sophie is an excellent narrator, fantastically kind and cleverly Machiavellian in equal measure, and narrator Emma Bering brings Sophie’s journal entries to life. This is a particular coup, as Montmaravians have an accent all their own—not quite English, not quite Welsh, not quite American—and Bering nails these narratorial challenges with ease. Unfortunately, only the first two books of the trilogy received the audiobook treatment, but with Bering’s voice planted in your head and Cooper’s prose flowing as beautifully in the finale as in the rest of the series, the transition to print for The FitzOsbornes at War will be painless.

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2. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

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Narrator: Robin Miles

Run time: 13 to 15 hours
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series won the Hugo Award three years in a row, so it’s likely you don’t need our recommendation to pick it up. But Robin Miles, who narrates all three of the series’ audiobooks, is a Paste favorite and makes an already gripping saga even more mesmerizing. If you’ve heard her on titles our previous lists, you know that she is a whiz with dialects and accents (and is equally compelling without any bells or whistles). Miles brings all her skills to play here, pacing her way through the astounding world Jemisin has built with a thrilling storyteller’s ease.

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3. Circe by Madeline Miller

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Narrator: Perdita Weeks

Run time: 12 hours and 8 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

One of Paste’s best audiobooks of 2018, Madeline Miller’s Circe performed by Perdita Weeks is the epitome of a brilliant “woman-written, woman-read” book. Following witch-nymph Circe from the suffocating halls of her father’s court to the island prison she’s banished to when her powers threaten Zeus, Circe is a myth-reframing triumph. It’s made all the more moving for Weeks’ affecting performance; early in the book, Circe describes the halls of Oceanus’ gilded palace as “smoothed by centuries of divine heat,” but she might as well be describing Weeks’ voice giving Circe depth and dimension. If you missed this one last year, pick it up now.

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4. The Daughter of the Lioness Duology by Tamora Pierce

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Narrator: Trini Alvarado

Run time: 11 to 13 hours

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books are a cornerstone of fantasy. While every new entry in the series is worth your while, it’s the Daughter of the Lioness duology that we find ourselves recommending with the greatest passion—especially to anyone wanting to listen rather than read. Following the misadventures of Alanna’s daughter, Aly, as she runs away from home only to be enslaved on the Copper Isles—and then put to service by the trickster god to help overthrow the white oppressors of the islands—these books distill everything Pierce is known for into an efficient package. In their audio form, narrator Trini Alvarado makes that distillation even sharper, delivering a quiet passion and a fluidity of accent. Best of all, you don’t need to have read any of the Tortall books to dive into this duology; it functions perfectly well as a standalone experience.

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5. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

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Narrator: Kyla Garcia

Run time: 7 hours and 58 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, dedicated to “all the gorditas, flaquitas, and in-between girls trying to make their space in the world,” is another book that tells its story through the sharp-tongued journal entries of its teen protagonist. But Quintero’s self-loving gordita Gabi, living in modern America, is a world and several generations away from Cooper’s Sophie FitzOsborne. In an effort to rebel against the world’s and her family’s expectations, Gabi takes up a ‘90s zine format for her diary. While those visuals can’t make the jump to this audio format, narrator Kyla Garcia rolls enough passion and dynamism into her performance—both in English and in Spanish—to make up for their absence. By the end of the first chapter, you’ll be pumping your fist at Gabi’s self-confident verve and looking for other Garcia performances to queue up next.

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6. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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Narrator: Fenella Woolgar

Run time: 15 hour and 26 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

The “gimmick” at the heart of Kate Atkinson’s extraordinary Life After Life is that protagonist Ursula Todd lives her life over and over and over again, learning how to evade a new death every time. This presents a challenge for any voice actor hired for the audiobook, as the repeated parts of Ursula’s life need to remain compelling as the reader grows accustomed to their various mundane shapes. In narrator Fenella Woolgar’s gentle hands, however, the very idea that tedium might be a problem is unthinkable. Every trip she makes through Ursula’s World War 2-era life is compelling, whether Ursula meets her end in childhood or adulthood. Each “life” is unique and uniquely devastating, gripping the listener so that even when the book—and Ursula’s last apparent life—ends, the certainty that Ursula and Woolgar are making another trip around is impossible to shake.

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7. Oksana, Behave! by Maria Kuznetsova

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Narrator: Anna Kyra Hooton

Run time: 7 hours and 21 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Fresh off the audiobook presses, Oksana, Behave! is an immigrant-in-America bildungsroman following a headstrong girl from Kiev. Narrator Anna Kyra Hooton, new to the audiobook scene, adds to the freshness of Oksana’s story with a performance that’s so earnest you can just see Oksana standing in a tornado of her own making with a wide-eyed look of innocence—to say nothing of the compelling jadedness Hooton brings to Oksana’s sex-positive, career-woman baba. Get ahead of the popular curve on this one and immediately pick up Maria Kuznetsova’s Oksana, Behave!.

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8. The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

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Narrator: January LaVoy

Run time: 13 hours and 21 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

We could listen to January LaVoy team up with women writing about America’s sinister beauty for eternity, so it’s heartening to see that the audiobook gods keep us in steady supply. Edgar-nominated Lyndsay Faye’s new historical thriller, The Paragon Hotel fits the bill, following a wounded lady criminal on the run, an Oregon city’s only all-black hotel and the descent of the Ku Klux Klan into 1920s Portland. If you’ve listened to even a second of Libba Bray’s Diviners series, you know this is the kind of world LaVoy shines in—and shine she does. Warm and propulsive, LaVoy’s voice brings Faye’s danger-laced world to life.

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9. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Narrator: Kristen Potter

Run time: 10 hours and 40 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven was a massive hit when it was published in 2014, so you don’t need us to convince you it’s worthwhile. But considering the fact that both audiobook culture and North America looked different in 2014 than they do today, picking up Kristen Potter’s performance of Mandel’s viral apocalypse today will be a rewarding experience. Potter’s reading is warm with a firm authority holds the listener steady even as the world comes crashing down around the characters in the book. She does accents when needed, but always with a light touch so as not to pull you from the scene at hand. Yes, stepping into Station Eleven means stepping into one of the apocalypses you could choose to avoid, but between Mandel’s writing and Potter’s performance, this is one you’ll look forward to living (and listening) through again and again.

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10. The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

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Narrator: Kathleen Gati

Run time: 11 to 14 hours

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy is a masterclass in bringing Rus’ folklore and magic to life for a contemporary American audience. It takes two of the tradition’s most recognizable female figures—maiden heroine Vasilisa Prekrasnaya (Vasilisa the Beautiful) and witchy crone Baba Yaga—and reframes them as two women hailing from different generations of the same family tree whose disinterest in conforming to their culture’s expectations of femininity renders them vilified by men. Kathleen Gati, with the subtle Russian accent she uses for Vasya’s life and the fierce everything she puts into Vasya’s zest for adventure, is the perfect match for Arden’s ambition. This is a series for the ages.

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibiliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.