Tell Me a Story: The Joy of Audiobooks
“Audio Book” by Jeff Golden on Flickr
Many, many people have mentioned from time to time here that you like to listen to audiobooks. If it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t have gotten through half the books I’ve read this year. When I’m at home, it’s hard for me to make myself find the time to sit down and read—and most of the time, if I read before bed, I’m falling asleep after about fifteen minutes (and, as a confirmed night person, this is actually a good thing, because it means I’m getting almost enough sleep every night).
Even though most of the audiobooks I listen to are decidedly on the adult level (the history of the English language, the biography of Victoria and Albert, general-market romance, etc.), it really takes me back to when I was a kid and I’d go to sleep listening to tapes made from the records we had of the Disney movies—and other children’s movies/stories/books. (Remember, that was back in the day before VCRs, so all we had were the LPs that had an abridged version of the dialogue along with some of the music from those movies. The album covers usually included a picture book of images from the movie that could be read along while the record played.) In fact, I still listen to music at night—mostly instrumental movie/TV soundtrack music.
I thought it would be fun to talk about audiobooks today. Here are a few areas we can discuss:
Where do you get your audiobooks?
- I am an Audible.com “gold” member—meaning that for a certain monthly rate, I get one “credit” each month. The majority of audiobooks go for one credit, which means I basically get one audiobook a month for $14.95. I don’t always get one each month, but that’s okay, because up to six credits can “roll over.”
On what kind of device do you listen to your audiobooks?
- I used to listen to them exclusively on my MP3 player. But that was before I had my iPad and discovered the Audible app. (I know, I know. I’m a traitor to the PC cause.) Because I’m not listening to the audiobooks driving to work every day (I only have a fifteen minute drive now, and it’s in pretty heavy traffic, so I’m better off with music), I’m listening to them primarily at home. And because my iPad will charge while plugged in, which my MP3 won’t, I’m less likely to have the device die on me. Plus it’s nice to be able to download instantly, instead of having to dig up the USB cord and sit at the computer to download an audiobook to the MP3.
Is there a particular type of story (genre) you prefer listening to as an audio book?
- I will, and have, listened to just about everything. Though, as happened last month, there are occasions on which I’ll switch to the printed version of a book (usually an ebook) because there’s something about the story that just isn’t moving fast enough for me and I’m wanting to be able to skim/skip the boring/non-interesting stuff.
Who are your favorite audiobook narrators?
- The best male narrator I’ve ever heard is Jim Dale, who did the American versions of the Harry Potter books (apparently, Stephen Fry did the versions made in Britain). Jim Dale is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of unique character voices he created. I have all seven of the books in unabridged audio format, and he makes them come alive. Of course, I’ve listened to samples of him reading other books—and I just can’t break his voice away from the Harry Potter series in my mind enough to be able to connect with the new story he’s doing.
My favorite female narrator is Charlotte Parry. I first came across her when I listened to Sandra Byrd’s To Die For, and she was brilliant with that one—again, bringing the story to life, almost as if it were a dramatized version. But it was when I listened to Philippa Gregory’s The Boleyn Inheritance that I absolutely fell in love with Parry’s vocal ability. With three readers reading the three POV characters, it truly was like a dramatization—and Parry outshone the other two by miles, bringing so much personality to Catherine Howard just through her vocalizations. (Of course, both stories were excellently written, as well.)
What’s your favorite audiobook you’ve listened to in 2012?
- Because I’m a word-nerd, and because both the author and the narrator made the topic not just interesting but humorous as well, I’m going to have to go with The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg, read by Robert Powell. Now, I haven’t been able to find out if this is the same Robert Powell who played Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth back in the 1970s, but whoever he is, he is amazing.
What’s your favorite audiobook (or series) of all time?
- If you haven’t guessed, for me it’s the Harry Potter series. I’ve listened to those more often than any other audiobook I have—almost once a year, but not always starting with the first one. Sometimes, I skip the first three and get on to the meat of the story, starting with GoF. And I came to this series when I was already in my early thirties. So it’s not like I grew up with them. They’re just fabulous stories. J.K. Rowling is great at character, plot, and world building; and Jim Dale is a fantastic narrator.
Feel free to answer any or all of these questions in the comments!