If listening to an audiobook is like watching a one-person show, then a full-cast audiobook is like mentally conjuring an entire Broadway play.
By Orrin Grey
Whether you haven’t yet experienced the unique pleasure of an audiobook read by a full cast — or you’re looking for a new favorite — here are a few of the best out there. These highly produced books promise to take you even deeper into the stories you already love.
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, narrated by Alex Hyde-White, Bailey Carr, Dana Dae, Dave Fennoy, Dean Gallagher, Denise Nelson, Ella Turenne, Josh Petersdorf, Kate Orsini, Melinda Wade, Prentice Onayemi, Ron Butler, Ryan Vincent Anderson, Tristan Wright (12 hours, 25 minutes)
Alexis Schaitkin’s beautifully written debut novel has been called “brilliant and unflinching” by author Chang-Rae Lee and “richly atmospheric, by turns coolly satiric and warmly romantic,” by Joyce Carol Oates. Dive into the kinetic and deeply human story of a young woman who is drawn back into the mystery of her older sister’s death after many years have gone by, narrated by a full cast of more than a dozen voices, all bringing the novel’s varied characters to vivid life.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes and full cast (12 hours, 6 minutes)
Margaret Atwood’s searing dystopian novel has shocked, enthralled, and stunned audiences since it was first released more than 30 years ago. Whether you’re a longtime fan or coming fresh to this story of religious oppression and patriarchy run amok — which feels as topical today as when it was first released — you can experience it as never before thanks to this audiobook special edition read by a full cast, led by actress Claire Danes.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, and full cast (19 hours, 39 minutes)
One of legendary author Neil Gaiman’s most ambitious novels, American Gods tells the story of Shadow, a man freshly released from prison who finds his life in pieces when his wife and best friend are abruptly killed in a car accident. With nothing left to hold him, he falls in with the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, a man who might just be a god, and finds himself in the midst of a mythic battle for the very spirit of the country. American Gods has been turned into a STARZ TV series, but for those who want to hear where it all began, this heady audiobook, taken from the author’s preferred text and performed by a full cast, is the perfect place to start.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Narrated by: Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, and full cast (7 hours, 25 minutes)
The Chicago Tribune says that the audiobook of Lincoln in the Bardo, “sets a new standard for cast recordings.” With literally dozens of narrators, this ambitious novel departs from historic fact to tell a kaleidoscopic story of love, loss, and what comes after—starring none other than Abraham Lincoln and his 11-year-old son Willie. Read by a celebrity lineup, including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Ben Stiller, Lena Dunham, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Keegan-Michael Key, Don Cheadle, Patrick Wilson, and more, this debut novel from acclaimed writer George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize and has been hailed as a visionary achievement that must be experienced to be believed.
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, narrated by Greta Jung, Jenny Zhang, Kim Mai Guest, Nancy Wu, Emily Woo Zeller, Samantha Quan (10 hours)
These seven coming-of-age stories follow Chinese-American teenage girls from the public schools of Flushing, Queens to Shanghai in the 1960s and beyond. Their stories are at once intimate portraits of the immigrant experience and universal tales of finding home and family. Each story is narrated by the daughter of a Chinese immigrant, and, as author Karan Mahajan put it, “blasts open the so-called immigrant narrative by showing us the claustrophobic, demented love of families.”
The Magus by John Fowles, adapted by Adrian Hodges, narrated by Charles Dance, Hayley Atwell, Tom Burke, and full cast (2 hours, 50 minutes)
When it debuted in 1965, John Fowles’ novel of illusion and artifice became a cult classic. Now, it has been adapted into a full cast dramatization, starring Tom Burke, Charles Dance, and Hayley Atwell. Produced by BBC Radio, this enthralling dramatization transforms John Fowles’ classic novel into something entirely original.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett, narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell (18 hours, 16 minutes)
Adapted into a film that was nominated for four Academy Awards, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is a story of women, racism, and society that has enthralled countless readers. Read by a full cast, including Octavia Spencer reprising her Oscar-winning role as Minny Jackson, a fantastic cook with a notoriously sharp tongue, this audiobook also includes a new afterword read by the author.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, narrated by Tom Conti, Jane Asher, Ruta Gedmintas, Paterson Joseph, Rula Lenska, Art Malik, Eddie Marsan, Sophie Okonedo, Walles Hamonde (5 hours, 47 minutes)
One of Agatha Christie’s most famous — and most frequently-adapted — mysteries comes to life in a whole new way in this CAMEO Award-winning audiobook, featuring Tom Conti, Sophie Okonedo, Eddie Marsan, and Art Malik. Bonus: The book’s sound effects were actually recorded on the real-life Orient Express!
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, narrated by Sara Arrington, Jennifer Beals, Arthur Bishop, Fred Berman, Benjamin Bratt, Jonathan Davis, Ari Fliakos, Holter Graham, Judy Greer, January Lavoy, Robinne Lee, Peter Larkin, Henry Leyva, P.J. Ochlan, Robert Petkoff (9 hours, 3 minutes)
NPR named Taylor Jenkins Reid’s fictionalized account of the rise and fall of an imaginary rock band one of the best books of 2019, while Reese Witherspoon, who selected the novel for her book club, said, “I devoured this in a day, falling head over heels for Daisy and the band.” The New York Times bestselling novel has been brought to life with a full cast, including Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, and Judy Greer, among others.