I remember being so incensed at the change in reader that I contacted Audible. Now, if only Martin will stay alive long enough to finish the series.
12 books you should listen to as audiobooks instead
I’ve been an insatiable reader ever since I first learned how letters joined together to form words. One tool my grandfather used to teach me how to read was a small tape recorder, and our routine was that he had me practice reading aloud each night into the microphone.
Somewhere, there are tapes of tiny, four-year-old me learning to read — with his voice in the background, gently correcting me whenever I stumbled. He would have me listen to them after we were done so I could learn from my mistakes. And learn I did — quickly.
Those tapes are probably why I immediately fell in love with old-time radio dramas upon discovering them — and also why I insisted on recording AP Bio and Chem notes in high school for myself — and finally, why I later fell hard for audiobooks.
After all, audiobooks are just a modern evolution of radio plays.
Although I still love the physical act of reading, some books are best experienced in your ears so your eyes and mind can wander where the words take you. Here’s a guide to help you find some gems.
It can be nice to have someone read you to sleep
For those comforting time-traveling feelings of having an adult read you to sleep, you can’t beat Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy — comprised of “The Golden Compass” (or “Northern Lights” in its original UK home), “The Subtle Knife,” and “The Amber Spyglass.” While the written books can pull you into their world quite readily, hearing Pullman beckon you into Lyra’s Oxford and Jordan College is another experience entirely.
Books read by actors you know from other places can be fun for different reasons.
Nearly 20 years after Philip Pullman brought “His Dark Materials” into the world, he followed it with the first volume in a new trilogy. Called “The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage,” the audiobook is beautifully and skillfully acted by the incomparable Michael Sheen. When I had to choose between getting the printed one or the audiobook, seeing who was reading it made my choice incredibly easy.
They can feel like an entire performance.
Author William Golding may be best known for “The Lord of the Flies,” but in 2015 it was Benedict Cumberbatch’s awe-inspiring performance of Golding’s “The Spire” that brought renewed attention to Golding’s work. Who needs a full cast recording when you have one actor who can do all the parts on his own?
Audiobooks can add new depths and dimensions.
Jim Butcher’s “The Dresden Files” series is delightful in its own right — but the entire thing thus far has been committed to recorded form by James Marsters, which adds a welcome depth and dimension not found reading it by other means.
Books can come alive.
Yetide Badaki breathes life into Nnedi Okorafor’s “Akata Witch” and instantly brings the Leopard people to life inside your mind’s eye as you listen. You’ll never go wrong reading Okorafor in print — but hearing Badaki’s version is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Books read by a full cast are basically radio plays.
Now more than ever, the importance of a book like “The Radical King” — a collection of works by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as curated by Dr. Cornel West — cannot be understated. Audible’s multi-cast production includes Bahni Turpin, Wanda Sykes, Danny Glover, Mike Colter, LeVar Burton, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael K. Williams, and Leslie Odom, Jr. — and they remind us that Dr. King’s words are as vital today as they were when he first brought them into being.
You’ll be transported to another world.
Slickly produced sci-fi podcasts like Homecoming or Steal the Stars blur the line into “movie for your ears” territory — but Amie Kaufman’s and Jay Kristoff’s “Illuminae” in audiobook form takes it one step further. Structured like declassified government documents, this is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
They can be filled with the voices of your favorite celebrities.
If you’re the type of person who has dreams that end with “… and you were there, and you were there, and you were there …”, then the audiobook version of George Saunders’ first novel “Lincoln in the Bardo” might be for you. It’s not quite a cast of thousands, but pulling from a range of no less than 166 cast members — seriously, if you can think of an actor, they’re probably in this book — is a feat that will probably stay unmatched for a very long time.
Some narrators create a truly unique experience.
Anyone who grew up with the “Harry Potter” series in American audiobook release can instantly identify the dulcet tones of Jim Dale. As a narrator, the man is nearly a genre unto himself— and the fact that he reads such memorable works of fiction as Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus” just reinforces his strengths in this field.
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Some narrators’ work is truly one of a kind.
Similarly, any time you see that Robin Miles is your narrator, you know you’re in for a treat. Before Margot Lee Shetterley’s “Hidden Figures” hit the big screen, it hit headphones everywhere with her inimitable voice. Also, I can’t imagine Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti being read aloud by anyone else, ever.