Audio Publishers Association Names Its 2021 Audie Awards Winners

In News by Porter Anderson

The 2021 Audie Awards include two wins for NK Jemisin’s ‘The City We Became’ and two for ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X.’

The Raconteurs narrators group based in Ilkeston in the United Kingdom sends greetings during the Audie digital program. Image: Audie Awards 2021

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A Record 1,500 Submissions, 25 Categories
Released to the news media overnight in the United States, the 26th annual Audie Awards‘ 25 categories of winners have been named for 2021, a year in which we see the reinstatement of the Spanish-Language Audie, last awarded in 2010.

This year’s lists of Audie winners were drawn from some 1,500 initial submissions, the most entries made yet for a year of the program’s operation. Last year’s finalists were chosen from an initial 1,300 submissions. The presentation of the awards was made in a digital program.

Susanna Clarke. Image: Sarah Lee

The marquee award, 2021 Audiobook of the Year, was won by the Bloomsbury audio edition of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, a work that’s now in the running for a British Book Award, as well. Narration of the book is by the British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who this morning (March 23) is basking in wide praise for his voicing of Clarke’s manuscript.

Author Jennifer Egan, one of three jurors who chose the Clarke audiobook, said, “The reading is a triumph of tone … one of the best readings of contemporary literature that I have ever listened to.”

Michele Cobb

The awards’ producer, the Audio Publishers Association, is led by its executive director Michele Cobb, of course, and has carried off its awards series without a hitch throughout the pandemic period that gave such a boost to the audiobook sector.

Author and comic David Sedaris joined Egan on the Audiobook of the Year panel, and managed to put forward an apt bit of critical praise, saying, “I think the reading perfectly complements the author’s intent.

“The characterization is complex, and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s voice is appropriately naive and full of wonder. The novel is a bit confusing at first, and Ejiofor masterfully pulls us through the fog.”

And the third on the top honor’s panel, the writer Tommy Orange, said, “When the book got darker and more thrilling, and as the mystery at the center of the novel was revealed, Chiwetel Ejiofor moved the story along beautifully.”

Leguizamo: ‘So Many People of Color’

John Leguizamo in his stint hosting the Audie Awards’ digital ceremony. Image: Audie Awards

John Leguizamo, actor and narrator, was the host of the awards stream. In the course of his commentary, he commended the producing Audio Publishers Association for its embrace of multiculturalism in the awards program, saying, “I’m proud to host this show. The diversity that I see among our nominees: women, the LGBTQ community, my Latinx brothers and sisters, and overall, so, so many people of color.

“The audiobook industry has achieved a level of inclusivity and representation that other industries can only aspire to.”

Indeed, in June, the association held an online discussion of diversity “in the world at large, our industry, and beyond.” You can review that conversation here. It features Leon Nixon and January LaVoy.

In the awards program, speakers who worked together on camera told the audience that they had been tested for the coronavirus COVID-19 prior to streaming. The program featured many Zoomed composites of various audio publishing teams, lifting glasses and/or waving. We’ll embed the program for you below, following the list of winners.

The shortlists, should you like to review them, are in Publishing Perspectives’ report from February.

Winners in the 2021 Audie Awards

Audiobook of the Year

  • Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, published by Bloomsbury PLC

Audio Drama

  • Doctor Who – Stranded 1, by Matt Fitton, David K Barnes, Lisa McMullin, and John Dorney, performed by Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Rebecca Root, Tom Price, and Tom Baker, published by Big Finish Productions


  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, narrated by Laurence Fishburne, published by Audible, Inc.

Best Female Narrator

  • The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin, narrated by Robin Miles, published by Hachette Audio

Best Male Narrator

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, narrated by Laurence Fishburne, published by Audible, Inc.

Business/Personal Development

  • The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, narrated by Tovah Feldshuh, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

Faith-Based Fiction and Nonfiction

  • Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, written and narrated by Jen Hatmaker, published by Thomas Nelson


  • The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin, narrated by Robin Miles, published by Hachette Audio


  • Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis, published by Penguin Random House Audio


  • His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, by Jon Meacham, with an afterword by John Lewis, narrated by JD Jackson, published by Penguin Random House Audio


  • A Very Punchable Face, written and narrated by Colin Jost, published by Penguin Random House Audio

Literary Fiction and Classics

  • The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi, narrated by Yetide Badaki and Chukwudi Iwuji, published by Penguin Random House Audio

Middle Grade

  • The Good Hawk, by Joseph Elliott, narrated by Fiona Hardingham and Gary Furlong, published by Brilliance Publishing

Multi-Voiced Performance

  • Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo, narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo and Melania-Luisa Marte, published by HarperAudio


  • Fair Warning, by Michael Connelly, narrated by Peter Giles and Zach Villa, published by Hachette Audio

Narration by Author or Authors

  • More Myself, written and narrated by Alicia Keys, published by Macmillan Audio


  • Fire in Paradise, by Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano, narrated by T. Ryder Smith, published by Recorded Books

Original Work

  • When You Finish Saving the World, by Jesse Eisenberg, narrated by Finn Wolfhard, Kaitlyn Dever, and Jesse Eisenberg, published by Audible Originals


  • Dirty Letters, by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, narrated by Andi Arndt and Jacob Morgan, published by Brilliance Publishing

Science Fiction

  • The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, narrated by Daveed Diggs, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

Short Stories/Collections

  • The Chekhov Collection of Short Stories, by Anton Chekhov, narrated by Richard Armitage, published by Audible Studios

Spanish Language

  • El Laberinto del Fauno, by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke, narrated by Luis Ávila, published by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial México


  • When No One Is Watching, by Alyssa Cole, narrated by Susan Dalian and Jay Aaseng, published by HarperAudio

Young Adult

  • Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo, narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo and Melania-Luisa Marte, published by HarperAudio

Young Listeners

  • The Overground Railroad, by Lesa Cline-Ransome, narrated by Shayna Small and Dion Graham, published by Live Oak Media

More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here, more on the Audie Awards is here, and more on the Audio Publishers Association is here. More from us on publishing and book awards is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.