Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Discussion: Audio Book Dilemma

I have class in Indianapolis twice a week and I have to drive an hour and a half each way, so I figured listening to audio books would be a great way to get some reading in and entertain myself during the long drive. However, it seems that I have had the worst luck finding readers that I can enjoy listening to for any amount of time.

My first foray into audio books was with the unabridged version of Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager. I liked the narrator’s voice for the male main character, as she had a deeper voice and could pull off the Scottish accent fairly well, but her voice for the female main character made her sound like a matronly old woman (which she isn’t) and pretty much every other voice the narrator did grated on my nerves, especially any children’s voices. It took me forever to get her voices out of my head as I read the other books in the Outlander series. Every review I’ve seen for the Outlander audio books have raved about the narrator, so I seem to be in the minority here.

Next, I tried Kristin Cashore’s Fire. If you remember, I had some issues with the book’s content itself, so that might have adversely affected my opinion, but I really couldn’t stand any male voice the narrator tried to pull off. I think a lot of it had to do with her accent – when she attempted to affect a male accent it always seemed to sound nasaly and slightly cockney, which is not at all how I would imagine any princes speaking.

The last audio book I attempted was Cashore’s Graceling, which I had read before and enjoyed, bar a few issues I had with certain choices made by the main characters. It even featured a readers theatre style, with a different reader for each character, which I think is a fabulous idea. The narrator had a pleasing voice, and most of the main character’s voices were fine as well, but the reader for Katsa drove me insane. I don’t know who she was, but her voice and the cheesy music that was played during transitions made me call it quits about half way into the story. What’s more, it really made me hate the book, so much so that I gave away my copy on Paperback Swap. It was probably a rash decision, but having to listen to this character whine and shout and otherwise act the fool made me not even be able to contemplate ever wanting to re-read this book at any point in the future.

Has this ever happened to any of you all before or am I just a wee gomerel? I want to try other audio books, but I don’t want to continue having the same experience and be put off of otherwise alright books just because I’m a bit sensitive when it comes to voices. I seriously think that is the majority of my problem. Most people, for example, find children singing cute and endearing, but I cringe. I don’t know what  I’m going to do if I ever have children. I can just imagine them asking me how they’ve done after a concert and I’d have to lie to them, because you can’t honestly look your child in the eye and tell them “Well, Mummy couldn’t honestly say, sweetheart, because she was covering her ears the entire time.” Poor child would be scarred for life and have to be put in some kind of therapy . . .

ANYWAY. Does anyone have any suggestions on audio books you’ve enjoyed or any particularly good narrators? When you’re looking for a new audio book, do you tend to stick with a certain narrator or do you generally look for books you’ve been wanting to read or a favorite author? How often do you listen to audio books and what have your experiences been like with them? Inquiring minds want to know.


6 comments on “Discussion: Audio Book Dilemma

  1. Heather Bowman
    February 4, 2010

    I’m just like you. When I check out audiobooks, I have to pick 3 or 4 because I know most readers will grate on my nerves.

    My two favorite narrators are Kathleen McNenny and Edwin Wren. I would listen to any book narrated by them. They have such range. I couldn’t believe only one person was doing all those voices. I listened to The Historian on audio, and that had a full cast of readers who all did really well. Most of Cecelia Ahern’s narrators do well too.

    Good luck!

  2. Alisa Burch
    February 4, 2010

    I am addicted to audio books. Try Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen — the reader does a great job — and The Help by Kathryn Stockette — there are several readers for this novel. Sometimes a reader’s voice will bother me but usually I can lose myself in the story and don’t concentrate on the reader. Hope you can find some good audios because the commute is easier when listening to a book. Good luck.

  3. Jenn
    February 5, 2010

    Thanks for the suggestions, ladies! I shall certainly check them out – I always need an excuse to go to the library.

  4. Booklover Book Reviews
    February 22, 2010

    I’ve recently got hooked on audiobooks because they make my drive to work each day so much more enjoyable. I do agree on the negative effect ‘put-on’ voices sometimes have on the reading experience though. I prefer when there are several narrators, makes it much easier to follow the story. Single narrators sometimes try too hard to differentiate between characters I think – to the point where the accents/voices just sound too unrealistic. I hate listening to a whining voice also. I find deeper tones much more enjoyable to listen to.

    • Jenn
      February 23, 2010

      You’re right – I think unless the narrator is really good at doing different voices, I think it’s better to get more than one narrator. I also think that a woman narrator with more of an alto range is probably the most versatile narrator, because she can do both the male and female voices with ease and they sound more natural.

      I’m currently listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, which has chapters alternating from the point of view of Grace and Sam, the two main characters, so they have two narrator’s. This was a great way to go, except the male narrator does this awful falsetto voice for the female parts and the female narrator has a higher voice, so her male voices sound like pre-pubescent boys no matter how old they are. Each of the narrators do an excellent job with the role’s of Grace and Sam, but everything else is kind of hard to ignore.

  5. Janet
    July 4, 2010

    Hello. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (mentioned by Alisa earlier) is phenomenal. Story, characters, historical context and narration are all equally rich. In fact I’m struggling to know what comes next as it will certainly be hard to follow… I will be checking out some of these recommendations. Thank you.

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