My Top 5 . . . Audiobooks

July 20, 2009 at 5:00 am 22 comments

While this is the latest installment to my Top 5 posts, this is actually a re-post of a blog entry from last year. I was surprised when I looked it over and realized that, while I’ve listened to some other really great audiobook productions since I wrote this, my top 5 pretty much remains unchanged. I have added audio excerpt links. Also, I am adding a list at the end of some of my more recent favorites.

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For about the last 10 years, I’ve been a big audiobook fan. They’ve made commuting to work (when I did that) much more enjoyable. Often, my husband and I will choose an audiobook to listen to together on long car trips. More recently, 2 discoveries have made me an audiobook fanatic.

  1. I can download books onto my iPod. I am no longer tied to listening to the books in my car or on my stereo system. The portability means I can listen while cooking dinner or working out in the garden. The privacy means I can listen while my son is watching the same episode of Sponge Bob for the umpteenth time and still have a smile on my face.
  2. I can borrow audiobooks from the library FOR FREE. Audiobooks can be pricey. The only cds we ever paid full price for were the Harry Potter series. We used to rent cassettes/cds from Books On Tape. Now, I look first at the library (actually, a couple of libraries.) If they don’t have it in-house or thru inter-library loan, I will check Audible. Audible offers great monthly deals. Also, they often have audiobooks I can’t find other places.

Top 5 audiobooks:

Voyager by Diana GabaldonOutlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Read by Davina Porter.

This amazing series is one of my all time favorites, regardless of format. Davina Porter’s narration sets a standard for great audiobook productions. She is able to capture the many accents and languages (English, Scots/Gaelic, French, among many others) as well as bring these characters to life. This was really brought home to me when I listened to an audiobook from Ms Gabaldon’s other series, Lord John Grey. The narrator was very good, however Davina Porter had done such a great job bringing Lord John (who first appears in the Outlander series) and especially Jamie Fraser (Outlander’s male protagonist), to life that is was actually strange to hear them read by a man. Ms Porter narrates the UNABRIDGED versions. These books/audiobooks are really long, but cutting out any parts of these stories is unthinkable to me. Ms Gabaldon has an interesting article about the recorded versions of her books on her website.

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HP and the Order of the PhoenixThe Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling Read by Jim Dale.

I actually read the first three books, but once I listened to Jim Dale’s narration on HP and the Goblet of Fire, there was no going back to reading the books. Each new story was an event in our home. My guy and I would listen to them together, on car trips or in the evenings instead of watching TV. Jim Dale’s deft narration actually made it difficult to watch the movies. Each character (and there are so many) is distinct, with their own unique voice. My favorite voices by Mr Dale are Hermione and Hagrid.

  • JK Rowling’s site.
  • Audio excerpt (audio player on linked page) for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter series, book 5) at publisher’s site.

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His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
Read by Simon Vance.

Dragons, the Napoleonic Wars, dashing sea captains. Who could ask for more? One of my favorite things about these novels is that Ms Novik takes me to places I don’t usually get to see in novels set in this time period: China, Istanbul, Africa. Mr Vance’s does a great job of capturing the flavor of this alternate 18th century world. His dragon voices (yes, they talk!) make this production outstanding.

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Seven UpThe Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
Read by C.J. Critt and Lorelei King
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Janet Evanovich’s hilarious series about my favorite bounty hunter. When my husband hears me laugh out loud while listening to my iPod, he knows which books I’m listening to. I started listening to the series narrated by CJ Critt. Her accents are broad and funny. They lend flavor to the over-the-top antics. Grandma Mazur’s voice is my particular favorite by Ms Critt. It seems like my library carries most of the later books narrated by Lorelei King. Her narration is more subtle, and they’ve grown on me over time. Janet Evanovich, in an interview at the end of one of the audiobooks said that Ms King’s style of narration makes the characters easy to relate to. I think this is true. My favorite voice by her is Ranger’s. (My favorite character in the series is Ranger, but that’s a story for another day. 😉 ) I sort of wonder if this is because I hear a lot of different Spanish-language accents in my daily life and appreciate her low-key approach.

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New MoonThe Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
Read by Ilyana Kadushin.

So much has been said about this book/series, I don’t think I need to say to much about Bella and Edward’s sparkly-vampire romance. Ms Meyer captures teenage girl-angst like few others. Ilyana Kadushin’s voice is able to capture Bella’s youth and also be complex enough to do a brilliant job of portraying Jacob’s laid-back speech patterns. In fact, my only complaint about these audiobooks is when they switch to a male narrator, Matt Walters, at the end of Eclipse and the middle part of Breaking Dawn, when the story is told from Jacob’s perspective. To me, it says less about Mr Walters’ talents than it does about what a great job Ms Kadushin does in the rest of the books really owning the characters when she narrates.

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Dead to the World by Charlaine HarrisSouthern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris
Read by Johanna Parker.

Okay, so I lied. It’s my top 6. I had forgotten about Harry Potter and dropped Dead Until Dark from my list and then found I couldn’t leave this out. One of the joys of audiobooks is that when a book takes place somewhere that is very different from what we usually hear, the dialects used in the books help bring a book to life. This is the case in the Southern Vampire series. The books are set in Northern Louisiana, and Johanna Parker’s narration really take me there. Because I’m not a Southerner, I can’t attest to the verisimilitude of her accents, but they really do it for me. Ms Parker also does a great job of capturing Sookie’s charm, Pam’s dry humor, and Eric’s sexiness.

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I think for a long time I felt like I had to apologize for listening to audiobooks. It wasn’t considered “real reading”, or looked down upon for being a lazy way to read. I don’t think this is the case anymore. Portability allows us to listen when reading just isn’t possible. Some stories really come into their own for being read. I may enjoy listening to a book that I didn’t like when I tried to read it. Sometimes I’m more patient with a book, and will give it more of a chance to capture my interest if I’m listening to it. Sometimes audiobooks can provide things that is not possible for a printed book.Case in point: I listened to Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. He also narrated it. Not only was it great to know I was listening to the story told by the man who had written and lived the story, but he also sang the songs and recited the poems that appeared in the book. It gave the story a whole other depth that it could not have had if I had just read the words to the songs or poems.

Of course, I’ll always love curling up with a book and reading late into the night. I don’t see audiobooks as a replacement for a printed book. To me it’s more like seeing a movie. Sometimes, there is nothing like a movie theater experience. The big screen and sitting in those stadium seats are just what I want. Other times, I’d much rather enjoy the movie sitting on my couch in my living room. Both good, just different.

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So, this list still works for me, but in the interest of being more current, here are a couple of “honorable mentions” that I’ve recently listened to:

The Uglies series (YA) by Scott Westerfeld. Read by Carine Montbertrand

Any book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips that was read by Kate Fleming/Anna Fields.

The Graveyard Book (YA) by Neil Gaiman. Read by Neil Gaiman.

The Hollows series by Kim Harrison. Read by Marguerite Gavin.

Book of a Thousand Days (YA) by Shannon Hale. Read by Chelsea Mixon.

Bitten (Otherworld series, book 1) by Kelley Armstrong (this isn’t a recent one, but I don’t know why I didn’t list it before.) Read by Aasne Vigesaa.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why or why not? What are your favorites?

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Entry filed under: Audiobooks, Top 5.

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22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda  |  July 20, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I personally LOVE audio books for the same reason that you do Renee, I have even got my bf and mom hooked on them! My only complaint is that the audio rights and sometimes the narrator changes outside of the US.
    I love the Harry Potter books too, but I prefer the Stephen Fry read version but I think it may be that I’m just more used to his voice!
    The Outlander series are amazing as is the twilight series!

    Reply
  • 2. KatiDancy  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:15 am

    *LOVE* Audiobooks! I have an Audible subscription where I get two books a month. I too listen to them on my commute.

    I love the In Death series by JD Robb, although I’ve heard some people don’t like her narrator. I’ve listened to all of them in a row up until the last six or so. I remember those book’s plots too well, so I decided to take a break.

    I just finished the first three Faery Court books by Melissa Marr, which are just extraordinary. I like the male narrator better than the female one she had on the first. (A bragging aside: I got to meet Melissa Marr this week and we had a really nice conversation about her audiobooks, she likes the male reader better too — it’s like we’re twins :wink:)

    I also really loved The Villa by Nora Roberts on audio. I just started listening to Honest Illusions, and I’m not sure I’m quite as in love with it.

    I’d love to listen to another YA series, but haven’t decided yet which one it will be.

    Great list, Renee! (As always)

    Reply
  • 3. Hilcia  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Interesting question, Renee. I never thought I would be able to appreciate books through audio. I have a very vivid imagination and always preferred to use it.

    However last year, I purchased (by mistake, lol) a book titled “Dissolution: A Novel of Tudor England by C.J. Samson” on CD format. I decided not to return it and proceeded to download it on to my iPod. I LOVED it!

    Not just the book — which I really loved, BTW, a 16th Century intrigue with wonderful historical facts about Cromwell, monks, etc — but I loved being able to listen to my book while I cleaned, did the dishes, during my commute to and from work and at lunch time.

    The Narrator had a wonderful English accent (Simon Jones) and even when doing female voices, I found myself so enthralled by the book, I didn’t even register it after a while. I MUST try it again!

    Reply
  • 4. Carolyn Crane  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Hey! That’s so interesting that you give audiobooks an extra chance to get into them. And that you listen to them while watching shows with your boy. So funny! I can ONLY imagine how funny Evanovich would be read aloud !

    Reply
  • 5. Renee  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Amanda: My husband and I both listen to them and so far I’ve gotten him to listen to the Outlander series (he’s going to start book 3 soon,) book 1 of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series (he’s waiting to finish this season of True Blood before listening to book 2) and book 1 of Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.
    Wow, I didn’t realize the narrator would change for the English lang audiobooks outside the US. I also didn’t know that Stephen Fry did the HP series as well! I love him (back from Fry and Laurie days and Wooster and Jeeves) and am so curious about how he sounds.

    Kati: I listened to the first couple In Death books. I liked the narrator, too!
    Very cool, that you got to meet Melissa Marr. I listened to 1 of them (my library doesn’t have them all in audio) and am about to start reading Fragile Eternity!
    I highly recommend Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series and Suzanne Collins Hunger Games, both of which are great audiobook productions.
    Thanks! 🙂

    Reply
  • 6. Amanda  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Hmmm Renee, I wonder could I send you the cd’s? The only one I have the cd’s for is the goblet of fire…..

    My bf doesn’t really read although he is getting better, but I got him to listen to book 6&7 of HP he got so engrossed that he would drive around the block just to finish a cd!

    Reply
  • 7. Renee  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Hilcia: I love how you “fell into” listening to the audiobook! To me, it’s the sign of a really great reader if the characters of the opposite sex from the reader are as convincing as the characters of the same sex. I tell ya, Davina Porter is awesome in the Outlander series, if you like the historical stuff! 🙂

    CC/CJ: It’s definitely another “point of entry” for me. Also, I find that I really like YA in audio. That Gaiman was really great. It was like having him tell a bed time story.
    The only time I have a hard time listening to the audiobooks when my kid around is when there’s a sex scene. Very hard to keep a straight face! lol
    After listening to the whole series, I have to say that I like Lorelei King’s versions the best. The Evanovich’s have me laughing out loud like a mad woman.

    Reply
  • 8. Renee  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Amanda: Email me, and we’ll talk! 😉
    lol. The number of times I sat in the garage, trying to finish one last scene! thank goodnes for my iPod, so I don’t have to do that anymore. 🙂

    Reply
  • 9. nath  |  July 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Renee!! Very interesting post!! I want to try an audiobook so badly, but two things have stopped me so far: 1) the price… Not as lucky as you are, audio-books are not readily available at the library (what a surprise ^_^;)… and 2) I have a very short attention span when it comes to audio… and I’m just afraid I’m going to zone out LOL. Also, I’m not used to paying attention when I’m listening to something…

    Sigh.

    Reply
  • 10. Julie L.  |  July 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Great post! I love audiobooks too, and thanks for introducing me to a series I was unaware of, The Temeraire Series, I’m going to check it out. I like to listen while I’m working out, and I always have one of the Outlander CD’s in my car (currently listening to DoA) in one gigantic loop. Nothing is as good as Davina Porter, but I have found some others that I like a lot, some shorter romances like The Bridgerton series and Karen Marie Moning, but I have realized I DO NOT like chick lit, couldn’t finish Welcome to Temptation – just left me cold. Still, I find listening to books on my iPod Touch is a great way to “read” a book. I’m book marking this post, so I can refer back to it, thanks!

    Reply
  • 11. Marg  |  July 20, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    You have mentioned a couple of my favourites there as well. One excellent narrator you haven’t mentioned here is Barbara Rosenblat who narrates the Amelia Peabody and Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters!

    I am about to get the UK versions of Harry Potter as read by Stephen Fry which I am really excited by.

    Reply
  • 12. Renee  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    nath: That’s a bummer that your library doesn’t have much in the way of audiobooks. There’s no way I could listen to the number that I do without the library.
    Sometimes, I find my mind wandering, but that usually means the book’s not that great, or that I’m doing an activity (while listening) that requires more of my brain, and I need to pause the book. 😛

    Julie L: If you love historicals (which I know you do) you’ll love Temeraire. While it doesn’t have a strong romance, the relationship between Will and Temeraire is so wonderful to see develop, and Simon Vance has the best voice.
    I’m listening to KMM right now–Faefever. I haven’t tried her Highlander series, but I’ve heard great things about the audiobooks. I’ve got JQ’s Lost Duke of Wyndham waiting for me to listen to. (I read it a few months ago, and enjoyed it so much, I thought I’d revisit it in audio!)
    Thanks, Julie! Glad this post is helpful. 🙂

    Marg: I loved reading EP when she wrote as Barbara Michaels, though I’ve only listened to 1 of hers on audio. I’ll have to check out the Vicky Bliss series–I haven’t heard of it befroe.
    Wow, another Stephen Fry fan! I’ll definitely need to look more into that.

    Reply
  • 13. orannia  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Hmmmm. I’ve never tried an audiobook. I really should. I just worry that I’ll be so busy doing something (or thinking something) that I won’t be listening. Did you find it difficult when you first started Renee?

    Reply
  • 14. Renee  |  July 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    orannia: They are worth giving a try. I think there is some getting used to listening to a book. I’ve found there are certain activities I can’t do while listening. It’s sort of trial and error, but well worth the effort! I’d suggest something fun and light like Stephanie Plum series or a book by SEP for a first time, or something you may have already read, just to get used to it. 🙂

    Reply
  • 15. orannia  |  July 21, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    I’ve had a couple of people suggest Stephanie Plum – I believe you were one 🙂 I’ll investigate at the library – thank you!

    Reply
  • 16. Vicki  |  July 22, 2009 at 5:57 am

    SO GLAD to find another person who loves the Outlander series! I’ve read all the books thus far – and am eagerly awaiting the seventh book – but decided to listen to the audiobooks, and it really added a new dimension!

    Reply
  • 17. Tracy  |  July 22, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I need to start downloading some audiobooks now that I have an mp3 player. Unfortunately the library doesn’t have a VAST selection but it’s not too bad I guess.

    Reply
  • 18. Renee  |  July 22, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    orannia: I was able to find all 14 books in the Stephanie Plum series in audio format at the library, so hopefully it won’ t be too hard for you to find them! 🙂

    Vicki: I’ve even gotten my husband to listen to the first 2 in the series (he just got the 3rd from me!) I love how things like songs and accents really flesh out the story in the audiobook format.

    Tracy: The selection of audiobooks in digital format is really limited at the library, which is why I borrow the (much more readily available) audio CD’s and load them on to my iPod. It is an extra step, having to load each inidividual CD, but worth it for the greater selection. 🙂

    Reply
  • 19. Barbara  |  July 26, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    I love Kim Harrison’s books but I hate her audios. Too many mistakes. For example, in the one that took place in northern Michigan, the narrator kept misprouncing the name of the island Rachel, etc were on. It’s pronounced Mack-in-aw, even though it’s spelled Mackinac and I was annoyed. Plus, she kept saying FBI instead of FIB. Weird. However, you gotta love Jenks’ voice! “Tink’s titties, Rache!” That cracks me up every time. Or “Tink’s tampons.” 🙂

    Reply
  • 20. Renee  |  July 26, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Barbara: Wow, I’ve listened to at least half of the Hollows series on audiobook, and totally missed the mistakes. But you’re right, Jenks voice is the best in the series! lol

    Reply
  • 21. Comfort listens « Renee’s Book Addiction  |  November 10, 2009 at 5:02 am

    […] even the way the words flowing over me make me feel. These books aren’t even necessarily my Top 5 audiobooks. This is mostly due to the fact that more than a few of my Top 5 audiobooks are epic stories, like […]

    Reply
  • 22. heidenkind  |  September 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I never would have even thought about listening to Twilight on audiobook! I will definitely have to try that out.

    Reply

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