Audiobook Week, Day Four: Narrators

Today’s topic for Audiobook Week is narrators. After listening to as many audiobooks as I have the past few years, I have very strong feelings about the art of narration.

~ First, authors should only read their own books if someone they trust to tell them the absolute truth tells them that they should. There is one author who is very well-known, and whose work I enjoy in print, but who I will never listen to on audio because she insists on reading her own work, and she has a very grating voice and monotone reading style. If you’re interested in some really good author-read audio, looks for David Sedaris, Neil Gaiman, and Joshilyn Jackson.

~ When a book is in first person, I want a more straight-forward type of narration. I love narrators who can do accents and vary the characters’ voices greatly, but it doesn’t make sense to have huge fluctuations in voices when the story is being told by one person. I like just enough variation to distinguish between characters. Of course, with every rule, there is an exception. I love Cassandra Campbell’s narration of the Valentine series by Adriana Trigiani, and they are told in first person. She does the Italian and New York accents of the characters perfectly, but in that case, it has the effect of Valentine telling you about her family, and impersonating them perfectly.

~ If a narrator is going to read a book with characters of various nationalities, they better be able to do the accents. The accents don’t have to be strong or perfect, but they do have to be believable. Nothing is more distracting than listening to a book with an English character who speaks like he or she comes from Australia.

~ For sweeping books like the Outlander series, you want a narrator who can do all the accents, all the voices, who is a true performer without being melodramatic. Davina Porter’s reading of this series is simply breath-taking, and should not be missed. She does Scottish, British, and French accents – among many, many others.

~ I can put up with a “just okay” reader for a short book, but if I’m going to invest hours in listening to something, I want the narrator not only to be good at reading and doing the voices, but also to have a voice I want to listen to for hours. There are certain narrators (Simon Vance, Scott Brick) whose voices are so fantastic, I would probably listen to them read the dictionary.

So, those are my thoughts on narration. What do you look for in a narrator? Who are your favorites?

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10 Responses to Audiobook Week, Day Four: Narrators

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I so agree with you about authors reading their own work. Why, oh why, do some of them do it?

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I think some of them don’t have enough people who are willing to be honest with them about how it sounds.

  2. Narrators who do accents are crucial if a book warrants it! And I guess I’m counting myself lucky that the only author/ narrator that I’ve listened to is Neil Gaiman for Neverwhere.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Tanya – yes, Neil Gaiman is one of the fantastic exceptions. :)

  3. Ah! 1st vs. 3rd person POV, THAT is why I need voices for some audios and not for others, you’re so right.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Jen – it took me a while to figure out the difference, too. It was when I listened to the Curse Workers series by Holly Black, which is narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, very no-nonsense, straight-forward first-person narration, that I realized it.

  4. Melissa
    Twitter: myeclecticbooks
    says:

    I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail(s) on the head! One of my favorites is Gerard Doyle..I’m listening to the 4th in the Inheritance series and he’s been fantastic throughout. These books are epic fantasy…with tons of characters including humans, elves, dwarves, werecats, dragons etc. and he does all the voices impeccably. There is also lots happening and his tone is always spot with what the characters are feeling/experiencing. I’ve already bought the 1st of another series that he narrates…I don’t even remember what it is (I’d never heard of it) but I am sure I will love it!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Melissa – I love Gerard Doyle, too! I don’t know why I didn’t think to mention him in this post. I listened to the first three in the Inheritance series, and I really love that I don’t have to wonder how the names or words in Elvish or Dwarvish are pronounced. I was going to listen to book four, but my boys wanted to do the series with me, so we started over at the beginning. We just started listening to Eldest, so we’ve got a way to go, but it makes our time in the car so much more fun!

  5. Patti Smith
    Twitter: PattiRSmith
    says:

    I’ve seen Cassandra Campbell’s a lot this week…I’m gonna have pick up something of hers :)

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Patti – definitely! If you haven’t read Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani already, that would be a good place to start. :)