I often find non-fiction hard to listen to, missing a bit due to distractions is worse than fiction, and they’re rough for bedtime listening, too detailed for sleepy. That said, I’ve been enjoying Michael Pollan’s Cooked while kayak fishing. Bedtime currently is Potter and the Methods of Rationality, recently discovered here. My daughter is loving it too on her kindle.
As for you specific rec’s, nonfiction is wide. Science, history, sports, cooking, what? You do know about the Hardcore History Podcast right? At this point he’s basically doing book length treatments.
All-time great? Patrick O’brian read By Patrick Tull.
For me, too. I love audio books, but there is a limit to the complexity I can follow as an audio book since I tend to be multi-tasking when listening to them and the task has to take priority, so being able to keep up when missing some of the book is important. Umberto Eco is right out, as is heavy non-fiction. But, popular science titles can still work well for me, such as Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, which was a great read and well read. Also, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) – a great popular science book on cognitive dissonance.
I’ll second the Patrick Tull readings of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Maturin series. Tull is sometimes a little hard to understand, but what a perfect voice for Capt. Jack Aubrey. Great match up of narrator to the material. Tull died in 2006. I was sad to hear the news, his readings were wonderful.
A narrator can make or break an audiobook. I loved Lenny Henry’s reading of American Gods. I think the narration was way better than the actual book. I love the reading of Ben Aaronovitch’s The Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the UK) by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith – a great book and a great narrator, a narrator who really brings the characters and atmosphere to life. In contrast, I’d rather listen to a good text to speech reading (Ivona’s Amy voice) than a mediocre human narration (TTS does take getting used to, though). I really disliked Davina Porter’s slow reading of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. To this day, I still don’t know if I hate the book itself, or just the awful reading of it.
I am currently finishing Greg Egan’s Quarantine. This was IIRC his first novel, and unlike his later novels which have been a bit more far-future, this one takes place in the 21st century. The setting seems cyberpunk, with an augmented ex-security private investigator looking into misdeeds in some powerful corporations. But it goes much further than any other cyberpunk I’ve read into the social and personal effects of living, working, and loving as a human with ubiquitous brain/consciousness alteration - as well as the hard science of what happens when some of those mods affect the collapse of the quantum state vector of the universe. So, it is something of a real mindfuck. It is def a headstrong read, and no doubt many would dismiss it as flawed literature by virtue of the main character being difficult to relate to. It honestly has enough ideas for twenty lesser novels, yet (IMO) makes for an engrossing and cohesive story, certainly a great first novel I think by any standards.
I have read the paperback, which I still have here, probably 12-15 years ago.
The reading by Adam Epstein I am not crazy about. I find it alternately amusing and annoying. Their slow delivery, so laid back as to be devoid of any tension, does at times contribute to a feeling of detachment which seems appropriate at some places for the main character. Their performance of the other characters is far less monotonous. The reading doesn’t ruin it for me, but doesn’t bring much to it either, and took a while to get used to.