I’m addicted to audiobooks. Unabridged, pleased, and preferably on CDs for superior sound quality. I check out half a dozen at a time from the library and go through them at a rapid clip. Without them, the number of books I “read” every year would drop by more than half. Many times I’ve purchased a book in print and ended up listening to it on audio from the library instead.
When I’m not at the computer or reading a printed book, I’m usually hooked up to an audiobook. I listen while I cook, while I fill the birdfeeders, while I pull weeds in the garden. One thing I never do is listen to a book while I’m driving. I’m afraid I’ll get too wrapped up in the story and will either have an accident or forget where I’m going. I’ll take a book on cassette tapes if that’s all that’s available, but I much prefer CDs, and I wish the library had more of the books I want available for download to my MP3 player.
Some people say they can’t become absorbed in audiobooks the way they sink into the print version. They need to see the words on the page. But for me the key to enjoyment of an audiobook – aside from the quality of the writing – is the reader’s voice. Anyone who listens to more than a few audiobooks has favorite narrators and tries to avoid those whose voices they find annoying for some reason. Companies like Books on Tape and Recorded Books, Inc., know this, and their web sites provide lists of books narrated by specific readers. The Recorded Books web site also has photos and bios of the narrators.
I’ll pass up an audiobook I want to listen to if it’s narrated by someone whose voice irritates me. I’ll try a recording I might otherwise pass over if one of my favorites is narrating it. Donada Peters has made me a fan of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin mysteries. I will listen to anything Davina Porter (right) reads in her lovely voice.
Some readers, though, please me with one author’s books but not with another. I think C.J. Crit is the perfect reader for Margaret Maron’s Judge Deborah Knott novels, but I don’t think she’s right for Janet Evanovich’s books. George Guidall (left) is probably the most experienced of all narrators, with more than 650 unabridged books to his credit, but I enjoy his deep, somewhat rough voice only on certain types of books. Oddly enough, his voice seems perfect for Lillian Jackson Braun’s “Cat Who” mysteries. He sounds like Qwilleran.
I come to associate a particular reader with a particular author, and I’m annoyed when a company gives the narrating duty to a variety of people. For example, the Recorded Books versions of James Lee Burke’s novels are read by Tom Stechschulte (pictured on the right), Mark Hammer, and Will Patton. I like all three of them, but it’s disconcerting to me to get a different voice each time.
Who are the men and women who record books? Some well-known actors have done recorded books, but the people who make a living at it are often the show business equivalent of mid-list authors -- talented, but not destined to become stars and earn a lot of money from acting. When they read a book, they play every part, and their job is to bring out all of the story's emotional complexity -- truly perform it, not simply read it aloud. I’ve seldom listened to a recording that seemed poorly prepared or dashed off. My only complaint is the occasional mispronunciation. I still grit my teeth when I remember the narrator who repeatedly pronounced Quantico as Quan-TEE-co.
Recorded book narrators have their own awards to recognize professional achievement – the Audies, given in numerous categories. Veterans like Davina Porter and George Guidall have won multiple Audies. Publishers Weekly has a review section devoted to recorded books, with the emphasis on the reader’s performance of the material.
As usual, I have a bunch of unabridged audiobooks in my to-be-listened-to stack, among them Angel’s Tip by Alafair Burke, read by Eliza Foss, and China Trade by S.J. Rozan, read by Christine Marshall. I just finished listening to The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon, read by David Colacci, and now I’m listening to Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon, read by Jeff Woodman. I’m waiting my turn on the library’s reserve list for recordings of new books by John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Greg Iles, Jeffery Deaver, Stieg Larsson, and Kathryn Stockett.
And what am I actually reading, as in holding a printed book and moving my eyes over the words on the pages? Undone by Karin Slaughter. I will finish a couple of audiobooks in the time it takes me to read Undone.
Do you listen to recorded books? Do you have favorite narrators?