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Tell Me a Story: The Joy of Audiobooks

Sunday, August 12, 2012


“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?

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!

11 Comments
  1. debraemarvin permalink
    Monday, August 13, 2012 8:23 am

    My favorite narrators are Diane Rosenblatt and Davina Porter. My audiobooks are generally DVDS from my library–their source is the old ‘books on tape’ company. I am always so tempted to join Audiobooks.com. I think its popularity will increase the number of books going to audio.

    There is also a man who narrates Alexander McCall Smith’s books but I can’t recall his name.

  2. debraemarvin permalink
    Monday, August 13, 2012 8:49 am

    dumb question time but maybe this will help others… when you borrow a book from Audiobook using your one credit per month, do you keep that book download or does it evaporate after your four weeks is up? Often when you borrow an electronic book from a library (or a book from Amazon to the kindle) it disappears after a specific time period.

    And with Audiobook, you must buy four books within a year’s period. Is that right? And how do you find the prices? Four books a year at say 16 – 24.00 adds up quickly. Your thoughts on pricing?
    (and obviously there’s a benefit to purchase if you want to listen more than once…)

    • Monday, August 13, 2012 9:02 am

      Debra–
      Once I use a credit for an audiobook, I own the audiobook. It’s not a lending/borrowing situation but a purchasing situation. So I try to choose very carefully those which I will enjoy and might listen to multiple times.

  3. Ruth permalink
    Monday, August 13, 2012 8:52 am

    I thoroughly enjoy listening to audiobooks, but for some reason I can’t view it as the same thing as reading a book in physical form or on my Kindle. Probably because I get too distratcted/fall asleep, so I feel like I haven’t “gotten” the audiobook until I’ve listened to it 3-4 times in some cases.

    Anyways…I get my audiobooks through iTunes, and listen to them on my iPod. Recent purchases include David Tennant reading several of the “How to Train Your Dragon” books, Richard Armitage reading Heyer’s “The Convenient Marriage,” and Toby Stephens starring in several abridged dramatizations of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels (though I suppose the latter are strictly speaking more akin to radio shows than audiobooks, even though that is how they are classified).

    • Monday, August 13, 2012 9:03 am

      The HP books are the only ones I can listen to while going to bed at night—because I know the story so well.

  4. Dora permalink
    Monday, August 13, 2012 8:56 am

    I really love Jim Dale and have loved him since Hot, Lead and Cold Feet. (Disney child of the 70′s). When I heard he read the Harry Potter books, I just had to get copies. He also does a mean Ebeneezer Scrooge. My other favorite reader is Christina Moore. Shen has a very soothing voice. She does a lot of Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter. I have a 30 minute commute to and from work, so audio books allow me to read, while I drive. i generally get my CD’s from the library. However, I have recently joined audible. With the ability to get at least one of my books each month from there. I can start with the first book in a series and relisten, at my pleasure. There are some “friends” that I need to reconnect with every once in a while.

    I listen on my car sterio CD player and also on my MP3 player.

    • Monday, August 13, 2012 9:05 am

      The first few times I used Audible, I downloaded and burned the books to CD so I could listen to them in my car. But changing out the discs when driving is a little too distracting, so I went ahead and got my first MP3 player—no more changing out discs! And, now that I own so many of them, there’s no storage issue either.

      I even ripped all of the discs of the Harry Potter books to the computer so that I could listen to those from my MP3 player also.

  5. Audry permalink
    Monday, August 13, 2012 11:54 am

    Where do you get your audiobooks?
    I get mine from the library. They’re so expensive to buy, and there are so few I’d actually listen to again (and if I want to listen to one again, I can just check it out again!) Some of them I download with my iPad and they disappear when the checkout period ends. Others I actually get on CD, and those I usually rip to my computer to transfer to my iPad and then delete one I’m done with them.

    On what kind of device do you listen to your audiobooks?
    Mostly my iPad. I plug it into my car stereo to listen while driving, or set it on the desk next to me to listen at work. (Some of the things I do at work, like 3D modeling, don’t use the verbal part of my brain at all and therefore lend themselves very well to listening to books) Sometimes though I don’t bother to rip CDs and just use the car CD player. Unfortunately my cad CD player stopped working recently and until I get around to pulling it out and hopefully fixing it, it’ll be iPad all the way.

    Is there a particular type of story (genre) you prefer listening to as an audio book?
    No, though there are books (in several genres) I’ve listened to that I definitely enjoyed listening to more than I would have enjoyed reading (I know this partly because I’ve read some of them as well and thought the dramatization really added to the story.

    Who are your favorite audiobook narrators?
    The only one I can name off the top of my head is Jeff Woodman who read the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (I definitely recommend this series and highly recommend the audio as opposed to actually reading it) and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I just looked up a few though: I really enjoyed Edward Herrmann’s performance of The Alienist and Angel of Darkness, both by Caleb Carr; I think Gerard Doyle did a really good job with The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and its sequels (I read the last one in that series and didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first two, then I listened to it when the audio came out, and liked it much better); also Katherine Kellgren, who narrates the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer did a fantastic job with them. I also enjoy the ones by Full Cast Audio where they have a different narrator for each part. I think all the ones I’ve listened to have been YA… a couple that come to mind are Fairest and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and The Goose Girl and its sequels by Shannon Hale.

    What’s your favorite audiobook you’ve listened to in 2012?
    I go through phases with audiobooks… I listened to 24 of them in 2008, but so far this year I’ve only listened to four, and none of them were overly memorable as audios.

    What’s your favorite audiobook (or series) of all time?
    The Queen’s Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner

  6. Monday, August 13, 2012 12:36 pm

    I’m listening to Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James right now. And a book on Bonnie Prince Charlie. I get most of my audio books from the library, though I also buy them from Amazon.

    Favorite narrators: Jim Dale, Steven Crossley, Barbara Rosenblatt, Davina Porter, John MacDonnough, Listte LaCarre (not sure about that spelling) and I’m sure there’s more I’ll remember as soon as I post this!

    Favorite audio book or series? This is nearly impossible to answer. So many good ones.

    Favorite book (not a series) is a toss up between To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last, by Connie Willis, read by Steven Crossley (sounding like a whole cast of readers but it’s just him) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, read by five different readers.

    For series, it’s a three way tie between The Mitford series by Jan Karon, read by John MacDonnough (again sounding like a whole cast) and the Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale, and the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Lisette LaCarre.

  7. Monday, August 13, 2012 1:02 pm

    I like listening to audiobooks on long drives. But the selection at our library is not very good and the downloadable audiobook selection is even worse. So I went poking around on the Droid forums and found an ereader app with text-to-speech capability, then downloaded the recommended voices. It’s not a human being, but it works quite well for the mountain of ebooks I already have, especially since I get so many of them from places besides B&N.

    Charlotte Parry is an amazing narrator! She does all of The Other Boleyn Girl too, and I believe she does The Constant Princess. You’re right, she really brings Kitty Howard to life.

    We used to have a Little Women on tape read by Meagan Follows. It was fairly awesome.

  8. Tuesday, August 14, 2012 10:00 am

    Audiobooks are pretty much the only saving grace of my commute–50 minutes long!
    So far, I’ve gotten all my audiobooks as cds from a local library (either the one by my house or from one of the two I pass on my drive), but I’ve nearly exhausted all the ones I’m at all interested in, so I’m going to have to find new sources soon. My favorites to listen to are Agatha Christie mysteries. The narrators are always fantastic and listening to it instead of reading it makes it more challenging for me to figure out the mystery (I can’t just flip back to refer to some clue a hundred pages ago. )

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