Saturday, April 21, 2007

What Shall I Read? - Audio Books, Please!

Monica over at educating alice left a comment on my last post in which she said "I'd go for Austen myself (or how about Dickens? I'm having a wonderful time listening to them. Just finished Nicholas Nickleby --- fantastic yet again!) ."

Listening. Hmmmmmm. This option never even crossed my mind. While I have been updating my iPod and making music choices, I haven't thought a whit about audio books. I noticed that in the comments section of Kelly's recent post entitled Books That Make Me Ask: "Am I Alone Here?", several folks responded that they found their experience with the audio version of The Book Thief to be very different (and generally more positive) from the written word. The only book I have ever read by listening was Dennis LeHane's Mystic River, and this was only because I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. I was moved by the narration, the prose, and word choice. Listening to it while on a 10 hour drive to Buffalo and again back to Richmond made the time fly, though it did little in the way of improving my driving skills. In the end, I did not see the movie, not wanting to ruin the experience of listening to this amazing story.

So, this is a long-winded introduction to the question of what to include in my listening library. Since I have no real experience with audio books, what do you recommend? What stories have you listened too and been moved by or just simply found pure enjoyment in?


  1. Hi Tricia:

    I'm an audio book fanatic, 'cause it doubles my reading. Here's what I loved in audio format:

    1) Now I know you said you're not a His Dark Materials fan, but I'll just throw out that it's the best produced audio book I've ever listened too (Monica agreed.)
    2) Speaking of Monica, I loved A Tale of Two Cities on audio (you just have to get through the first hour before it picks up)
    3) If you like mystery, I really enjoyed Laura Lippman's What the Dead Know on audio. Really great, and audio keeps you from cheating. Surprises to the end in this one.
    4) I also really liked Julian Barnes' "Arthur and George" in audio. Also suprising twists and excellent language.
    5) Any Bill Bryson is good on audio. He reads himself.
    6) I loved "The Glass Castle," by Jeneatte Walls. It's a memoir, but beautifully written
    7) Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy is also great in audio.

    Have fun!!

  2. Hi Kelly,
    Arthur and George was one of my favorite books of 2006. I have read The Golden Compass (and loved it), but have not read the rest of the trilogy. This might be fun to read. I think I would like to listen to a classic or two. I love a Tale of Two Cities, so that might be good. What about War and Peace? It's one of my "ashamed to admit I haven't read" books, and it's big, so it might be great on audio. What do you think?

  3. I think that might be an excellent choice, Tricia. Let me know where you get your audio from and I can look at editions for you!!

  4. Hi Kelly,
    I usually buy from iTunes, but certainly can go to The versions on iTunes are by Frederick Davidson (unabridged) and there is also a BBC dramatisation. also has an unabridged version by Walter Zimmerman. There are a few others as well. Do you listen to the unabridged versions?
    I'd appreciate your thoughts. I think this is one I am going to try. (Although the Davidson version is 30+ hours!)

  5. Tricia,

    Kelly convinced me to finally treat myself to all of His Dark Materials --- it was amazing. And so was A Tale of Two Cities. Before I got on my Dickens kick (I've also been through Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Great Expectations --- all of which I've read at least once the regular way). Another one I enjoyed tremendously was Huckleberry Finn.

    I've had less success with recent books. Absurdistan was fun, but not as much as Dickens. Did quite enjoy Zadie Smith's On Beauty. Right now I'm listening to The Thirteen Tale which is fun too.

    I started this because I was walking to school and it was a way to get in some adult reading in (being on the NCTE committee three years and now Newbery, I have way more kid books to read than hours in the day!).

  6. Here are two recent adult books that both you and Monica might enjoy on audio: CLOUD ATLAS and BLACK SWAN GREEN by David Mitchell. CLOUD ATLAS has an interesting structure that makes it somewhat challenging to listen to at first. The story is told in segments that work like a series of nesting dolls. The segments go forward and then back again in time and they are interconnected in ways that are simply amazing. Every chapter is written in a different voice, and the audio version mirrors that with every chapter read in a different voice. BLACK SWAN GREEN is an English boy's coming of age story. Although it is filled with cultural references from the early 1980's, it is the timeless story of what it's like to turn/be 13. Because it's an English boy's story, the accent of the English reader makes it absolutely perfect. And how that one reader can do slightly different voices for each character, especially Madam Crommelynck ("...go to the hell!"), is beyond me!

    I borrow most all of my audio "reads" from the library. If I can get them in cassette, I listen to them in that form in my car. If they only come in cd, I "rip" a temporary copy to my computer and load it onto my iPod, which plays through a cassette adapter in my car. Both copies are deleted once I'm done "reading" the book. (I hope I'm not revealing myself to be a criminal by admitting I do this. The copies are for a single use by me only and they go POOF when I'm done.)

  7. Mary Lee: You're not committing a crime. In fact, many libraries now have audio downloads you can access from their website. You listen to them and they go "poof" on their own in 2 weeks or so.

    Okay, Tricia, I've taken a look and I think the Davidson is the edition to go with. 63 hours!! Good luck :) (It's on both itunes and audible)
    I'm writing an audio post as we speak!!