I mainly consume books in audio format because I don’t have the time to sit down and only read a book (and do nothing else at the same time) very often.

The thing with audiobooks is that even a great book can be ruined by being narrated poorly.

Just like you want the author to step aside and let the characters have centre stage, you want the narrator to add more to the experience of reading the book but without getting in the way themselves.

And let me tell you, good narration isn’t a given.

So, when you find a gem that makes you feel like the characters are crawling out of the book and into your head, that’s a gem.

Sometimes, it’s a one-man army and at other times it’s a large-scale production with a large cast. Either way, I wanted to make a hall of fame list of the most amazing audiobooks out there. You’re welcome!

This list is not in order of preference, simply compiled on a first-come, first-served basis. And yes, I will keep updating this as I find more amazing narrations!

Mass Effect Andromeda: Annihilation by Catherine M. Valente

The Quarian ark, Keelah Si’yah, sails on a 600-year journey toward the Andromeda galaxy, carrying 20,000 colonists. Everything goes smoothly until just thirty years before arriving at their destination; a deadly pathogen has made it onboard the ship. The team awakened to deal with the situation and races against a ticking clock to uncover what’s really going on.

The book is read by Tom Taylorson, who also voices Scott Ryder in Mass Effect Andromeda and is an official tie-in to the game.

Taylorson does an amazing job of making you feel like there are several people in the story. Everyone has their own voice, a distinctive way of speaking (depending on the species) and even accents. In his hands, the characters really come alive and make the audiobook a much better read than the paperback.

Annihilation shines in the series; the other two books seem drab by comparison. Nexus Uprising and Initiation had less gripping stories as well as less skilled narration; they were both narrated by Fryda Wolf, the voice of Sarah Ryder. While I appreciate the “keeping it in the family” thought, it’s a shame that the other two books just can’t hold a light on Annihilation.

Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch

Young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler.

The series is narrated by Michael Page, who turns out a performance reminiscent of being on the stage. Jumping into role after role, he makes this world come to life with accents and different voices that never make any character sound like any other.

And I love how his female voices avoid all those nasty stereotypical pitfalls. The women sound like women without being feeble. Their voices are distinct and are as nuanced as the male voices, adding to the colour of the world without making you groan at how they stand out like a sore thumb.

The series is solid throughout, not dropping the ball once anywhere. It’s one of those classics that SF/F nerds like me are ever gonna get enough of.

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Okay, so while I don’t love the story, the performance of narrator Peter Kenny is just so good.

The voices were convincing, even the aliens, and I love it when the narrator doesn’t fall into stereotypical performances for the opposite sex.

The narration definitely helped with keeping track of who was who, but even so it was really hard.

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

Another one of those stories that was good, but not great, but the narration by the author just takes this audiobook to a whole other level.

Never in a million years will this be the same experience as reading it myself.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.

Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a beautiful performance that is as convincing as it is heart-warming.

His delivery of the material really makes you feel that you’re there with Piranesi, in his head, in his heart, seeing the world through his eyes.

I wouldn’t have had this immersive an experience without Ejiofor’s reading, and much of my enjoyment of this book was driven by this super performance.