If you listen to audiobooks very much, you’ll probably agree that the right narrator can add a lot to the story. Great audiobook narrators enhance the “read” and can make a good book great! Here are a few of my favorite audiobook readers, all available here at the library. Try them, or share some of your favorites in the comments.
Tip: If you have favorite audiobook narrators, you can keyword search the library catalog with their name(s) and the words “sound recording” to find other books they’ve recorded.
Simon Vance reads the “Millennium” trilogy by Stieg Larsson, (he rounded out the series by narrating David Lagercrantz’s followup The Girl in the Spider’s Web), and he brings his elegant tone and a thrilling pace to these suspenseful novels. Like many narrators, Vance has recorded many other titles, including another series, the seafaring “Jack Aubrey” novels by Patrick O’Brian and some classics by Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, and Mary Shelley. His nonfiction audiobooks include Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings, The King’s Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, and Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart.
Jim Dale’s performance of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is brilliant, laugh-out-loud fun. He uses different voices and varieties of British accents to distinguish each character, and listening to the audiobooks is cracking good fun, whether the audience is 7, 17, or 70 years old. Besides the seven Harry Potter works, Dale has narrated many other children’s titles, such as J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Charle’s Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and some books for grownups, including Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
Lee’s audiobook recordings are numerous, and it’s a good thing. He has a lilting delivery, and his narration of Ken Follett’s three-title “Century” trilogy and two-book series following 12th- and 14th-century cathedral builders, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. He narrates other novels by Maeve Binchy, Jo Nesbo, and Graham Swift. He reads plenty of nonfiction, as well, including A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre, and Barbaray W. Tuchman’s World War I history The Guns of August.
Ojo reads Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill with wonderful finesse. The novel is the story (based on true details) of 18th century African Aminata “Mina” Diallo, a woman brutally kidnapped, brought to America and forced into slavery. Ojo’s performance is subtle and affecting as she tells Mina’s story into old age. Ojo’s other recordings include The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and Eric Jerome Dickey’s The Blackbirds and One Night.
The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison is a crime novel set in Zambia. A young American attorney and a Zambian police officer work to find the assailant who attacked a young girl. Miles’s work brings each character to life, with changes in tone and accents–American, Zambian, South African–and draws the listener deep into the story and the suspense as events unfold. Miles has many other audiobook performances to try, from several novels by Dorothea Benton Frank to Edwidge Danticat’s novel The Dew Breaker and memoir Brother, I’m Dying. Miles has recorded other nonfiction, including a memoir by Margo Jefferson (Negroland) and Isabel Wilkerson’s excellent The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Miles has also cast and directed performers in other audiobooks, including Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers.
For those of us who like great nonfiction, author Bill Bryson narrates some of his own audiobooks (though not all of them). Some are better at writing than reading, but Bryson brings his work to wry, informed life–if you know his work, you are familiar with his dry wit, thorough research, and attention to the quirkiest and most fascinating details when he covers a topic: the room-by-room history of private life in At Home: A Short History of Private Life; physics, geology, chemistry, and more in A Short History of Nearly Everything; and research into the biography of William Shakespeare (Shakespeare: The World as Stage). If you read a lot of nonfiction (or you’ve never tried it), Bryson’s work is great fun–both his writing and his reading.
A colleague, who is a big audiobook fan, shares a few other names to try: Juliet Stevenson (including books by Edna O’Brien, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Gilbert), and Matt Bates, narrating Bernard Cornwell’s “Saxon Tales” series.