the books I’ve listened to that simply must be audio

It has taken me weeks to post this – sorry! But I did have some interest, in the comments on a past post, in those books I’ve listened to that I feel really must be experienced as audiobooks. Here’s a briefly annotated list.

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey, and read by the author: surely this will be obvious? Tina Fey is hilarious and you should let her tell you her story. Qualification: there are images in the book that you miss on the audio version.
  • The Likeness by Tana French: I’ve enjoyed some of hers in print and in audio, but this is my favorite and I feel strongly about the audio. For one thing, they’re set in Dublin and the Irish accents are amazing. For another, the plot of this novel involves faking someone else’s identity, and to hear how her voice changes when she’s in character is really something. Well done, narrator Heather O’Neill.
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: also read by the author, and what an amazing feat, for her to be such an artist both of literature and of voice acting! Characters include Russians, Mexicans (of different social castes), a New York Jew, back-woods Appalachians, and a young man raised in between cultures; the importance of all those accents couldn’t be overstated, and Kingsolver executes them beautifully. It’s a magical audiobook and I wouldn’t let anybody I liked read this in print.
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson: a memoir, read by the author, and she sings her chapter titles, operatically. That should be all I have to say.
  • The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King: also read by the author, as it happens, and I enjoyed knowing that I was hearing King’s own impression of things. He does a great job. (If you’re noting how many on this list are author-read: I’m as surprised as you are.)
  • Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende: this is a historical novel of the founding of Chile, and thus another one with accents done gorgeously by narrator Blair Brown.
  • all of the P.G. Wodehouse novels read by Jonathan Cecil: I love Cecil’s voices for the very very silly Bertie Wooster and all the rest; I now am opposed to the print versions, and wary of the non-Cecil-narrated audio version. What can I say, I’ve found the Wooster I like.
  • The Dorothy Parker Audio Collection: a collection of stories and articles read by a handful of different women, who more than narrate; they act out Parker’s caustic wit.
  • all the Lee Child books read by Dick Hill: I really like Hill’s expression of Jack Reacher. (He also narrates a few of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books, which I also recommend. In other words, I like Dick Hill.)
  • bonus: I have it on good authority – although I have not listened yet (it’s in line!) – that the audio version of the new novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is not to be missed, for the southern accents.

Further, I would recommend the following books in their audio format, although I would stop short of saying they must by heard rather than read.

  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: New York of the 1930’s and 40’s perfectly evoked via Rebecca Lowman’s lovely narration.
  • Crossing the Borders of Time by Leslie Maitland: the author reads this work of nonfiction herself, and because it’s the story of her own family, I think that’s important (and it is well done). Her voice is warm, she clearly cares for her subject, and she executes the French and German accents (and words) well.
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson: Robin Miles narrates this work of history in a beautiful, warm voice that I found helpful to the subject.
  • The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger: read by Richard M. Davidson, it has all the taut, tense action it needs without ever feeling over-dramatized. Bonus: at the end, it includes a recording of the author speaking about the making of the book, which was awesome.
  • Loving Frank by Nancy Horan: Joyce Bean’s narration immersed me in a time and place and helped me learn to care very much about the characters.
  • Touch by Alexi Zentner: a magical, otherworldly, immersive feel to this novel is helped along by Norman Dietz’s wondering performance.
  • Left Neglected by Lisa Genova: I felt intimately close to the female lead character in this story thanks to Sarah Paulson’s reading.

I’m sure there are more out there, and I can’t wait to discover them! Do share – are there any books you’ve listened to that you would say have to be heard?

9 Responses

  1. The ones that come to mind:

    Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt, read by the author). He was a wonderful reader, it’s a story that has to be read with an Irish accent, and he sings the songs. (Plus he was my high school English teacher, so it’s nice to hear his voice again.)

    Douglas Adams reading his own books. Always wonderful, witty and dry, and the Monty Python influence comes through more than it does on the page.

    Inherent Vice (Thomas Pynchon, read by Ron McLarty). I love the book, and McLarty does a great job with all the voices (the book has a lot of characters) and with the songs.

  2. Thank you so much Julia for compiling this list. There are plenty of great recommendations here that have piqued my interest: Tina Fey’s Memoir, the Dorothy Parker Audio collection and The Lacuna by Kingsolver being the standouts that I must acquire asap! So cool, thanks again. 🙂

  3. My library doesn’t have the Tina Fey book on audio. 😦

    But I did place a hold on Lacuna (16 discs, wowza lol) and Dorothy Parker! They should be arriving soon and I cant wait!

    • Interesting that they had the Dorothy Parker (more obscure, I would think) and not the Fey (a recent bestseller, and lauded on audio particularly). Ah well. Keep it in mind. If you like the first two, you can always look into an inter-library loan option!

      Yes sometimes they get long – let me tell you I do not recommend Anna Karenina on audio at approximately 40 hours! (I think it was on about 30 discs.) I found Lacuna entrancing; if you feel as I do, you’ll find those 16 discs going by too quickly. I hope you do.

  4. […] only in the early chapters, but I think I may need to add this audiobook to the list I posted the other day of greatest narrations I’ve encountered. As with The Lacuna, […]

  5. […] Thoughtful as ever. Thanks, Pops. For those that missed it, this is an exhortation to go get Wilkerson’s excellent book today! (My final editorial addition: I really do recommend the audio version.) […]

  6. […] you’d like to see me work on? (In the past I’ve done movies, children’s books, audio favorites, science books, LGBTQ…) Let me know, and maybe I’ll put one […]

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