Since I started working full time, audiobooks have become an essential part of my reading. I typically read 2-5 audiobooks a week depending on the lengths of the books and how much I am physically reading that week. While I really love audiobooks, I am pretty picky on narrators, and will certainly DNF an audiobook if I don’t jive with the it.
My preferences for audiobooks tend to be 1) audiobooks narrated by the author, 2) audiobooks narrated by a highly accomplished actor/voice actor, or, of course, 3) audiobooks narrated by a full cast. I also think I really good audiobook is one that would be a great book on its own, but is made even better by the narration. The following books, I think, are ones that are made an even better reading experience when read in audio form.
1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt, narrated by Donna Tartt
This is probably the most controversial one on this list. I fully realize that this audiobook won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, because when I first started the audiobook I was really not a fan. At this point, though, I’ve listed to this audiobook 3 times, and every time I am amazed at how much I love it.
The Secret History is one of my all-time favorite books; I love all the intrigue and friendships and pretentious characters. And there’s something magical about having the author herself narrate this audiobook. It has a quality about it that’s reminiscent of being a kid and having a parent or teacher read you a really awesome book. I just dig it so much, and love this audiobook (and book) to pieces. I think I’m due for a reread soon!
2. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
I lied– I think this might be the most controversial pick. I don’t think I need to go into details about how amazing this book series is, so instead, I’ll tell you why you should listen to the audiobooks.
The narrator, Roy Dotrice was a highly accomplished screen, stage, and voice actor. And for every single character in these audiobooks, he gives a different voice. He actually got the world record for most character voices in an audiobook with A Game of Thrones. Not only is every voice distinct and different, but you can tell he thought through what a Lannister voice or a Stark voice would sound like, and gives siblings and relatives a quality to their voices that make them sound related. It’s incredible.
Now, a lot of people don’t like these audiobooks because they don’t like Dotrice’s narration. I really think it’s a personal preference, and you you listen to part of A Game of Thrones and decide for yourself if he’s your cup of tea.
3. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Seanan McGuire
I am a *huge* fan of Seanan McGuire, and I really love the Wayward Children series. I listened to Every Heart a Doorway via audiobook, and thought it was good, but not great. When I moved on to book two, I realized the narrator was different, and that, this time, it was narrated by Seanan McGuire herself.
There’s something about authors reading their own audiobooks that I just love so much. There are very few confusing or awkward sentences, because the author knows the intent behind every line. And when it comes to author narrators, Seanan McGuire is one of the best I’ve heard. I really love the life and personality she brings to her characters, particularly Jack. It’s so good, and you should definitely give it a listen.
4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes
If you haven’t listened to the audiobook for The Handmaid’s Tale and you’re a fan of Atwood, then you are missing out. The audiobook is read by Claire Danes, and is my favorite way to read The Handmaid’s Tale, which is one of my favorite books of all time. If you’re a fan of classics or a fan of speculative fiction, or if you just liked the TV show (I didn’t…) then please try this audiobook.
5. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman
I had never read a Neil Gaiman book before this one, but I knew that I wanted my first book by him to be an audiobook because of all the good things I had heard about Gaiman’s own narration. Norse Mythology was such an excellent choice for a first Gaiman book, I think. Not only does he narrate the book seamlessly and beautifully, but I loved having these myths told to me as they would have been spoken down through the ages. The experience of Gaiman telling the stories made the book 10 times better, and I highly recommend reading this through audio.
6. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
I didn’t read the Harry Potter books as a child, but I finally listened to them all through audio last year. Let me tell you, it was such a fun romp of a series, and it was only made better by Jim Dale’s narration. I won’t spend much time talking about these, because literally everyone knows about Harry Potter, but these were some of the best children’s lit/YA books I’ve read via audio. So much fun.
7. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, narrated by a full cast
If you’re a fan of hard sci-fi or first-contact-with-alien stories and you haven’t read the Themis Files series yet, then you’re in for a real treat. The trilogy starts with Sleeping Giants, and it’s a wild ride of a story told through interviews, technical reports, news stories, and the like. The narration of the first book is FANTASTIC, and is read by a full cast. Because we lose some some of our main characters (and, thus, their narrators) and gain some new ones over the course of the trilogy, the first audiobook is definitely better than the sequels. This one is a great intro to the series, though, and is such a fun read.
8. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, narrated by a full cast
It’s beyond rare for me to like a women’s lit (romance?) book as much as I loved Daisy Jones and the Six. It’s a beautiful book told through interviews with the members of a 70s rock band that broke up at the height of its career. The story itself is a great combination of incredibly sad and incredibly fun. It’s a story of sex and drugs and addiction and fame, and is made ten times better by the audiobook.
The audiobook keeps it’s interview format, and is read by a full cast. Each character is voiced perfectly, and the audio format lends itself so well to the documentary style narrative of the book. It’s extremely compelling and a great book to get absorbed in.
9. Pride and Prejudice & Sense and Sensibility, both by Jane Austen and both narrated by Rosamond Pike
I’ve added these as one entry because if you like one, then you’re probably going to like the other. Rosamond Pike played Jane Bennet in the 2005 movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (the one with Kiera Knightley), and it’s so evident that she understands Jane Austen really well. These are such lovely versions of the books, and I highly recommend checking both of them out. Unfortunately, I believe these are Audible exclusives, so they’re probably only available through that service.
10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, narrated by Kirsten Potter
Station Eleven easily makes my list of my all-time favorite books, and the audiobook was the way I first experienced the story. The book is beautiful and harrowing and such a tender post-apocalyptic story that’s so unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and the audiobook only makes it better. It’s narrated by Kirsten Potter, who has narrated a ton of other books, and she does an excellent job transforming the story into an audiobook and really brings ever character to life.
I listen to a heck-ton of audiobooks, so please let me know your favorites! I’m always looking for recommendations.