Sunday, May 26, 2013

Audiobooks 101

I often see people on twitter who are interested in trying audiobooks asking for recommendations.  I am an audiobook-evangelist. On the internet, in real life, everywhere I find myself trying to explain the amazingness that is a good audiobooks.  I've also ran into a lot of misconceptions about audiobooks -- everything from that a computer voice reads them to that they don't count as reading.  Both of which are untrue.

Audiobooks aren't cheating.  You're getting the same story and same words, only read aloud.  Narration typically improves most books, especially if there's an accent involved. I view audiobooks as a way to steal reading time.  Rather than listen to mindless music on the radio, I read on my daily commute.  A lot of people listen to audiobooks when they jog, clean or cook.  It's not taking away from reading print books, it's allowing us more reading time.  People are busy, working, going to-and-fro. Audiobooks allow me to live my life and read my books.

Some (not all) of Cassi's Audiobooks Recommendations 

  1. Jacky Faber - These were the first audiobooks I truly loved.  The narrator, the incomparable Katherine Kellegren, does a cockney accent, different voices for different character, sings and plays the penny-whistle   When I initially put the CD in, I was worried the cockney accent might be a tad strong.  Don't be.  This is an adventurous tale that 10 books later I'm still amazed by the narration and ability of Katherine Kellegren.
  2. The Help - Remember when everybody was reading this book?  If you still haven't read it, listening to the audiobook (likely available at the local public library) is a good choice.  It's a full-cast production, meaning there are many voice actors, which includes Jenna Lamia another of my favorites.
  3. I Am the Messenger - This Australian young adult novel has a lot of heart and humor.  I love audiobooks that make me laugh.  Plus, Australian accent, how do you pass that up?
  4. Once Was Lost -Author/Narrators are funny monsters.  Few do it well, and my favorite is Sara Zarr.  She captures the fear and pain of being a teenager in simple, perfect narration.  Since I like Sara Zarr books and her narration, I always try to find these on audio.
  5. Bossypants - If your into nonfiction, humor and funny feminist women, this is a good choice.  Tina Fey wrote and narrated this autobiography.
  6. The Chosen One - An interesting novel about a young girl growing up in a polygamist compound and the difficult choices she faces. Jenna Lamia is the premiere narrator for innocent, thoughtful, sheltered young girls, and it's hard to separate Kyra from Jenna's voice in my head.  
  7. Dairy Queen - D.J. Schwenk, a teen girl on a slowly dying dairy farm, decides she wants to play high school football.  This book captures the misadventures of farm life, first crushes and trying to grow up in the shadow of two talented brothers.  The Minnesotan accent alongside the humor makes this excellent.
  8. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - Every teenage boy should read this book.  It's hilarious, heartbreaking and terribly honest.  The audiobook is narrated by Sherman Alexie (the author) who not only brings his Native American accent to the production, but his own experience growing up on a reservation.  When you hear him reading the story, which closely parallels his life, it becomes even more poignant.
  9. Okay For Now - This book has so much heart.  It understands how people can be both good and bad.  Sometimes how people see us helps define us, and this book talks about that and how hard it can be to break that perception.  Another book that is funny, sad and hopeful with narration that hits every moment perfectly.
  10. The Spectacular Now - This story of a troubled teen with a heart of gold (and a pretty big drinking problem) feels very authentic.  The characters are believably imperfect and the narration really puts you into Sutter's mind. 

Narrators make a HUGE difference in audiobooks.  Sometimes I love the narration but not the story.  Oftentimes the narration improves a good story that has flawed writing (Especially if there's an accent involved. I love accents).  When you pick up an audiobook, the narrator is a HUGE part of the experience.  I've heard a lot of people who have tried one book and the voice reading didn't work for them.  Depending on what you picked up, that doesn't mean audiobooks aren't for you, just that particular narrator isn't for you.  I've encountered narrators I could not stand listening. It happens.

Here is a list of my three favorite narrators.  These are not the only gifted narrators (or even the only narrators I like).  But this list represents narrators I've actively looked for when searching for audiobooks.  Sometimes when I'm in doubt about a book then see that it's narrated by a favorite voice actress I decide to listen to it.  This has been both good and bad, as even the best narrators can not save a terrible book.

Cassi's Favorite Narrators
1. Katherine Kellegren
2. Jenna Lamia
3. Mandy Siegfried

I know there are more great audiobooks and narrators that I have not included.  But these are specifically some of the favorites that I've personally listened to.  If you're an audiobook-evangelist like me, please share your favorites because I'm always looking for more audiobooks.  If you want to see how I've rated what I've read, here's my audiobook shelf on goodreads.  Happy listening everyone!


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this post!
I remember discussing this with you not long ago on Twitter actually. Haha. :) I Am The Messenger is one of my favorite books so that's really cool it's on your list. I was thinking that when I do get ready to finally try out audio, it would probably be a lot easier on me to try a book that I've already read first before anything else. Maybe that sounds weird. But I have this "quirk" where I hate being read out loud to, so I kind of fear that I may not even like audio books. But I still would like to give them a chance. I will have to ease myself into them, and the best way I can think to do that is to pick up audio for some of my favorites--like I Am The Messenger per your rec. :) Who knows, maybe I'll find myself really loving them after all. :D

Great post! Thanks for sharing!


Sarah said...

Amen! I'm an audiobook convert for several years now! One of my favorites is Seraphina by Rachel Hartmann (I'm blanking on the reader, but she was excellent!). I just finished the Skinjackers trilogy by Neal Shusterman, read by Nick Podehl. And I love Katherine Kelgren's narration! Her reading of The Incorrigible Children series by Mary Rose Wood makes the whole series even more charming.
I've wondered this: Do any publishers send out review audibooks? Because that would make my two hours per day on the road way more entertaining! Great post! I try to preach the gospel of audiobooks to anyone who will listen, too. :)

Bellas Shelf said...

I am new to audiobooks and love them!
I was sent an email after I posted a review of a book The Prey by Andrew Fukuda to review a book in audio form. I got Monstrous Beauty and I fell in LOVE with the book and audio books.
Since then I listened to Crewel (loved it) & a few others.
I bring my ipod on all of my doggy walks and when I cant sleep.
They can be addicting when you get going. lolz.
Have you heard of
they are giving out 2 free YA books each week starting May 30th
One is a new YA and one is a classic title.
I am pretty excited for that.
Great posts. I was excited when I saw the title for it on my blog feed.
I am considering so an Audiobook only review event on my blog. It may get some new converts. I am hoping there are audiobooks at BEA this week.
We have tablets, ipods, ipads, etc. I am shocked more havent hopped on the bandwagon!

Unknown said...

You're completely right. I've tried audiobooks in the past but I haven't started one in a long time. I think this month will be the time. Some people think it's 'cheating' but I totally agree that it's not.
New Bloglovin' follower.

Laura @ Music Plus Books