Monday, August 29, 2016

Thoughts on Audiobooks

I’ve been thinking a lot about audiobooks lately. I don’t mention it a lot on the blog, but a lot of my “reading” these days is done via audiobook. I find it’s the perfect way to combine my hobby of reading with another of my hobbies, cross stitch. But that’s a discussion for my other blog.

I love that audiobooks in general have been gaining so much more attention lately, even among teens, which is awesome. Programs like Sync Audiobooks (hosted every summer) and the prevalence of digital audiobooks through sites like are bringing so much more awareness to readers. Which is awesome, because of course that means more audiobooks are being made every day.

For me, audiobooks are a good way to “read” a book while I’m busy doing something else. They are also lifesavers on long drives and car trips. A lot of what I listen to are books that are new to me. But I also love hearing my favorite books come alive too. Perhaps my love of audiobooks harkens back to when I used to be read to every night before bed by my parents. I love closing my eyes (except when driving on those long car trips of course) and getting lost in the story.

So in case you’ve never tried audiobooks, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, read by Jim Dale

I cannot highly recommend these enough. Besides the fact that the books are awesome all on their own, Jim Dale’s narration does an amazing job of bringing the books to life. He gives each character a distinct voice, which is a nice contrast to his somewhat dry narration style. Some narrators have voices that are very similar to each other, or don’t distinguish very well between sexes, two of my biggest narrator pet peeves. No problems with that here. The really nice thing is that Dale is consistent with each character voice from book to book too, which is amazing considering they were recorded years apart as the individual books were coming out. Fun fact, I don’t think I ever actually have read Goblet of Fire or Half Blood Prince. Both books I finished by listening to them on summer car trips.

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, read by Nathaniel Parker

So I had read the first 2 Artemis Fowl books and enjoyed them, although I wouldn’t say they made it on a favorites list by any means. Then my brother borrowed the audiobook for the 1st book from the library, and it changed everything for me. Nathaniel Parker made Artemis Fowl for me. Something about his narration captured Artemis’ personality so crystal for me, I was able to understand him as a character so much more. Holly also became much more real of a character and friend, and less of an intimidating presence, which was definitely something that had a large influence on the series later on. Needless to say, I’ve listened to all of the books now, and they’re definitely books I fall back into listening to from time to time.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, read by Full Cast Audio

In picking my favorite audiobooks, just about everything done by Full Cast Audio would make the full list. Seriously, they are amazing recordings. Rather than being read by a single person, the book is read by, well, a full cast. So a different person for each character. This gives the books another dimension; makes them feel almost like watching a play instead of listening to a single person relate a story. I’ve listened to so many of their recordings now that I frequently recognize actors from one story to another, which gives a whole different dimension to the characters of the stories (as a weird and unintentional side effect). As I said, I love Full Cast Audio’s productions and would recommend many, many of them, but for the sake of keeping this post manageable size, I would choose Fairest as one of my favorite. I loved this book, both because of its standalone qualities and also because it was a prequel of sorts to one of my favorite books of all time, Ella Enchanted. But in addition to the amazing full cast reading, this book has music. Lots of it. Music plays a big part in the story line, and the studio put the author’s songs to actual music, so you get to hear the main character actually sing her parts. The result is nothing short of fantastic. Sadly, I don't think Full Cast is doing much these days, and a lot of their books have been re-recorded by other narrators, but I'd definitely get this version if you can.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, read by Words Take Wing Repertory Company

Okay, this one is a cheat in several ways. If you’ve read my review of this book on the blog here, you’ll know that this is one of my all-time favorite books. So it was probably a no brainer I was going to love it for that reason. Secondly, this was done by the Words Take Wing division of Listening Library, which was the precursor to Full Cast Audio, which we’ve already covered the fact that I adore their productions. This is a great book to read, and also a great one to listen to. There’s something about hearing the story being read that highlights the hilarity of the plot and characters, which is one of the most charming devices Wrede uses in this story.

I could go on a lot more about these and other favorites, but to keep this shorter, I’ll just highlight two more books that I didn’t expect to love at all, but listening to the audiobook completely changed my mind.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, read by Elizabeth Jasicki

I had tried several times to pick up Fforde’s Thursday Next series, never with much success. Probably because I kept getting distracted by other books. So when I saw this audiobook at the library, I decided to give it a try, since it was supposed to be his attempt at a “young adult” series. To my surprise, I quite enjoyed the book, and I think it was mostly because the narration made the main character Jennifer Strange so endearing to me. I was completely lost in Jennifer’s world, and I fell in love with many of the characters, causing me to actually shed tears at the end. If I hadn’t picked this up, I certainly wouldn’t have ever picked up the second book in the series, Song of the Quarkbeast, which I loved just as much.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, read by

This is another book I really task the narration with my falling in love with it. The narrator became Theodosia for me. I could believe that an 11-year-old was telling this story. Although I had seen this book around from time to time, for some reason it hadn’t really appealed to me that much enough for me to actually give it a try. But needing something to keep me entertained on a long commute, I gave the audiobook a listen. And I’m so glad I did. Listening to it definitely opened up the whole world of this story, where the setting of ancient Egyptian curses and prophecies is almost a character of its own. I’ve already done a full review of this book here, so I’ll let you go read that if you want more specifics.

Well, hopefully that’s a few suggestions to get you started if you’ve never been brave enough to try them. I’ve got a few other audiobook discussions I’d like to have rolling around in my head, but I’ll save those for another post.

Until then, happy reading (or listening!)

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