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Are Some Books Better In Audio?

As any bookworm, my TBR is always growing – ALWAYS. So with a growing list, and new titles being added almost daily, at this point, what else is there to do but listen to more audiobooks? It’s the fastest way to devour new titles, or at least for me it is. I have an 8 hour work day, and I’m typically able to listen for a good 5 to 6 hours of audio a day – and added 2 to 3 books a week to my reading! But on my journey into the audio world, I’ve realized a few things. First, all audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, and not all narrators are equally as awesome. Second, given a great narrator, my experience listening to the audio version completely enhances my reading – pretty sure I cry more often listening to a book than when reading text. But, this leads me to the question, are some books better in audio? And since I’m leaning toward yes, this also means there will be books that are inherently worse in their audio format (perhaps even without considering the narrator!). So, how can we tell the difference, especially before starting a book?

The latter, is my biggest dilemma these days. On a limited budget and dependent on library resources, I only have so many audiobooks I can check out over digital media, so wasting a check-out (or a few) a month on a dud is always a downer. So what makes a great audiobook? An attentive narrator, obviously, but especially one who can differentiate characters by voice and tone and add an engaging element to the story. But for an audiobook to be engaging is also dependent on the writer’s voice at all – too little prose or description makes for a bland reading or too much prose or description makes for a fairy tale – both end in a soothing concoction to put me to sleep or listen without hearing anything. Either way, your experience with an audiobook is dependent on many aspects, all of which are dependent on personal judgment and likings, making an array of reviews all the more helpful – I always try to mention when I’ve listened to an audio version for this reason.

Now that I’ve had some audio-time under my belt, here are a few books I’m sad to have missed out on. I’ll definitely need to reread, I mean, re-listen to these eventually! I have a feeling the audio version makes for an even more enriching experience, really bringing the characters to life or picking up where the text can drag. Have you listened to any of these, what did you think?

  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Passenger by F.R. Tallis (I bet the audiobook really amplifies the spooky elements of the story!
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

There have also been some stellar audiobooks. They made me laugh and cry and laugh some more, and I’m sure if I had read the print version of the novels I’d have experienced that as well, but it was such an emotional roller coaster listening to the stories acted aloud, the feeling in the narrator’s voice, the catch in their throat as the character suffered or the joy in their cry for happiness… I can’t recommend these enough!

  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

And the Duds. These were just too melodic in their writing, and my ears completely blocked it all out. Please don’t ask me about these titles, they were not successful readings by any means.

  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
  • The Age of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (the narration was pretty bland)
  • The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey
  • We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (I’m going to have to actually read this one – too many characters and little distinction made by the narrator)

What have been your best/worst audiobooks? Any books you’re waiting to listen to vs. read?

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