Ten: Books that Must Be Heard

There’s been plenty of debate in recent years regarding the legitimacy of “reading” a book by listening to an audiobook edition. Personally, I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. This is partly because they allow me to read while I wash the dishes — walk the dog — do the laundry — drive, and partly because, at least in some cases, audiobooks can add a lot to the experience of a book.* Have a reader who’s unsure about pronunciation? Who wants to know what people in a particular area sound like? Who has trouble pushing through difficult passages? Just want to recommend the best possible reading experience? Try these:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel, narrated by Jeff Woodman with Alexander Marshall
Woodman creates a very satisfying Pi Patel, but I was especially impressed with his handling of conversations between Pi and the French and Japanese characters toward the end of the novel. Pulling off multiple accents at the same time wins this one big points.

The Moor by Laurie R. King, narrated by Jenny Stirlin
Another title particularly notable for its accents. Jenny Stirlin does a fantastic job of all of the Mary Russell books (which should suit many older teens very well — picture a young feminist, partnered with Sherlock Holmes in a detailed 1920s setting, solving mysteries all over the world). But how often do you come across such a convincing portrayal of a Moorish dialect?

Unwind by Neal Shusterman, narrated by Luke Daniels
You can read about the story in the full review, but I will say that the most intense scene in the book is made by the audio presentation.

Feed by M.T. Anderson, narrated by David Aaron Baker
An abundance of (purposeful) coarse language means readers will probably want to listen to Feed with headphones. However, the choice to present the samples of the characters’ commercial feed like commercials is very effective.

The Jacky FaberSeries by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Katherine Kellgren always adds value to the books she narrates. In the case of the Jacky Faber books, though, her involvement adds something a little extra: Jacky sings a lot of old folk songs and sea shanties. Reading the lyrics on a page is interesting. Hearing them sung makes them — and the associated history — seem far more real.

Marcelo and the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe
Marcelo thinks and speaks differently than most, and I suspect that that might take some getting used to when reading the book in print. Hoppe does a great job of helping to make Marcelo not only real, but relatable very quickly.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, narrated by Lisette Lecat
Adichie’s novel is set in Nigeria, so some of the terms and many of the names will be unfamiliar to a lot of North American readers. The audiobook demonstrates how to pronounce unfamiliar words, which is great when you want to present the book in class or talk about it with a friend.

Scumble by Ingrid Law, narrated by David Kremenitzer
As mentioned in last week’s review, Ledge’s way of speaking is…unusual. It has its charms, certainly — his talent for creative similes is impressive, and usually enjoyable — but I think that Kremenitzer’s interpretation of the story does a lot to present it as a part of Ledge’s unique voice, rather than simply as a quirk of the writing.

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce, narrated by Kirby Heyborne
I’m pretty sure FCB’s stories are great no matter how you approach them, but adding Liam’s Bootle, England accent and Heyborne’s excellent presentation of the story’s humour makes Cosmic that much better.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, narrated by Philip Pullman and a full cast
I haven’t come across a lot of audiobooks presented by a full cast, but those that are can be pretty spectacular. If you have a reader who loved the books, or who always meant to read the books but hasn’t found time, encourage them to try this audio edition.

*There are also a few instances in which the audiobook, for one reason or another, takes away from the experience of the book, so try out books for yourself before recommending whenever possible. Joyce G. Saricks’s Read On–Audiobooks is a great resource for finding new audiobooks based on the element(s) a reader liked best about his or her last title.

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2 thoughts on “Ten: Books that Must Be Heard

  1. I’d recommend any audiobooks read by Nigel Lambert. He did a number of Dick King-Smith’s books, and his narration and characterization is fabulous.

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