Caffeinated is being taken over by other bloggers and today we have Lark from The Bookwyrm’s Hoard. Grab a mocha latte and check out her thoughts on my new passion aduiobooks. The Bookwyrm’s Hoard offers a unique array of adult and young adult reads from cozy mysteries to fantasy in all genres. Enjoy Lark’s discussion and share what you think about audiobooks.Be sure and visit her blog and stalk her:) Thanks Lark for sharing with us today….
Music to My Ears: The Art of a Good Audiobook
I’ve noticed that Kimba is listening to more audiobooks these days (yay!), so I thought we could have some fun talking about them while she’s away – and leave her with a nice batch of recommendations when she gets back!
My own introduction to audiobooks came very young, when I was about four. I was given an LP of Maurice Evans reading the first chapter of Winnie the Pooh. Of course, the playing time of a vinyl record was pretty limited, so one chapter was all I got, but it was nice to listen to during naptime or when I was playing in my room. (My mom had to put the record on for me, of course, until I got old enough to do it myself – by which time I had mostly grown out of it.)
Fast forward more than 30 years. My sister’s family had discovered the joys of audiobooks when traveling with small children, and began showering us with them as gifts. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Ella Enchanted. The Westing Game. And we were hooked.
Well over a decade later, with our daughter Robin in college, we’re still listening to them. And over the years, I’ve started classifying them not just by how good or bad they are, but also by the narrative style. I think I’ve identified four types. There’s the single reader, the author-as-reader, the multiple-narrator, and the full-cast audio. Within each of those four, of course, there are books that are well-read and books that are, well, not. But the narrative types each have their strengths, and tend to work well for different kinds of books.
The single reader is probably the most common, and it’s the one most people think of when they think of audiobooks: one person, reading the book to you, the listener. It’s the obvious choice for nonfiction, but it can work well for fiction, too, whether the book is in third person or in first. A reader with a monotone delivery can be deadly dull; good narrators use their acting skills to enliven the story. One of the best examples is the Harry Potter novels read by the incomparable Jim Dale, with his gift for giving each and every character a unique voice and accent. And Nicholas Podehl has done a wonderful job with Patrick Rothfuss’s picaresque fantasy epic, The Name of the Wind, a first-person narrative that nonetheless captures the voices, accents, and personalities of the other characters.
The author-as-reader could actually function as a subcategory of any of the other three types, though I personally have only experienced two (single reader and full cast.) Having the author read his or her own work can be a delight – Neil Gaiman reading Stardust jumps to mind, as well as Bill Bryson reading some of his books, from At Home to One Summer. It only works, though, if the author is able to read aloud fluently and with good interpretation — and has a pleasant voice, of course! One of my favorites isn’t an entire book, though – it’s J. R. R. Tolkien reading the riddle chapter from The Hobbit. (Obviously those examples are all the single-reader type. I’ll get to the other example later.)
The multiple-narrator approach is sometimes used for books told in the first person by more than one character. Think of it as single-reader squared: a different actor is chosen to voice each narrator in the text. The actors have to work together if they will be imitating each other’s voices, and they need to be at least moderately good mimics. Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgren make a good pairing as Carter and Sadie Kane in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicle books, each narrating the portions “told” by that character. The dual-narrator format works particularly well in this case because the books are written as if they were audio recordings by the siblings.
The full-cast audiobook is less common than the single or multiple narrator types, probably because it requires so many actors. It’s more like producing a radio play than reading a book — although not a single word is omitted. One person serves as the narrator, while each character is voiced by a different actor. Not many recording companies are willing to put the time, effort, and money into this, but one that consistently produces terrific audiobooks is called, fittingly enough, Full Cast Audio. They focus on children’s and YA books. Their production of Katherine Karr’s Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free is terrific, both because all the actors are both good and well-cast, and because the story depends so much on music, which can be inserted wherever necessary. The full-cast type is also the other place where I’ve seen the author participate effectively: Tamora Pierce serves as the narrator for all the Full Cast Audio productions of her books; so far, they’ve done the Immortals series and some of the Circle of Magic series. (Unfortunately, several of these are out-of-stock.) And Brian Jacques narrates at least a few of his full-cast audiobooks beginning with Redwall; he also provides the voice for the moles.
I don’t prefer any of these audiobook types over another; instead, I have my favorites in each type. And least favorites, too, of course! For instance, I hate it when the publisher switches readers on me mid-series. (The Maisie Dobbs series is horrible for this; there have been at least three so far. I like the books themselves, but the narrator switch is seriously annoying.) Or when the reader is all wrong for the book, like the woman with a southern accent who read one of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. Her voice would have been fine for some books, but it just didn’t sound right for Pern.
So what about you – do you listen to audiobooks? Do you have a favorite narrative style, a favorite reader, a favorite audiobook series? Are there narrators whose books you will listen to, just because they’re so good? (Jim Dale comes close for me.) Do you prefer male or female readers for third-person books, or doesn’t it matter to you? C’mon, dish – I’m always looking for more good audiobooks to listen to!
About Lark and Bookwyrm’s Hoard
Lark has been blogging since 2009 and her blog Bookwyrm’s Hoard offers mainly adult and YA fantasy, mysteries, and romance, with some historical fiction, general fiction, and nonfiction thrown in for variety. Lark does a News & Notes post every Saturday keeping us up to date and bookish news and happens.Lark’s reviews are honest, fair and her wide reading range provides many new fines for me. She is always ready to chat I encourage you to follow, stalk and get to know Bookwyrm’s Hoard.
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