Your Very Favorite Narrators

Hey Audiobook lovers,

As always, y’all are awesome! Not only did you send lots of interesting ways that audiobooks have helped your mental health but you also sent a bunch of great comments about your favorite audiobook narrators and/or what makes a good audiobook narrator. So I thought this week I would do a round-up of your thoughts. If you want to still send how audiobooks have helped your mental health, I’ll compile those for a future newsletter. You can reach me for this, or anything else, at and/or on twitter at msmacb.

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We talked about this a little bit last week, but it’s worth further consideration: what makes a good audiobook narrator? Newsletter reader Tatjana notes that the narrator one of an audiobook she recently enjoyed has all three of the best narrator traits Mary Kay mentioned in the Book Riot post I cited last week. Tatjana says, “I recently really enjoyed Dylan Baker’s narration of The Grapes of Wrath.  His narration exemplifies Mary Kay’s 3 traits of a great audiobook, specifically the third, “reads with a tone reflective of the narration itself.”  Baker could have easily dipped into a hillbilly accent in his narration, but instead is respectful of the dialects of the midwestern farmers.”

Sometimes you don’t need to be able to define the qualities that make a good narrator to know when they’re in your ears. Newsletter reader Harise says, “I don’t know what makes a bad reader or a good one, just that I know it when I hear it.  I was mistaken once, and returned Where’d You Go Bernadette to the library after half a listen, because the shrill child’s voice narrator put me off. I decided to try again and was so glad, one of the best! But my friend tried it and couldn’t get past the voice.”

There are so many audiobooks like that for me. Either I didn’t like the narration at first but kept listening because I was too lazy switch to a different one, or I gave up on it only to try it again later and couldn’t even remember what it is I didn’t like about it the first time. (For what it’s worth, Where’d You Go, Bernadette wasn’t one of those for me. I liked it right off the bat.)

So which audiobooks have met Harise’s standard of excellent narrators? One happened early in Harise’s audiobook listening career. “One of the first audio books I heard was Hot Springs by Stephen Hunter. I remember that the narrator was a radio actor and he was very good in reading all the tough guy roles with good inflections, the feminine roles, the police, lots of variance in how he portrayed them. My very first audiobook was Far from the Madding Crowd, and that is another I’d recommend. The narrator is female but does a good job on all the voices.”

Harise also says, “all of the audio Stephen King books and stories that I’ve heard, have excellent narration.  I really liked the main story in Hearts In Atlantis, which is really most of the book, and the narration is wonderful. There’s a second part to the book that is narrated by King himself and he’s a good writer but I don’t recommend he narrate his own books. The difference was huge.”

The only Stephen King novel I have been brave enough to listen to on audio (because I’m a big, wimpy baby) is 11/22/63 and the narration was fantastic. It was also scarier than I thought it was going to be–-just a warning to the other babies out there.

What does an audiobook narrator think is (one of) the most essential traits of an audiobook narrator? Fortunately, newsletter reader Mary Castillo narrates and produces her own paranormal mystery series. She says, “Even though I wrote the books, I realized how challenging it is to bring them to life as an audiobook. I agree that tone is the most important, but having been on the other side of the mic (I was a die-hard mystery audiobook fan before I did it myself), I think it is also the narrator’s belief in the story.” Mary says while that might like strange criteria, but if the narrator isn’t buying the story, they can’t expect the listener to, either.

That tracks with this article I found on a website called Voice Crafters. At the top of their list of great narrator qualities is “They [the narrator] Enjoys What They Are Doing,” saying:

“It should be obvious just from listening to them that they are enjoying telling the story. If a narrator cannot enjoy the story they are reading, then it will be difficult for the reader to enjoy it as well.

No one wants to listen to an unenthusiastic fight scene or a passionless kiss. Great narrators can hold the audience under a spell, taking them on an emotional journey through the highs and lows of the tale.

The characters and scenes should jump off the page (or out of the speakers). The narrator’s enthusiasm is a big part of what brings it to life.” Check out the rest of the article here.

I agree that palpable narrator enjoyment is super important and it made me think about how sometimes authors can be surprisingly terrible narrators for their own books. Some authors are AMAZING narrators, but not always. Getting a book published is SUCH a long process and by the time it happens, the author has revised and edited their text more times than they can count. I wonder if by the time they get around to narrating the audiobook, they’re thinking “if I never read about these characters again, it will be too soon.”

Alright, that’s it for me this week! Feel free to send me your thoughts on mental health and audiobooks or anything else audiobook-related (cute pictures of dogs also welcome).

Until next week,