November 13

Reading with Your Ears: An Audiobook Poll by Donalyn Miller

Traveling to visit schools and conferences, I spend a lot of time in rental cars. Continuously searching for a radio station becomes tiresome and long drives can be lonely and boring, so I load a few audiobooks onto my phone before every trip. Well-performed audio productions bring a book alive and engaging narrators provide companionship. I’ve listened to some amazing audiobooks over the years and find audiobooks another way to include more titles in my reading diet. Here are some recent audiobook favorites and why I chose them.


Lair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel by Libba Bray. Narrated by January LaVoy.

Why I Picked the Audio: Libba Bray’s supernatural historical series The Diviners is incredible, but at 624 glorious pages, Lair of Dreams is too heavy to pack in a suitcase. Besides, I have a fondness for creepy, atmospheric audiobooks. Narrator January LaVoy deftly performs dozens of characters—communicating the unique personalities and motivations of each one.


My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren.

Why I Picked the Audio: It’s all about the narrator. When I first started listening to audiobooks, Teri Lesesne gave me short list of her favorite narrators and Katherine Kellgren was at the top. Kellgren’s wit and lilting voice play well in this fantastical re-imaging of Tudor history.


How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Narrated by Cherise Boothe, Shari Peele, Kevin R. Free, Avery R. Glymp, and Patricia Lucretia Floyd.

Why I Picked the Audio: Magoon’s brilliant book describes the events surrounding the shooting of black teen by a white man from the points-of-view of several witnesses. Narrated by multiple performers, the audiobook effectively portrays the conflicting perspectives of an entire neighborhood struggling with violence and racism.


The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle. Narrated by Tim Federle.

Why I Picked the Audio: Sometimes, I enjoy a book so much that I want to reread it right away, but I struggle to find time for rereading when I have so many unread books piled around my house. I have listened to some audiobooks multiple times including Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, Daniel Kraus’s Scowler. These books have become all-time favorites because I have enjoyed them both in print and audio. I loved reading Tim Federle’s 2016 YA novel, The Great American Whatever, and I enjoyed it all over again with this fabulous audio version narrated by the author. Tim’s acting ability and deep understanding of both his characters and his audience make him the perfect narrator for his own books.


The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox. Narrated by Fiona Hardingham.

Why I Picked the Audio: I bought The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle in print months ago, but it never floated to the top of my to-read pile. When the audiobook earned a starred review from Booklist, I downloaded it. The audiobook would make a great road trip read because it has something for everyone in the car—magical artifacts, complex characters, haunted castles, Nazi spies, and a suspenseful climax.


What about you? What have you enjoyed reading with your ears? Please share your audiobook recommendations in the comments.


Donalyn Miller has taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grade English and Social Studies in Northeast Texas. She is the author of two books about encouraging students to read, The Book Whisperer (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Reading in the Wild (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy Book Club co-founder, Colby Sharp). Donalyn launched the annual Twitter summer and holiday reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.