Audiobooks have been great for me. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but responsibilities limit my free time. I started listening to audiobooks in college when I was working as a delivery driver. I needed something more than a radio to listen to as I drove around, and audiobooks filled that need. I now think I’ve gone through about 200 audiobooks. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, read by James Marsters
This series contains the first audiobook I ever listened to, and Marsters is still my favorite reader. Even though some of the books are weaker than others, Marsters performance is always outstanding. Throughout the series, it becomes apparent that Marsters really enjoys his roles. He yells, whispers, laughs, and cries. He truly is acting the story, not just reading it. This style works incredibly well for the first-person perspective of the series. The books are dark and action-packed, but humorous, with solid and deep characters, and Marsters succeeds in bringing that to life.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, read by Michael Kramer
I thought it was a little odd that Kramer was chosen to read this series since the main character is a teenage girl, but his performance is outstanding. Kramer changes the tone of his voice for each character in a very distinctive way, but he doesn’t give the characters accents (except for Spook, where the accent is specifically written). This style of narration works really well for this type of story since it provides a little more distance between the listener and the characters. (I also have to mention that Kramer probably has the best enunciation I’ve ever heard, he’s phenomenally clear.)
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, read by Carol Cowan, Michael Hanson, and Grover Gardner
I struggled a little bit to figure out what to say about this series. It’s easily one of my all-time favorite series, but I didn’t really like the change in narrators. My copies of the first two books are read by Carol Cowan with Michael Hanson taking a few parts, the next few books just have Hanson, and later they switch over to Grover Gardner. The first shift wasn’t too bad, since the perspective changes from Cordelia to Miles, it made sense to move from a female to male reader. The shift from Hanson to Gardner, however, was really tough. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a version with Hanson, but couldn’t find one. I eventually caved and listened to Gardner’s reading, and while I didn’t like it as much as Hanson, it was good. After that first book, I’ve come to really enjoy Gardner’s narration.
The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, read by Pete Bradbury
The author wrote about his experience with the audiobook version on his blog, and I think he sums up Bradbury’s reading very well. Rather than come up with my own description, I’ll just use his:
I was immediately taken in by Bradbury’s rendition. I had been afraid he would be tempted to overact, making up voices, creating fake accents, and speaking in falsetto for the female characters. Instead, Bradbury made subtle changes in tone and inflection as he read, making it clear who was speaking without resorting to excess theatrics. His voice is deep and rich, with just a touch of gravel. I felt like a kid sitting by the fire as my grandfather read me a book.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice
I started this series very recently, so I’ve only gone through the first two books. When I first started, I didn’t like Dotrice as a reading. I could tell he was older, and that influenced how I perceived the characters. He was also a little difficult to understand, especially if he gave a character some kind of speech impediment. As I progressed through the book, I started to understand why he was chosen. Dotrice’s voice perfectly fits the tone of the story. My only worry now is that he won’t be able to finish the series. Dotrice turns 92 this year, and George R.R. Martin still has a couple of books to write.
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, read by Fred Major and Nick Podehl
While I was writing this post I noticed, for the first time, that the first and second books of the series have been read by different people. Fred Majors, who read Name of the Wind, passed away in 2011, so Nick Podehl read the second book. At the time I was listening to them, I think I noticed some slight changes in pronunciation, but I figured it was just due to the amount of time between recording. The tone and style of reading was so similar between the two that I was completely unaware that I had been listening to two different narrators. I’m sure that I would pick up on more differences now, but the fact that I didn’t notice the shift speaks to the high quality of the production.
The Abhorson Trilogy by Garth Nix, read by Tim Curry
When I’m choosing a book to listen to, the narrator rarely influences my decision. So when I chose to start listening to the Abhorson trilogy, the fact that Curry was the narrator didn’t even register until the book started. I knew the voice, but didn’t place the name to it right away (even though Curry’s name was mentioned in the introduction). When I realized it was Curry, I almost had to stop listening. Curry’s voice is so unique and recognizable that it was a little difficult to pay attention to the story rather than the reader. I’m glad that I kept listening since Curry does a great job. The series is a little different from most youth fantasies, so having Curry, who’s a little different himself, fits the mood well.
The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind, read by Nick Sullivan and Sam Tsoutsouvas
Nick Sullivan’s voice really bothered my when I first started listening to this series. I thought his voice was nasal and high-pitched, and I wasn’t sure I could keep listening. I endured the first book, but was hesitant to start the second. After a month or so, I started the second book and had the same reaction, though it faded much more quickly than it had the first time around. By the end of the second book, I could appreciate why Sullivan had been selected. While I still wasn’t a fan of the tone and pitch of his voice, he’s incredibly skilled in characterization. It was easy to distinguish between the characters, and I found I really enjoyed the accents that he used for people from different regions. When Sam Tsoutsouvas took over during the Chainfire trilogy, I hated his version. I lost the characterization that Sullivan excelled at, and eventually stopped listening to the books and started reading paper copies instead. I’m about to start The Omen Machine, hopefully it’s been long enough since I’ve listened to his reading that I can give Tsoutsouvas a fair shot.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer
I’ve gone through most books in this series twice, once on paper and once listening to audiobook. The audiobook is far more enjoyable. Some of the middle books really drag, which is painful when each book in the series is 700+ pages. Listening to the audiobooks mitigated that quite a bit. I wasn’t sure I was going to include this series since I already have some books on here that were read by Kramer, but Kate Reading deserves mention. Reading and Kramer are great in their parts and really bring the characters to life. Even though the series isn’t my favorite, Reading and Kramer make the audiobooks some of the best I’ve listened to.