This summer, whether you’re traveling, commuting, or taking a little staycation, audiobooks can be a perfect companion. The challenge is finding one that matches your tastes, which can be a little trickier than just picking a “great book.” Here are a few tips and suggestions for helping you find your next great listen:
Audiobook-recommending guru Renee Young has some appeal terms that you can use when browsing or asking for audiobooks. Think of these as basic lingo that can help you feel less overwhelmed and narrow down your selections.
Some listeners are voice-focused and some prefer more of a performance. For the former, you may be looking for:
- Character accents, where one person creates different voices for each character, like Jim Dale reading Harry Potter, Robin Miles in American Street, or Roy Dotrice from the Game of Thrones series.
Multiple narrators in books that change protagonists, like The Girl on the Train, Small Great Things, and How it Went Down.
(Note: this is different from Full Cast narration, which will be covered in a minute!)
Read by the author, which gives the reader more of a personal connection with the book. Examples of authors who often read their own work are Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Neil Gaiman. You may also enjoy the authors’ readings of The Kite Runner and Brown Girl Dreaming.
(Note: This catalog search for “read by the author” gives some more examples!)
- Celebrity narrators who read audiobooks written by other authors. You can find some surprising celebrity narrations of classic works, like Claire Danes reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Sissy Spacek reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and Maggie Gyllenhaal reading The Bell Jar. Kurt Vonnegut’s books also have some great celebrity readers like Stanley Tucci, Ethan Hawke, and John Malkovich!
Other audiobooks sound more like a performance, complete with full casts, sound effects, music, and more! Here are a few suggestions if you’re looking for this type of audiobook experience:
- World War Z by Max Brooks has a large cast of characters, including Brooks himself, as well as some celebrity voices
- Rant by Chuck Palahniuk is a creepy thriller featuring a full cast
- Here In Harlem by Walter Dean Myers is a family-friendly collection of over 50 poems, each narrated by a different voice!
- Hoopla has a 32-title Twilight Zone: Radio Drama series that features a large cast, as well as engaging sound effects
- The Complete Star Wars Trilogy is available in audiobook, with musical accompaniment by the London Symphony Orchestra
- Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass provides another family-friendly full cast narration
In case that’s not enough ideas, here are a few favorites suggested by LPL staff and community members:
- Meredith in Readers’ Services recommends Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (YA) narrated by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as The Book of Strange New Things (“Super long but SO good.”)
- The popular podcast Welcome to Nightvale was turned into an Urban Fantasy book/audiobook, recommended by Anna T. and Kate N.
- Brittany K. recommended The Boys in the Boat, narrated by the late great Edward Herrmann, “so it feels like Richard Gilmore is telling you this incredible story about young people coming together as a team during the Great Depression.”
- Polli in Readers’ Services recommends The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Hilarious, held the attention of three teenagers on a long road trip, and narrated by Stephen Fry!)
Interested in more suggestions from your Lawrence community members? Check out this Facebook post!
Feel free to bookmark this post to come back to later. Another great resource for audiobooks is Audiofile Magazine, which provides info on award-winning narrators as well as short audio samples to help with your browsing! If you come across an awesome audiobook, please let us know. -Kate Gramlich is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.