Narrator Spotlight: Top 10 Bestselling Audiobooks

Behind every amazing audiobook on is a narrator that brings the author’s words to life. These narrators are responsible for transporting us to another world even as we work, run errands, work out, or commute. This week we recognize the narrators of the Top Ten Bestselling Audiobooks of 2017.

Which of these narrators’ works do you enjoy?

The 166-person cast
that narrated Lincoln in the Bardo

This huge cast includes celebrity voices such as Nick Offerman, Lena Dunham, David Sedaris, and many others. It is impossible to recognize every narrator in this post, but that’s a large part of what makes this audiobook unforgettable.

Nicholas Guy Smith
Narrator of A Gentleman in Moscow

Nicholas Guy Smith’s expressive voice transports the listener to the Metropol and takes them on the count’s journey, even as he remains in the same room for decades. “I always keep the listeners in mind during the narration. How can I keep them connected to the story?” – Nicholas Guy Smith

J.D. Vance
Author and Narrator of Hillbilly Elegy

A former marine and Yale Law School graduate, J.D. Vance gives a powerful account–through both his writing and narration–of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town, offering a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Author and Narrator of What Happened

In her most personal memoir yet, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Who better to narrate this story than the woman that lived it?

Neil Gaiman
Author and Narrator of Norse Mythology

Neil Gaiman breathes new life into Norse Myths with both prose and narration. And he encourages the listener to become the narrator! He says of these stories, “The fun comes in telling them yourself–something I warmly encourage you to do, you person reading this. Read the stories in this book, then make them your own.”

David Sedaris
Author and Narrator of Theft by Finding

David Sedaris is the ideal narrator for a bestselling audiobook made up of his own experiences and observations and told with his own misanthropic sense of humor and generosity of spirit.

Bahni Turpin
Narrator of The Hate U Give and The Underground Railroad

Bahni Turpin’s brings these two important and unforgettable stories to life with her commitment to accurately expressing the stories and their characters. She says, “I like to give each one a characterization and really try to read the way I feel the text should be heard.”

Sherman Alexie
Author and Narrator of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

No one could have better narrated his deeply moving memoir than Sherman Alexie himself. This audiobook is a powerful exploration of family, love, loss, and forgiveness.

Hope Davis
Narrator of Commonwealth

Hope Davis’ rendering of Commonwealth is both fluid and engaging as she tells the story of how a chance romantic encounter sets in motion the dissolution of two marriages and the joining of two families.

The #9 Bestselling Audiobook of 2017: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

The #9 bestselling audiobook of 2017 across independent bookstores, is a searing, deeply moving memoir by critically acclaimed author Sherman Alexie. Narrated by the author, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me explores the powerful themes of family, love, loss, and forgiveness through Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother Lillian Alexie.

It should come as no surprise that one of the most anticipated books of the year, written by one of the most well-known PNW writers is a staff pick. I was intrigued from the moment I saw the cover, which showcases a beautiful picture of Alexie’s mother, Lillian, and older sister, Mary,  that itself relates to the legacy of beautiful resilience and casual brutality explored throughout the text, but I did not expect it to touch me so deeply.  I listened to the audio version read by Sherman Alexie himself, and his emotion, whether he is using his “urban Indian” voice or the rez accent of family and friends, is evident and packs a punch.  As an adult orphan, mother, sister, teacher, activist, and minority who is often “the only one” and who has anger on behalf of and fear for my people and our country, this book broke my heart in places and healed it in others.  Everyone should read this book.  Everyone.

—Lydia, King’s Books, Tacoma, WA

Bonus: listen to a complimentary 30-minute excerpt of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

The top 10 audiobook bestseller list for 2017 is based on sales through independent bookstore locations in 2017.

November 2017 Audiobook Bestsellers is proud to present the November 2017 audiobook bestseller list that captures what’s selling in independent bookstores nationwide.


1. Manhattan Beach

By Jennifer Egan (Simon & Schuster Audio)

2. Turtles All the Way Down

By John Green (Penguin Random House Audio)

3. Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng (Penguin Random House Audio)

4. Lincoln in the Bardo

By George Saunders (Penguin Random House Audio)

5. A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles (Penguin Random House Audio)

6. Origin

By Dan Brown (Penguin Random House Audio)

7. My Absolute Darling

By Gabriel Tallent (Penguin Random House Audio)

8. It

By Stephen King (Simon & Schuster Audio)

9. The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas (HarperCollins)

10. Exit West

By Mohsin Hamid (Penguin Random House Audio)


1. What Happened

By Hillary Clinton (Simon & Schuster Audio)

2. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

By Al Franken (Hachette Audio)

3. You Are a Badass

By Jen Sincero (Tantor Media, Inc.)

4. We Were Eight Years in Power

By Ta-Nehisi Coates (Penguin Random House Audio)

5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

By Mark Manson (HarperCollins)

6. Coming to My Senses

By Alice Waters (Penguin Random House Audio)

7. Born to Run

By Bruce Springsteen (Simon & Schuster Audio)

8. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

By Sherman Alexie (Hachette Audio)

9. Theft by Finding

By David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)

10. The Gene

By Siddhartha Mukherjee (Simon & Schuster Audio)

The November 2017 audiobook bestseller list is based on sales through independent bookstore locations during the month of October 2017.

Jess Walter on Podcasts, Audiobooks, and Beautiful Ruins

Earlier this month I was passing through Spokane, WA, the home of Beautiful Ruins author Jess Walter. Walter and I sat down and talked about his podcast with his friend and fellow author Sherman Alexie, Beautiful Ruins, and how he’d feel if someone made him into a character in their novel.

[Judy Oldfield]: Let’s talk about your podcast with Sherman Alexie, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment. How did you decide to get into this new medium?

[Jess Walter]: The people asking for guests on Minnesota Public Radio asked Sherman if he’d be interested and he said, “I’d do it with my friend Jess”. It’s really haphazard and could fall apart at any time. We both like the tentative nature of it. One bad mood and either of us could kill it but we have so much fun. The thing we like the most is the live shows. We can feed off the energy of the crowd.

[JO]: Your friendship with Sherman goes back a really long way and that’s probably why the podcast feels so natural.

[JW]: We’ve known each other for 27-28 years and have developed a really close friendship over basketball and parenthood and writing and being from the place we’re from, where there aren’t a whole lot of writers. We can compare notes on things. It’s been great to have that friendship and then be able to share it with people. Because we do have a great time together, sometimes we laugh so hard we would think, “It’s a shame nobody gets to see this”.

[JO]: Do you feel like you’ve influenced each other’s writing?

[JW]: I can’t answer for him, but he’s definitely influenced mine. I think certainly in subtle ways. We both have very strong ideas about voice and form. Everything you read influences you. With friends sometimes its more, “I hope so and so likes this story” or “I hope Jess likes this novel”. So I think we influence each other more as friends than as literary influences.

[JO]: You’ve both spoken on your podcasts about what respect and love you have for each other as writers, which is sort of unique in the world of writing where you’re always looking at people a little sideways.

[JW]: One of the things I dislike about publishing now is that everyone has this idea that it’s a careerist thing. The, “I‘ve got to have this many followers and do this many things”. And it doesn’t take long before some writers begin to believe that someone else’s success affects them in some way. I have very little patience for that. If you’ve written a great book, you’ve written a great book. For me the entire enterprise ends there. It doesn’t matter how you promote it, it doesn’t matter if it was a bestseller, or won awards, the thing that you’ve created is what you get excited about and that’s what I’ve always loved about my conversations with Sherman. We talk about the thing itself. We don’t usually talk about the noise around it.

[JO]: Art is about more than your Twitter followers.

[JW]: Oh yeah, and there’s something about the way we measure everything, how we quantify everything that is, by nature, bad for art. And I think with books especially.

[JO]: How about audiobooks? That’s a new format.

[JW]: Or is it the oldest format? I mean when you think of The Iliad and The Odyssey writing comes from this oral form. I love to read my work aloud. I love to have readings. So to have a great audiobook come out of a piece of work, to me, is the most traditional form in some ways.

[JO]: Right. You get this great experience, but it’s not off the cuff—it’s still edited and finalized. I just saw this study that said that writing and speaking come from different parts of the brain, which makes sense to me, because I’m a far better writer than I am a speaker.

[JW]: But I think they’re linked in some way. A writer is always trying to find his voice, her voice. And my writing process is so tied into reading aloud; at the end of every day I read aloud what I’ve written. A lot of times I’ll find hitches in things. They’re different, certainly, and some books are better on the page. But I think those links are really interesting and that’s one of the things Sherman and I really like is reading our work and that process of hearing it out loud.

[JO]: You’ve said Beautiful Ruins is one of your only audiobooks that you can listen to comfortably.

[JW]: Yeah, it was always hard because actors would do a terrific job and other people would tell me how great they did, but when other actors would read my books it would always stop me cold. It would be simply phrasing something in a way I hadn’t heard it or reading dialogue in a way I hadn’t imagined it. A slight mispronunciation or something. Those things would always catch me and I would have to stop listening.

The analogy I use is it was like watching a video of someone making out with my wife. No matter how well they did it, it wasn’t going to seem right to me. But the minute I heard Eduardo’s spot on pronunciations and the subtleties he brings to the characters (not to mention Richard Burton, Joe the Irish music guy, and all the characters) . . . he seems to just embody them and it’s great when you hear a version of your book that adds to your own sense of it. And that’s what I think Eduardo did.

[JO]: Beautiful Ruins just has so many details in it. One of my very favorite moments is when the production assistant takes the “digital hit” of her phone. It resonated with me—not particularly in a good way—because I totally do that. You write a lot about technology and the interplay between technology and the modern world in Beautiful Ruins, and in The Financial Lives of the Poets. Is that something that creeps into your writing or something that you think about a lot?

[JW]: I do think about it a lot. I mean it is the profound change of our time. In the same way that the automobile, the Industrial Revolution, spears, and every technological advance [shifted culture] ours is this interpersonal communication. These devices we have come up with that begin as a way to enhance your life end up changing it. All of our lives are altered by the technology we carry around.

[JO]: You also write a lot about failure. Why is that? You’ve been nominated for a National Book Award, you’ve written six novels, you’ve been a New York Times Bestseller. Why is that something that still interests you?

[JW]: I remember watching The Smurfs, and a typical plot would be they decide to have a party and everyone shows up to the party and they all have a good time, which is great for a Smurfs episode but not so great for fiction. In general, fiction arises out of conflict and difficulty.

Every writer sees themselves as wanting and lacking. I don’t feel like I’ve produced the great book that I’ve set out to write. That’s what keeps me going as a writer. That fuel is the failure to have outdone this outlandish thing that you’ve set out to do. So I don’t think you have to scratch too far, for most writers, to find this idea of failure.

[JO]: In Beautiful Ruins, there are some things you’ve made up. Porto Vergogna is fictional but then there are also some real people and events like Cleopatra and obviously the Burton character. How do you decide which things to just create and which things to use from real life?

[JW]: It’s more inspiration than decision-making. If you think about novels, there’s a huge amount of the real world in them. People climb in cars; they don’t climb in bubble rolling machines that propel them down the street on their own thoughts.

[JO]: Not in literary fiction.

[JW]: Exactly! The place, the setting, tends to be real. We’re constantly bringing fiction to bear in the real world. Historical fiction uses real characters all the time. Abraham Lincoln wanders around in historical fiction all the time, and sometimes he kills vampires. You never quite know what your historical figures are going to do. So to me the process was not too much different than that.

I started with this woman arriving in Italy—at first I didn’t know who she was . . . then I decided she’s this beautiful actress. Then I had to find out what would an actress be doing in Italy and I stumbled upon Cleopatra being shot in Rome at that time. The story was so compelling and wild and I really committed to it when it touched something thematic (theme is what I often return to in my work). Thematically it really seemed as if this movie had invented a certain kind of fame that we live in this moment. I began imagining a studio hack who had invented fame, essentially. That seemed like such a worthy topic . . . I kind of fell in love with Richard Burton . . . Burton hovered over the novel like a talisman, as a character who had a choice between his talent and some outward kind of fame, some clearly easier, cheaper more seductive kind of thing that in the end, as Americans, we’ve all chosen. It can feel bold and audacious to be a character like Burton so I was thrilled to try and write those scenes and then I was afraid that he would never leave my book.

[JO]: Say 50 years from now there’s a novelist writing about the Pacific Northwest and you show up as a character. How would you feel?

[JW]: I worked pretty hard researching Burton and then honestly I threw that research away. You invent a fictional version of that character. I would be flattered if a novelist chose me. I mean, I’m a writer; we have such boring lives. Hopefully he would come up with something more interesting for me to do. Maybe some out-of-wedlock drama or blackout drunk event, that I don’t know about, to make the book interesting.

Beautiful Ruins is our Book of the Month, and on sale until the end of July. Get it now!

A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment

Basketball? Check. Poetry? Check. Humor? Check. The inside scoop from two successful authors? Check.

It seems like every day a new podcast pops up, but none covers the broad topics as Sherman Alexie’s and Jess Walter’s A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.

Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur D’Alene Indian from Washington State whose writing is reflective of not only his life experience, but also the collective experience of being human. Alexie’s gift as a storyteller is obvious in his writing,—some of his novels include Flight, War Dances, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—and it’s one of the things that drew Walter to Alexie in the first place and that he admires most in his friend.

Jess Walter has written six novels, including The Financial Lives of the Poets and Beautiful Ruins, our Book of the Month. He also writes about everyday people whose stories exemplify modern life. Walter and Alexie grew up up together in Spokane, WA, where Walter still lives.

Listening to A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment is wildly entertaining, not only because of the topics Walter and Alexie choose to cover, but also because their on-air chemistry is so energetic.

Though each of them are brilliant wordsmiths, they both agree that making a podcast is challenging because of its improvisational nature. Despite this challenge, Walter and Alexie are just as well-spoken on the fly, moving deftly from unexpected topics like Walter’s stint as an unassuming 7th grade trumpet-carrying drug mule to advice on how to perform your own writing, but even if what you’re really looking for is talk about basketball, you’re in luck because they do that too!

What strikes me most about their friendship is how remarkably in-tune they are. It’s almost as if each podcast is a performance of sorts, though of course, it’s just the two of them having a casual conversation. Each listen is like experiencing Alexie and Walter weave together a tapestry of intimate pictures and stories that, as an outsider, are a privilege to witness.

Do you have a favorite episode of A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment? Let us know in the comments!