Audio Book Readers

Barbara Vey -- February 18th, 2011

I have been absolutely giddy the past couple of weeks because Brilliance Audio has been sending me a ton of audio books.  Now, I’ve always loved to read real paper books and will continue to do so, but there are times when it’s just not convenient.  While driving a car, walking, doing dishes, and late at night when my eyes seem to give out and start watering so I can’t read the print.  Today I want to talk about the readers on audio books.

I especially love listening to them with the lights out.  It seems to really put me in that time and place and clearly let’s me understand how important the right reader is to a book.  I started off with an older book, but new to audio, Jennifer Crusie’s Charlie All Night.  Not sure how I missed this book in print because I thought I read them all.  It was a contemporary love story about a young woman working as a producer at a radio station and the man who temporarily fills in as a DJ.  Since I was focusing on the reader, I’d have to say Aimee Jolson did a fine job.  It was clear what was going on and who was saying what.  No strange dialects that take me out of the story.

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Next up was the historical by Lisa Kleypas, Then Came You.  There’s something I find so lovely about a British accent and Lisa’s story was fun, fascinating and exciting to listen to.  She has a way with witty dialog and the reader,  Rosalyn Landor, nailed it.  I was completely enchanted and would definitely listen to it again.

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Unfortunately, not so much with the reader for Victoria Alexander’s The Perfect Mistress.  I have been reading Victoria for years and while the story was about everything I love in historicals, the reader, Jennifer Dixon, offered no change in her voice to alert me to which character was talking.  I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman, so I spent a good part of the time thinking, “Wait…who said that??”  It was very distracting and a disservice to the book.  (Which has a gorgeous cover.)

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I’m currently listening to Treachery in Death by Nora Roberts in my car.  I already read the book, but I’m now listening to it because this reader, Susan Ericksen, is amazing in defining the characters and when she does Roarke’s Irish lilt, I swoon.  It seems I make more car trips just to listen to the book.

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At home I’m in the middle of How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries.  Another favorite author, but I find myself somewhat put off by the reader, Sarah Coomes.  I’ll admit that I’m no expert when it comes to the different British dialects, but while the story makes the characters out to be well to do, the reader’s voice sounds more Cockney to me.  Sort of Eliza Doolittle before her transformation.   I find the story fascinating, so I may also read the book later to see if it changes how I liked the book overall.

The best reader ever for me is Jim Dale who does the Harry Potter books.  I always know exactly who’s talking.  It amazes me how he can come up with a slightly different voice for each character.  I read once where he works many hours getting just the right sound for that person.  It works wonderfully.

Just like how different people like different books, others could love the audios that just didn’t do it for me or not care for the ones I loved.  Once again, while I enjoyed all the stories (so please, read them or listen to them yourselves), I was concentrating on what I thought the reader brought to the table. But I’d love to hear what you think?  Do you enjoy audio books?  Does the reader matter to you?  For authors:  Do you listen to your books in audio form?  Have you been pleased or disappointed about your books were interpreted (you don’t have to use your name)? Is it like when you have no control over the cover of your book?

A number of my readers are trying the audio books out, so you’ll be seeing their takes in the WW Ladies Book Club Blurbs.  Many thanks to Brilliance Audio for making these available.

Bottom Line: My personal preference is unabridged audio.  I want to hear every word the author wrote.

54 thoughts on “Audio Book Readers

  1. Marilyn Baron

    Barbara,

    I’ve never listened to an audio book but I’ve been meaning to. If anything would get me to try it, it would be the chance to hear Roarke’s voice. I’m looking forward to reading Treachery in Death. I just read Jennifer Crusie’s latest book, “Maybe This Time,” and thought I had read all of her books, but I’d never heard of the one you featured either.
    Many people I know love audio books so I guess I’ll have to give them a try.

    Marilyn

  2. Margaret Speaker Yuan

    I’m very fond of Philip Pullman’s audio books of the HDM triolgy. The books are produced as a performance with different actors voicing the dialogue of various characters. The text itself is read by Pullman. The Golden Compass begins with Pullman reading the excert from Milton that is the source for the trioogy’s title. It’s my favorite audio book. By Margaret speaker Yuan, author, Philip Pullman, Chelsea House, Who Wrote That? Series of biographies of famous writers.

  3. Lorna

    I too love Jim Dale, he is the perfect reader and his voices are wonderful BUT, while listening to him read Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days I thought to myself what is Hagrid doing in this book?

  4. Sara Lindsey

    I never thought I would get into audio books, but I wanted to hear Richard Armitage read Georgette Heyer, so I got myself an Audible subscription and now I’m hooked.
    I love Jim Dale’s Harry Potter books. They’re perfect.
    Another to-die-for narrator for me is Phil Gigante, who narrates Karen Marie Moning’s books. His Scottish heroes will turn your knees to jelly. Jelly. You’ll see.

  5. Stephanie Scott

    I get audio books from the library pretty frequently. Here are the best I’ve listened to:

    Paper Towns by John Green, read by actor Dan John Miller
    You may not recognize the name, but looking at his picture you might remember him from character actor parts in Walk the Line and
    He is such an excellent fit for an excellent book

    Bite Me, and You Suck by Christopher Moore, read by Susan Bennett
    She is excellent and keeps pace with Moore’s fast-paced, absurd characters
    (she also read the sequel to Nanny Diaries, The Nanny Returns)

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, read by Sissy Spacek
    An Oscar winning actress really makes a difference

    Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield, read by the author
    He is a former Rolling Stone Magazine writer, and his memoir about music and love is a delight to hear. The story takes an unexpected turn and becomes quite emotional, and even more so to hear the author speak the words himself.

  6. Debbie

    The person reading the story is almost as important as the book content! I’ve listened to excellent books that I didn’t enjoy at all because of the person reading. I’ve also listened to books I wouldn’t have loved if I had read them, but I thoroughly enjoyed them because of the person reading them. Some readers mumble and I hate having to keep going back to see what they said.

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  8. Susan in AZ

    I bought and read Charlie All Night when it first came out. I would have preferred this as an audio book, since I ended up reading it aloud to myself! Such witty dialogue always works better out loud, (chuckle to myself).

    Thanks for the good, bad, and ugly on audio versions of these wonderful books.

  9. Tracy

    I love audiobooks and my children are constantly listening to audiobooks as well. I have an audible account, but my public library also has downloadable books for free–a lot of people don’t know that. As for my favorite narrators: Barbara Rosenblatt reads Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series among many, many others. She is so great that I sometimes listen to books simply because she reads them.

    Jenny Sterlin reads Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series and a lot more. I am currently listening to Dreaming of the Bones by Debra Crombie and narrated by Jenny. I have also loved Davina Porter and Simon Preble–can you tell I listen to a lot of books?

    Stephen Briggs is awesome reading the Terry Pratchett series–fans complain when they have another narrator, although I thought that Nigel Planer was also good. They are actually re-recording some of them with Stephen. Jim Dale also narrated tje classic Peter Pan and the Dave Barry and Ridley Peterson Peter Pan books. Sometimes when I am walking through the room when my kids are listening to them, I will think that Harry Potter characters are speaking!

  10. Shaggy

    A bad reader can ruin a good story. I’ve stopped listening because of a bad reader. Plus the narrators voice has to match the tone of The book. Higher pitched voices rarely work.
    I’m with you too – I listen to them doing all kinds of things – housework, groceries, lying in bed in the dark (my fave). Lorelei King is easily my all time favourite narrator, she’s done Janet Evanovich, Patricia Briggs, Patricia Cornwell & more. Actresses make great narrators as it’s a performance. I also really like Johanna Parker – her Sookie Stackhouse readings are fantastic. For Harry Potter, I have to stick with Stephen Fry. Partly because I could listen to him reading anything and partly because, well Harry is English isn’t he. It didn’t seem right for him to have an American accent.

  11. Dianna Love

    My husband and I would listen to book tapes – when they were “tapes” – on a trip to see family and sit in the driveway outside my family’s house listening to the last fifteen minutes if it hadn’t finished yet. Unfortunately, I’m now typing on those trips or I read whatever I have ready to my husband who calls my pages a book tape he can argue with . A narrator can make night and day difference. Hopefully, readers will give a book a try in print or with another narrator on the next book since quite often the author is just as dismayed as a new listener over a bad fit of someone’s voice/style and the story they created.

  12. Book Editor

    As a reader who used to have a long commute, I love audiobooks. There is no question about the ease and past popularity of them.
    In my capacity in the industry, however, I would have liked to have read in this PW blog an item on the trends, statistics, and forecasts of the audiobook category: Is it on the decline with competition from e-books? Are more audio products being presented as downloadable books rather than CDs? What books are best on audio? Which types don’t do well? In addition to Brilliance Audio giving out freebies, are they also dispensing information that will help book publishers make decisions as to whether they should commit the costs and resources to convert print to audio, and whether bookseller should carry them in limited space? Is return on investment worth it in this new age of e-readers?

  13. Barbara Vey Post author

    Book Editor, Thanks for your comment.

    I write this blog from the perspective of a reader. As such, I don’t normally delve into the statics too much. It’s much more personal and I try to convey my feelings as I see thing from outside of the industry. I love all things books and book related, but I certainly understand your interest and concerns.

    I will be forwarding your comments to the powers that be in the hopes that they will see the need for an article on this subject.

    Barbara

  14. Book Editor

    Dear Barbara,
    Thank you for your prompt response, explanation, and for offering to pass along my article idea. I enjoy your blog and appreciate your work.

  15. Cathy lindauer

    Love to listen to audiobooks. I have an audible account and get them at my library. Then I listen in the car and at work. Just wish more were in audio form.

  16. Tiffiany

    I love a good audio book when I have a long trip in a car. They take you through a great adventure and before you know it, that long dreaded drive, is over. And you realize it was fun and seem to take no time at all.

  17. Danielle Essick

    Listening to a great audiobook really inspires me to workout at the gym. Takes my mind into the story and then before I know it the hour workout is done! Thanks so much for the awesome audiobooks and stories…helping me burn calories :)

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