Our Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks of 2023
While we listened to an array of sensational nonfiction audiobooks this year, the following narratives are our personal favorites of 2023.
Being Henry: The Fonz...and Beyond
By Henry Winkler, narrated by the author. 9 hours and 22 minutes
Emmy Award–winning actor, director, and comedian Henry Winkler narrates his delightful new memoir Being Henry, offering listeners behind-the-scenes access to his journey through Hollywood and beyond. Radiating his signature wit and warmth, Winkler opens up about the difficulties of his childhood, his big break as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli, and the challenges that come with portraying such an iconic character. From his star-making turn on Happy Days to pitch-perfect performances on shows like Barry and Arrested Development, Winkler has entertained audiences for years. Here he introduces us to the man behind the characters with all the humor and charm we’ve come to love.
Big Heart Little Stove
By Erin French, narrated by the author. 11 hours and 46 minutes.
Erin French, the renowned chef and bestselling author of Finding Freedom, serves up far more than another cookbook in her latest delectable release. Narrated by the author, Big Heart Little Stove lets you cook right alongside French! With recipes sourced from French’s family and her acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant The Lost Kitchen, French will have you whipping up seriously delicious spreads, from mouthwatering mains and sides to tasty drinks and desserts. But French knows a great meal is more than just food, so she also shares her best hosting tips to add an extra dose of cheer to your next get-together. The audiobook edition of Big Heart Little Stove also includes exclusive conversations with French’s family, Lost Kitchen staff, and fellow star cooks, like Ina Garten. “Any home chefs looking to host a joyful, delicious dinner party need look no further than the lovely Big Heart Little Stove” (Shelf Awareness).
While You Were Out
By Meg Kissinger, narrated by the author. 11 hours and 8 minutes.
Award-winning journalist Meg Kissinger reflects on mental health care in America and the resiliency of familial love in her thought-provoking memoir about mental illness, While You Were Out. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner and an Audible Best Memoir of 2023, the audiobook edition of While You Were Out is narrated by the author, adding a layer of intimacy and impact to the powerful narrative. In it, Kissinger introduces us to her family — a spirited bunch of 10 living in the Chicago suburbs in the 1960s. From the outside, the Kissingers were full of life. In the privacy of their home, however, they grappled with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, struggles that were made worse by a culture of silence and shame surrounding mental health. Kissinger’s harrowing experiences galvanized her career in investigative journalism, where she exposed the cracks in America’s faltering mental health care system and advocated for change. While You Were Out is both a culmination of the author’s journey and her compelling vision of where we go from here.
Magic: The Life of Earvin "Magic" Johnson
By Roland Lazenby, narrated by JD Jackson. 30 hours and 2 minutes.
Career sportswriter and biographer Roland Lazenby (Michael Jordan: The Life) delivers a slam-dunk account of Basketball Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson in this winning sports biography. Thoroughly researched and stylishly delivered, Magic recounts Johnson’s rise to fame in the 1970s and ’80s, his startling fall from grace in 1991, and his triumphant post-NBA return to the public arena. Drawing on conversations with the star athlete’s friends, family, coaches, rivals, and more, Magic is a thrill for sports obsessives and casual fans alike. AudioFile Golden Voice narrator JD Jackson narrates the basketball book, bringing Magic’s story to dazzling life.
By Scott Shane, narrated by Rhett Samuel Price. 10 hours and 1 minute.
Thomas Smallwood was a fearless abolitionist and freedom fighter in 19th-century America who bought his freedom; led hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children out of bondage; and coined the term “underground railroad.” Yet far too few of us know his name. In Flee North, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author Scott Shane shines a brilliant light on Smallwood and his heroic deeds, giving the man the long-overdue recognition he deserves. Commandingly narrated by Audie finalist Rhett Samuel Price, the audiobook edition of Flee North moves at a swift pace as it chronicles Smallwood’s life, revealing how he joined forces with a young white activist named Charles Torrey and outwitted ruthless slave traders. Afterward, Smallwood would celebrate his victories and taunt his foes in satirical newspaper articles. An eye-opening work of nonfiction that’s a must for American history buffs, Flee North “is a tale of triumph in the face of unspeakable adversity” (Booklist, starred review).
You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live
By Paul Kix, narrated by Jaime Lincoln-Smith. 10 hours and 20 minutes.
In You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live, journalist Paul Kix delves into Project C, the momentous 10-week campaign in 1963 to end segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, that changed the tide of the Civil Rights Movement. Kix’s narrative expertly weaves together every campaign twist as it offers a glimpse inside the minds of iconic Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Wyatt Walker, Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Bevel. Narrated by actor Jaime Lincoln-Smith, who creates a range of vocal personas for his expert performance, this audiobook will have you riveted from the moment you press play — no wonder it’s an AudioFile Earphones Award winner.
By Ali Abdaal, narrated by the author. 9 hours.
Ali Abdaal delivers “a much-needed antidote to hustle culture” (Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck) in his insightful new narrative, Feel-Good Productivity. As the world’s most-followed productivity expert, Abdaal knows a thing or two about getting stuff done, and he wants us to know that it doesn’t have to feel so bad along the way. The key to productivity, he says, isn’t toughing it out — it’s joy. Narrated by the author, Feel-Good Productivity artfully dismantles what we think we know about productivity and arms us with the tools we need to get more done and to feel good while we’re doing it.
By Mya-Rose Craig, narrated by the author. 9 hours and 30 minutes.
Mya-Rose Craig is a leading figure in the youth environmental movement. In her impassioned nature memoir Birdgirl, the 21-year-old activist, environmentalist, and ornithologist shares her family’s travels around the globe as they seek out rare birds and draw comfort from nature. Craig deftly blends travelogue and advocacy with heartfelt openness in her debut narrative, crafting a rousing call to preserve nature’s grandeur while also offering a candid profile of her mother’s battles with mental health. Craig’s narration further enhances her already outstanding work, delivering a first-person performance “full of youthful exuberance, wisdom, and wit” (AudioFile Magazine).
What the Owl Knows
By Jennifer Ackerman, narrated by the author. 9 hours and 14 minutes.
For centuries, the elusive owl has haunted our collective imagination, serving, variously, as a symbol of wisdom, foresight, and doom. And yet despite our abiding fascination, we’ve only just begun to understand owls in full. Jennifer Ackerman’s New York Times bestseller What the Owl Knows explores what we do know about the titular bird, detailing their biology, behavior, and natural history, as well as the author’s observations in the field. Ackerman narrates the audiobook edition, and her boundless enthusiasm for these beguiling creatures creates a listening experience that is both enlightening and full of wonder.
Life in Five Senses
By Gretchen Rubin, narrated by the author. 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Gretchen Rubin brings her “precise, measured, and considered” (AudioFile Magazine) narration to her latest bestselling book about happiness and human nature, Life in Five Senses. While Rubin has been studying contentment for years (she is, after all, the author of the 2009 bestseller The Happiness Project and its 2012 follow-up, Happier at Home), it was a visit to the optometrist that inspired her to reinvigorate her life through her five senses. Rubin invites us along for the ride as she reconnects with the world around her, from deep listening sessions of her favorite songs and stimulating visits to museums to the tasty joys of condiments. Drawing on science, philosophy, literature, and the author’s own experiences, Life in Five Seasons is an insightful and practical guide to living life to its fullest.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being
By Rick Rubin, narrated by the author. 5 hours and 45 minutes.
Legendary music producer Rick Rubin invites listeners into his world in the audiobook version of his New York Times bestseller The Creative Act. Known for bringing out the best in artists by providing a space for them to explore, Rubin has spent decades considering art and creativity. In The Creative Act, which he narrates with intimacy and authority, Rubin shares what he’s learned — that artistry is not reliant on output but rather is defined by how you relate to the world.
By Prince Harry, narrated by the author. 15 hours and 39 minutes.
Spare took the world by storm in 2023, and in its audiobook edition, listeners get to hear Prince Harry tell his side of the story. The unflinching memoir chronicles Harry’s grief over losing his mother, the pressures of coming of age under intense public scrutiny, and his dramatic decision as a young man to take back full control of his life. From joining the British Army and battling PTSD to falling in love and leaving the Royal Family, Harry’s story is one of immense heart. And while anguish and hurt loom large, Spare is still very much about the power of love.