It has been about a year now since I started listening to audio books in earnest. This past weekend, I found myself trudging far out of my way, in the rain, to pick up an audio book that I had reserved at the local library. I was walking back, huddled over the CDs to keep them from getting wet, not caring for my leather jacket, when it hit me. I really like this stuff now!
Over this last year, I have probably heard twenty audio books. Not that many, if you think about it, but enough to develop the early bits of a (there's no other way to say it) taste. One of my early realizations has been that you need more than a good book, more than a great writer to make for a good audio book. You need a great narrator.
Hearing a story is a deeply personal experience. You are alone, in the car, and at that very moment, you are the only person in the world who can hear the story. And the narrator is your medium, your temporary granddad if you will. How he tells the story can make it stand out, or make you step out.
Here then are some audio book narrators that I have most enjoyed. I am sure there are many others who are supremely talented, and hopefully I will get introduced to them in due course, but in my first year with this medium, here are the narrators who have stood out for me -
1. Frank Muller: I heard Muller narrating the John Le Carre classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Fans of Le Carre don't need to be told how great a book this is. I read it for the first time more than ten years ago. Muller though, takes it to a whole new level. This is not going to be the last I hear him!
2. Stephen Fry: I have raved about the excellent Mr. Fry before on Brick and Rope. Douglas Adams made better. Enough said.
3. Jonathan Cecil: The most British of Brit voices. A perfect match for P.G. Wodehouse books. Have loved everything he has narrated. If you are listening to Wodehouse, do yourself a favor, pick a Cecil version.
4. Bill Bryson: Is there anything this guy can't do? His narration of the Australian travel book In a Sunburned Country was half the reason the book was such a hit with me. Friends tell me his narration of A Brief History of Nearly Everything is even better. Can't imagine that!
5. Alexander Spencer: All right, it is not safe to ignore everything I said in #3 above. Cecil, who? Alexander Spencer is your man for Wodehouse! Or anything halfway British. A better Wooster has not been done, not even by Cecil. So, as I was saying, if you are listening to Wodehouse, do yourself a favor, pick a Spencer version.
Two notable misses on my list - Simon Prebble and Jim Dale. I have heard only the best things about them, but haven't had the chance to listen to them yet. So next stop, Jim Dale narrating Harry Potter. That should be a blast.
Honey, do you want me to go get some groceries? No? Maybe I will get some milk anyway, just in case we run out. And oh, I will probably drop by the library on the way back.