Today I thought I’d share with you my favourite audiobooks. I never thought I’d get along with them but I’m pleased to say that with the right audiobook, it’s easily as addictive as physical reading. I have regularly found myself sitting in the car for an extra ten minutes to finish a chapter or even exercising that little bit longer so I can carry on listening. I know, crazy!
I’ve also found audiobooks really helpful for getting through books I’ve been putting off reading too. For example, I’ve been meaning to read Emma and Persuasion by Jane Austen for years now, but I’ve always started them and then been distracted. But by using audiobooks I’ve now read them both. I’ve found that a good narrator really brings the stories to life no matter what the topic. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some of my favourites.
Burial Rites | written by Hannah Kent, narrated by Morven Christie
I think one of the main reasons this book made such a deep impression on me was due to the excellent narration by Morven Christie. That’s not to say the writing isn’t excellent too, it definitely is, but the atmospheric prose was really brought to life here by Christie. Set in Iceland and following Agnes Magnusdottir as she lives out her last days on a remote farm before her execution this story is interspersed with real-life historical documents and Icelandic names that I think I would have mentally tripped up over the unusual spellings and pronunciations had I read it in print. I think Christie’s pronunciation was excellent and certainly added to the mystical feel of this historical fiction. She did a great job of building tension and making each character sound different and unique so I knew who was talking when which is important when you don’t have their names in front of you to check. This was one of my favourite books of last year and the narration was definitely a huge part of that decision. Burial Rites is told from Agnes’ perspective so I associate her voice with Agnes and it’s almost haunting how it’s stayed with me.
Tigana | written by Guy Gavriel Kay, narrated by Simon Vance
The art of storytelling and troubadour-esque songs are strong themes in Tigana and are central to the main plot. The prose reflects this by being quite flowery, almost lyrical in times which lends itself well to an audiobook. This story has it all, treachery, betrayal, romance, suspense, drama and hope. Simon Vance narrates it all masterfully. He is fast becoming one of my favourite narrators. His voices are distinctive and consistent. I really lost myself in this story time and time again, Vance enchanted me and I lost hours at a time listening to Tigana. I did a full review of this magical tale here if you want to know more about the plot, but I implore you to try the audiobook – it’s truly fantastic.
The Lies of Locke Lamora | written by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page
Now this is an instance where I had tried reading the print book, twice in fact, and couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. Lots of people rave about this one, and after the audiobook, I understand why! I needed someone to intone the sarcasm/disbelief/jokes for me to engage with it properly. This book is really great, but I’m not sure I’d have ever read it all the way through if it wasn’t for Michael Page. His acting is superb, the voices of outrage at Locke’s stunts and attitude are hilarious. I know it’s the point of all narrators to bring the characters to life but the characters in The Lies of Locke Lamora are larger than life and the amount of banter between the main characters really suits being read aloud. One of my favourite aspects of this story is Locke’s smart mouth and the lies he spins and it’s really great being able to put a voice to the words. I listened to the second book in this series too, Red Seas Under Red Skies and although I didn’t really enjoy the plot as much, I really enjoyed Page’s characterisations and carried on listening for him. If I’m honest it’s his narration alone that makes me want to listen to the third one.
Heir to Sevenwaters | written by Juliet Marillier, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Ah the Sevenwaters series. Possibly one of my favourites ever. I have the print format of this one too, but I didn’t want to wait to read it in my lunch hours and after work so I downloaded the audio so I could listen during work. I’m so glad I did! I’ve read the first three in print and loved them, but the narration for this blew me away. Set in medieval Ireland I didn’t realise how wrong I was getting all the names in my head. The Irish accent Landor used for this narration really transported me to Ireland and I loved learning how to pronounce the names of the family I’m so attached to properly. I enjoyed this so much and fell in love with the prose so much I ended up listening to it on the sofa at home with the book in my hand, underlining the dialogue as I heard it. I can’t express how much I enjoyed this experience. A great fourth instalment to a favourite series and a great way to read it.
Prudence | written by Gail Carriger, narrated by Moira Quirk
Last but certainly not least, this little gem. I love Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and so it’s natural that I would also love the companion series, following the next generation. This is a wonderful steampunk, paranormal urban fantasy set largely in Victorian England although does take us around the world too. There is a diverse cast of characters here which is where Quirk really shines. From ‘proper’ English accents, to Scottish burrs, to sophisticated French. The characters are literally jumping off the page(?) and she expresses British outrage perfectly. I love it. Such a fun series brought roaring to life through Moira Quirk.
And there you have it! I would like to add a few honourable mentions, naturally the sequel to Prudence, Imprudence as well as Red Seas Under Red Skies, the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora. I would also like to recommend:
Mythos | written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Norse Mythology | written and narrated by Neil Gaiman
Storm Front | written by Jim Butcher, narrated by James Marsters