Who’s your favorite audio book reader?

Many of us relinquished the pleasure of listening to stories as part of the process of “growing up.” A couple years ago I realized that I could reclaim that delight, and became hooked on audio books. Now, I can’t imagine riding the bus or walking to work without a good story to listen to.

The reader’s voice is so important in audio books. I’ve had to stop listening to otherwise good books because the narrator’s voice grated on me, and conversely some readers have become such valued companions that I’ve branched out of my genre comfort zone to follow a particular reader.

Following, in no particular order, is a list of FAVORITE AUDIO READERS based on an informal poll of Library staff:

Frank McCourt
Reading his own books, especially Angela’s Ashes and Teacher Man. His lilting Irish brogue is so integral to the text, it’s hard to imagine that a anyone reading words on a page could appreciate his genius and side-splitting humor.

Lynne Thigpen

She’s a great reader and records a number of contemporary literary African American authors including Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Maya Angelou and Virginia Hamilton.

Jen Taylor
Reading Elizabeth Berg’s trilogy Joy School, True to Form, & Durable Goods.  Jen, a local actress, captures the sweet innocence of a little girl’s voice without the cutesy cliches. From the first sentence, you strike an immediate rapport with her spirited interpretation.

Barbara Rosenblat
Her greatest talents lie with her ability to do multiple characters and accents flawlessly and with humor! My favorite series read by Rosenblatt is Elizabeth Peters’ mysteries about Victorian Egyptologist, Amelia Peabody.

George Guidall
A very popular reader.  For me, it is his way with irony: a voice that says it knows all, but is only telling so much.

Diana Bishop
Her smooth, intelligent, crisp but warm British voice is remarkably soothing. I really enjoyed Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis, set in ancient Rome as well as two books by Joanne Harris both set in small-town France: Five Quarters of the Orange and Chocolat.

Mark Hammer
That weathered accent and mild perplexity: the man can read Faulkner. ’nuff said.

Donal Donnelly
For helping me make it through James Joyce’s Ulysses, one savory syllable at a time.

Darren McGavin
I hate abridged books, but McGavin’s whisky-on-the-rocks readings of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books are worth the sacrifice.

David Sedaris
I take one of his audio books with me any time I go on a road trip because he’s so terribly funny. Listening to David Sedaris is more hilarious than reading David Sedaris.

Jeff Woodman
You can tell he takes the time to understand each character.  And he can be hilarious.

Steve Martin
Reading (and playing banjo!) in his memoir Born Standing Up; he’s also wonderful reading his novellas.

L. J. Ganser
I really enjoyed his reading of Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. He made the profanity particularly entertaining.

Dylan Baker
He did a huge number of characters really well in I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe.

C. J. Critt
Her reading of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich adds a whole new layer of humor to this already screamingly funny plot line – especially when she does Stephanie talking to her pet hamster!

Bill Bryson
I love Bryson reading any of his own books. We are currently listening to Notes from a Small Island – where he imitates some of the unintelligible accents he encounters in rural British pubs – which is just hysterical.

Jim Dale
Dale received many votes! He does a marvelous job reading the Harry Potter series. He has a different voice for each of the many characters, making them seem like real (and interesting) individuals.

Sneha Mathan
A Seattle native whose rich voice and command of British, Indian, and American dialects make any book a pleasure to hear.

Lisette Lecat
Lisette’s recreation of the South African dialect is perfect for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Davina Porter
She has a faultless Scottish brogue in the Isabel Dalhousie series.

Tim Curry
He chooses the right books to read.  Who else should read Lemony Snicket, really?  And he’s wonderful in Garth Nix’s Necromancer series; I could listen to him say “in Death” all day. (The series begins with the book Sabriel and is Young Adult.)

Ron McLarty

Our favorite of his is A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck which is a children’s book but McLarty also reads a lot of adult books.  He really makes the characters come alive.

Finding Audio Books at the Library

In the Library Catalog you can retrieve a list of audio books recorded by a particular reader – just search by the reader’s name in the “Author starts with” field.  (For the readers mentioned above, click on their name to link to the Catalog listing.)

The Library offers audio books in a variety of formats – CDs, cassette tapes, digital audio books, and podcasts (the podcasts generally are recordings of author reading events at the Library).

So, who is your favorite audio book reader?  Or, are there certain readers you just can’t stand? Let us know!

6 thoughts on “Who’s your favorite audio book reader?”

  1. Simon Winchester, reading his own books. I particularly loved Krakatoa, but they’re all good, and he has a beautiful velvety British tenor.

    I also thought Anna Fields did a wonderful job with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Her narration voice is low and pleasing, but slides effortlessly into high-and-raucous Brooklyneese. Nice.

  2. Scott Brick is also an excellent reader. I first heard him while listening to the audio recording of IN DEFENSE OF FOOD. He made all the technical part sound interesting.


  3. I often search for audio books by narrator, and I’m happy to see many of my favorites listed here, as well as some I want to try, such as Jen Taylor. I’m listening to Kathleen McInerney read LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH by Emily Giffin, an she’s doing a great job. I also like Carol Monda, who did NINETEEN MINUTES by Jodi Picoult and RISE AND SHINE by Anna Quindlen. Although I agree that Barbara Rosenblat does a fine job with Elizabeth Peters, I have to stay away from anything she narrates that has characters under 30. Or even under 40. (How did she end up narrating BRIDGET JONES? Ouch.)

  4. I really like the Full Cast Audio books, where the book is acted out by a whole bunch of actors–it works great for teen fantasy. The Golden Compass (and sequels) and Goose Girl by Shannon Hale are two of my favorites.

  5. I loved Sneha Mathan’s rendition of The Twentieth Wife, by Indu Sundaresan. The story takes place in India during the Mugal empire and is based in historic fact. It follows the life of an extraordinary woman, whose strength of spirit takes her from birth in desperate circumstances to the opulence of the imperial court and beyond.

    The audio version of this book (which I borrowed through Interlibrary Loan) was excellent both because the narrator brought the characters to life so well and because she presented the non-English words very smoothly in context, so I never tripped over them. It was a wonderful excursion into the history of a culture I was very unfamiliar with. I got a lot more out of it than I did the printed version. I can’t wait to listen to the sequel.

  6. If you like Tim Curry’s rendion of the words “in death” as they appear in the book Sabriel, wait until book two in the series when he gets to say “FOOL!” I’m thinking of sampling that word and adding it as one of the warning noises my computer makes. (That’s fair use, isn’t it?)

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