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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Audiobook Week - Audiobooks for the Uninitiated

Day 4 of Audiobook Week finds us giving some of our audiobook suggestions. Whether you just started listening or have a long history with audiobooks, you probably have some suggestions for those new to audio whether for narrators, titles, or ways to experience the medium. Write a post, make a list, get creative.

I think that my most important thing I should convey to you is to try and stay away from heavy, very thought provoking, deep books on audio.  Those are the types of books you should read in paperback so that you can go back and look at what happened previously, take time to think about what you read, and digest what you are reading.  It isn't as easy to stop and rewind to exactly what you want to re-experience something again that you missed. Also, if it is a book where there is reference material provided that will enhance your understanding (like referring back to family trees and character lists) you will not have this available to you in an audio format.  I usually try to stick to fun reads - for me that means mysteries (James Patterson), romance (Janet Evanovich), classics (children's books, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare).  Especially if you are listening in the car you are not going to be able to keep all of your concentration on the book - so it is best if you can tune in and out.

Audiobooks can be a very expensive purchase, but there are other options available to you if you want to enjoy them.  You can always use Audible and buy and download the book to your phone/ipod/mp3 player.  I have never used Audible, so I don't know much about it at all.  I tend to stick with my library.  I don't know about other states, but Massachusetts and Connecticut have a lot of audiobooks available online that you can "check out" and download to your ipod/phone/etc.  All you need in your regular library card and usually there will be a link through your library's website to download.  The downside to this is that you are limited to what they have available - but so far I have been able to find a pretty decent selection.  Also, many libraries participate in Interlibrary Loan and I have been able to request many audiobooks on CD (that I couldn't find on download).

I am going to point out specifically two narrators that I love - Victor Garber and C.J. Critt.  I have always loved Victor Garber as an actor (Alias and Titanic) but when I happened to stumble across the Danielle Steel book (Five Days is Paris) that he narrated I had to listen to it (even though I don't love her books).  There is a whole fan website devoted to his narration.  I love his voice and he is such an awesome reader.  This is the way all books should be read.  I also have enjoyed C.J. Critt, who has narrated the majority of the Janet Evanovich books.  Her voice takes some getting used to but she really evokes the fun and feeling of these stories.

Also, a word of warning about authors as narrators - they can really be hit or miss.  I think that if they have a background in performance they are ok, but otherwise it can be a train wreck.  I listened to Son of a Witch written and read by Gregory Maguire - and hated it.  Sure he could correctly pronounce all of the names and places, but he is not a great narrator.  On the other hand, I read Are You There Vodka, It's Me, Chelsea written and read by Chelsea Handler and it felt like I was watching her late night show or sitting in the audience at one of her stand-up shows - it was AWESOME!  I think you can get the picture why some work and some don't.

Do you have any words of wisdom about audiobooks to share?

Audiobook Week is hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Very good tips -- I'm still trying to get into audio books but as I don't have a car nor a very long commute, that doesn't work (I find it slower going having someone read to me and it feels like I barely finish a chapter by the time my commute is over).

    However, I do make a point of doing audio books for readers I love, who are usually actresses I adore: Juliet Stevenson, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet (who did an abridged audiobook of Sense & Sensibility, Anna Massey, and Lindsay Duncan (to name a few). Someone I read -- I forget who -- advised audiobooks when cleaning house which is brilliant as I'm VERY pokey at cleaning!

  2. Audra - That could make it a little more difficult for listening. I wish I had a short commute! My boyfriend used to say the same thing because he had like a 12 minute commute and would accomplish nothing in the audio. I can't listen while I clean because I stop paying attention.

  3. I think the general rule about authors as narrators is comedians: yes; anyone else: maybe, but be wary.

  4. Jen - I think that is very good wisdom.

  5. My library allows for online check out of audiobooks. I love it, it is so easy.


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