Audiobooks and Narrators


By Mark Messenger Ι May 27, 2015

A popular way to experience reading is by listening to audiobooks — you know, books read to us, like when we were kids and grown-ups would hold up picture books and use their voices to portray characters and render amazing sound effects. As an adult, I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks while on long car trips, working on some home improvement project, or, of course, exercising. Listening gives me a chance to enjoy my favorite books hands-free, and without nodding off — which seems to be more of a problem as I get older. Also, I tend to get through audiobooks quicker than physical books — I’m more apt to continue to the end of a disc or track.

So what factors make the audiobook experience more or less enjoyable for me?

I like a single storyteller with just a hint of dramatic interpretation. I sometimes find a multiple-cast member reading distracting. I also find that sound effects and music don’t add much to the experience. I remember listening to some audiobooks produced by the company Graphic Audio. Their tagline is “A movie in your ear” or “A movie in your mind” and their recordings are inundated with a variety of cast members, sound effects and music that can hurt my concentration.

Sometimes authors narrate their own books. This sometimes works. The children’s author Still Foolin' 'Em disc coverE.B. White made a recording of his book “Charlotte’s Web” that I adored. I enjoyed listening to Billy Crystal read his recent memoir “Still Foolin’ ‘Em.” However, other authors who have made recordings of their books — including two of my favorites, Stephen King and John Grisham — while great writers, are not great narrators.

Whether noted for their work in the movies, on television or the stage, actors and actresses usually make good narrators. I like Michael Beck, an actor who’s made recordings of many John Grisham books. Two English actors, Stephen Fry and Jim Dale, give wonderful readings of the U.K. and U.S. editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Actor Edward Herrmann gives smooth and engaging Unbroken disc covernarration of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.” However, Patrick Stewart, an actor I like very much, reads C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia book “The Last Battle”, with such over-the-top character voices and emotion, I was reaching for the fast-forward button.

Some voice actors make a living as audiobook narrators. If you’ve listened to Recorded Books’ unabridged recordings, most likely you’ve heard the voice of George Guidall. He’s narrated over 1,200 audiobooks. Another of my favorites is the late Patrick Tull, who made recordings of books by many authors, including Patrick O’Brian, Ellis Peters and Charles Dickens.

If you discover a narrator you like you can keyword search the Salina Public Library’s catalog by the person’s name — I tried “Patrick Tull” and got numerous audiobook hits.

Salina Public Library now has more audiobook options than ever before. They are available on CD and MP3-CD, Playaways and to download through One Click Digital, the Sunflower eLibrary and on Hoopla. See the Virtual Library tab on our website to learn about the many ways you can download and listen to audiobooks. Happy listening!