Dear anyone who enjoys reading: you have to give audiobooks a go. No no, don’t scrunch your face up, hear me out. I didn’t think I’d enjoy audiobooks; I’ve never gotten on with eBooks, so the thought of a non-physical book made me stir in my seat and mutter ‘no, no, it’s not for me’, like some outdated crone whose head is still firmly in the 1940s.
But a few years ago, I started to really struggle with insomnia, and needed something to keep me company whilst I led awake at night. So I fell for one of those YouTube adverts (thanks Jenn Im), hopped on the month-free Audible trend, and downloaded Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as read by Stephen Fry. Not only did Stephen’s dulcet tones send me straight asleep (I am forever indebted to you, Stephen Fry), I learnt that I love audiobooks. I now listen to them when cleaning the house, walking to work, on train journeys, in the office – the list goes on. I’ve even turned to listening to them on my jogs instead of music! (I’m one of those folks who run to the beat of the music I listen to, meaning I either run very slowly and awkwardly, or I tire myself out after trying/failing to be Dina Asher-Smith for ten seconds).
It’s been two years since I jumped on the audiobook trend, so I’ve gone through quite a few books in my time (#bookslut). So, I thought I’d fill you in on the best ones I’ve found! Now, audiobooks have a completely different criteria for what makes them great (at least, for me they do). For a physical book, how good it is relies on the words on the page, perhaps intertwined with the author’s background or culture. But audiobooks? They provide not only the story, but literal atmosphere, a voice to the characters, translation of prose to speech. So, with that in mind, let me tell you about the five best audiobooks I’ve found!
Oh we are starting off strong here, with a New York Times Bestseller that has spawned its own miniseries over on Hulu. To me, this is the quintessential model of an audiobook; a voice actor simply reading the novel to you, taking you through the journey. And here, that is no bad thing. Jennifer Lim has a calmness about her that fits the story of American suburbia so well. She settles you into the story. And when she speaks the words of other characters, characters from different backgrounds and walks of life, she is never over-zealous or gimmicky. It’s the perfect example of a simple, but well done audiobook. An actor breathing life into a novel, immersing you in that world.
And now it’s time to completely flip my previous statement on its head! If Little Fires Everywhere is an example of what to expect an audiobook to be, Daisy Jones takes it to the next level. And not just for the sake of being different; this audiobook makes sense. The physical book is set out as interviews between members of the fictional 70s rock band, The Six. Multiple voices and viewpoints build up the story as you go, so what does the audiobook do? It hits you slapbang with a full ensemble cast of twenty-one people! It feels as though you are listening to real life, to a radio documentary, or you are sitting in a room with these aging rockers. I would find myself cleaning my bedroom, only to find that I had just been sitting on the floor for twenty minutes, lost in the audiobook. Truly, beware this audiobook’s captive voice, and don’t try and fight the urge it brings to make you listen to Fleetwood Mac.
For some people, this audiobook would be their nightmare. Essentially, this audiobook is a grown man doing voices for different fantasy characters, singing long songs to no music, and busting out the occasional Welsh or Scottish accent. However, because he’s reading The Hobbit, it just works. Afterall, The Hobbit is a fantasy novel for children, so lends itself to the vibrant and absurd. It’s an easy and pleasant listen, and I constantly had a little smile on my face when listening to it. My only advice would be this; give the songs a go, but don’t be afraid to skip them if they get a bit long (it’s okay, I won’t tell anyone).
All the book bloggers the world round would not shut up about this book. Well, it worked; count me as being #influenced. I do really enjoy a good non-fiction book, and was considering buying the physical version, but then I saw who was the voice of the audiobook; Louise Brealey. Oh, what an actress. She’s appeared in some wonderful stage and TV productions, but she’s probably most well known for her role as Molly, in BBC’s Sherlock. As such, I am so glad I bought the audiobook version. In what is sometimes a very dark, sad, and almost journalistic tale, Louise brought a voice of humanity to the women and their lives. She wasn’t just telling their story, she was breathing life into them, when they are so often forgotten in the legend of Jack the Ripper. Yes, I shed a few tears; no, I am not ashamed.
This is one of the best audiobooks for one whole reason; Shvorne Marks. Queenie is a character driven story and she brings the character. In all honesty (and maybe a little controversy), I didn’t really get on with this book. That’s not to say it isn’t well-written and important because, oh, it is. Simply, I have never enjoyed books that have a big line of romance running through it; it just isn’t my genre. And I also found Queenie’s actions and self-destruction to be frustrating and embarrassing and difficult to read. In hindsight, I think that was the point. Queenie is a complex character, in a complex story, full of other complex characters. Shvorne gives an utter masterclass in characterisation in this audiobook; most of the time, it feels like you are dropping in on people’s real life conversations! She makes you feel for Queenie, and squirm in discomfort for her; she brings to life her family members and friends and exes; her characterisations range from bright to droopy to loud to aggressive at the drop of a hat. Want to see how to deliver an audiobook as a voice artist? This is the one for you.
Those are the best five audiobooks I have come across in my book-slutty life so far. I’m currently listening to The Killer Across the Table, by John E Douglas and Mark Olshaker; the authors of Mindhunter, which is now an incredible Netflix series. This audiobook is being read by musical theatre legend and the mindhunter in the Netflix series himself, Jonathan Groff. So far, I am hooked. It’s a tough read, so I have to dip in and out, but I think it’s going to be another fantastic audiobook.
Let me know in the comments if you have listened to any of these audiobooks, and what your favourite audiobooks are! I’m always looking for new recommendations.