Monday, June 11, 2012

In Praise of the Audiobook, Part 1

I've been an audiobook fan for a very long time...well since about 4th grade to be precise, so that's been a while.  Throughout those years, I've had many people, from friends to professors look at me with surprise when I would talk about how great such and such audiobook was, they would proceed to tell me how much they disliked the audiobooks they had listened to because they were sooo boring and slow.  I was shocked!  How had all these people not had wonderful experiences with audiobooks??  Audiobooks have been one of the greatest pleasures I've had as part of my reading experience, moreover they've added so much to my frequent weekend escapades of putting many baskets of laundry away throughout our house!

So when I would contradict them and say that audiobooks are in fact really good, they were surprised and I told them they just have to pick the right ones.  After seeing an article today at NPR on great audiobooks to take on road trips (click here to read it) I thought I'd list some of the best audiobooks I've had the pleasure of listening to over the years.  So here we go, I'll be posting two parts (at least that's the plan right now) with 6 audiobooks each in no  specific order (you should be able to find these at your local library, if not you can actually try and request that they purchase them, or if not try iTunes or Audible, and if that fails that they always have the physical CDs on Amazon but those are usually pricey for the longer books) Also click on the photo for more info, if you would like more info that is:

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Read by Lynn Redgrave. (Ages 9/10 and up)  This is definitely one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard, it's one of my earliest exposures to the media of the audiobook and every time I listen to the first few tracks I'm taken back to when I first listened to this book and can feel the raindrops tapping on Meggie's windowpane...  Lynn Redgrave does a fantastic job of bringing soul to each character that she brings to life and in my opinion this is the best audiobook of the Inkheart trilogy.  

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Read by Allan Corduner. (Ages 14 and up)  Coduner's voice completely embodies and brings to life this novel's narrator.  His reading of the story adds such a special, otherworldly, and almost necessary layer to the work.  If you have read The Book Thief already, I highly recommend rereading it with this audiobook because it is truly a worthwhile listening experience and if you have not had the great pleasure of reading this book this is possibly one of the best ways to first experience it.  Corduner's tone has this perfect blend of velvety chocolate and a salt of the earth grit...

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Read by a Full Cast, Abridged Edition. ("grown up" book)  Now this is probably the ONLY time I will ever recommend someone read/listen to anything that is abridged.  However I listened to this version of the audiobook as I was reading the actual book because the cast of readers for this abridged version is truly AMAZING!!  For whatever reason, perhaps financial concerns, the publishing company decided to have a full cast for the abridged version but only two narrators for the unabridged, and I tried to make myself listen to the unabridged version out of personal convictions, but the abridged version is truly that much better that I just went ahead and listened to it instead.  I highly recommend this audio, even thought it's abridged it's actually still lengthy, so you won't miss too many of the beautiful details of this novel!

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, Read by Bertie Carvel. (Ages 5/6 and up) Now this audiobook has a collection of dragon tales by Kenneth Grahame and E. Nesbit.  I have only listened to the Reluctant Dragon, although I'm sure the others are wonderful as well.  But this version of the book includes the often left out Prologue to the Reluctant Dragon and this reader is wonderful, by far the best and I've tested out almost all of the other options out there.  He inhabits each of the characters wonderfully and brings a light charm and whimsy that is so much a part of this story.  My brother listens to this one over and over again, and I'm sure many others will enjoy it as well.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Books 1-3 by Maryrose Wood, Read by Katherine Kellgren. (Ages 7 and up) I have been wanting to post about this wonderful series for some time now, and I'm currently listening to the third audiobook, but this is one of the most refreshing group of books I've read in quite sometime!  The trials and escapades of three young wards under the tutelage of a young, bright governess Miss Penelope Lumley, these four wonderful characters come in contact with foes and friends throughout the series and face many obstacles, physical, academic and literary.  Katherine Kellgren does a FANTASTIC job of creating voices for the characters from the always calm, inquisitive and resourceful Penelope to the sometimes howling but quick learning Incorrigible siblings to Ms. Clarke the kind and caring housekeeper to the shrieking antics and annoyances of the mistress of the house Lady Constance Ashton.  Full of unique twists and turns and brimming with allusions to old classics like Jane Eyre, this series is a wonderful addition to children's literature, and through experience I've witnessed it's appeal to both girls and surprisingly boys as well!

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Read by Jim Dale. (Ages 5 and up)  Peter Pan is one of those stories that has captured the hearts of so many people.  However, unfortunately most have come to know Peter through Disney's animated film version.  But J.M. Barrie's actual novel is one of the most beautiful, whimsical, humorous, witty and wonderful stories ever written.  This essence of childhood and adventure, growing up and believing in the impossible, has been given a fresh breath of life with Jim Dale's wonderful reading of the tale.  You may know Jim Dale as the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks, I listened to some of them and fell in love with the way he told stories and often wondered how cool it would be to have him as a grandfather, can you imagine sitting in the living room hearing him read to you??  Years after finishing the Harry Potter series and after becoming more adept at finding audiobooks I wondered whether Jim Dale had any others, I discovered that in the next month or so after I looked it up this audiobook was coming out!  He really does a wonderful job, and I can't imagine listening to anyone else read this book.

Click here to read Part 2!


  1. Thanks for sharing these. I will give some a try. Like others you have run across, I, too, have mostly been disappointed in audios. They do seem to read so slowly and often their voice just doesn't fit the story. My daughter and I used to listen to many wonderful stories on audio (often Jim Weiss!), but have only listened to a handful of books.

    1. I hope that you and your daughter will be able to try some of these out, I really recommend Inkheart if you and your daughter are going to be listening together :) I hope that some of these will change your mind about audiobooks, because if you find good ones they are really amazing!! My little brother likes the Jim Weiss stories, we actually got to see him in perform in person this past semester, and he was really great. Hope you enjoy some good audiobooks soon!

  2. Thanks for these recommendations. I will definitely be checking out the Cornelia Funke one as I think my daughter would like that. She listens to an audiobook after bedtime stories, plus we listen to them as a family on car journeys. Can I recommend the children's books by David Walliams (of Little Britain fame), who narrates the stories with his pal Matt Lucas and they are hilarious!

    1. I hope she enjoys Inkheart! I left a response back on your blog :) I'm still a little bit confused on how best to respond to comments, whether I should leave a comment under theirs on my own blog or over at their blog...I'm sure I'll figure it out soon!

  3. I love audiobooks, too. Such a great way of squeezing a bit more reading into one's day (or, for commuters, sometimes a lot more reading). And a great way to get really immersed in a book, too. Because you can't skim with an audiobook. So you really get the whole story.

    I loved the Inkheart audio. I was so disappointed when I listened to the second book, and Brendan Fraser was the narrator. His voice was too distinctly HIS voice, and took me out of the story.

    Thanks for the other suggestions. Will check them out!

    1. Definitely! I'm going to be commuting a lot this coming year, so I'm glad I'll have audiobooks to fill the driving time :)

      I was as well, I mean he didn't do a horrible job, but I so loved Lynne Redgrave's voice! I think he did a good job with Funke's Dragon Rider though, I'm posting that one in my upcoming post!

      And you're welcome, I hope you enjoy some of them or all of them :)