Good audiobook narrators

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dengar

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I find that there are some audiobooks I cannot listen too since the narrators are horrible. Very monotone voices with no enthusiasm when they read. Does anyone have recommendations on audiobooks with good narrators? After listening to some of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books (Michael Kramer, Kate Reading (Narrators), Im spoiled.
 

L144S

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Scott Brick is excellent, I find even if I don't love the book I like the way he reads.
 

jefmcg

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I just listened to a free audio book from gutenberg - The Time Machine - and thought the reader was pretty good: Roy Trumbull. Only quibble. Because he's american, he pronounce Aluminium incorrectly.

[Cool fact: I apparently live quite close to the Time Traveller. I'll keep an eye out for his spectral form from now on]

joan
 

moriond

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If you liked Roy Trumbull's readings, you can subscribe to his Story Spieler podcast. In addition to the web page that iTunes points to, there's another www.storyspieler.com web page that contains stories that he's read in the past. The contents rotate. For example, right now he's got some Hans Christian Andersen Stories, Tales of Sholom Aleichem, and Kipling's Just So Stories (among others) on his site. He's had the Dr. Doolittle Stories, various short stories by Katherine Ann Porter, and Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost. Take a look at the podcast audiobook sticky at the top of this forum for a description of this, and other audio podcast sites.
 

Cellulose

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I've found Shelly Frasier to be a pretty easy listen. Her voice is just slightly on the rough side. She does alternative voices pretty well and has a wide range of tones to express emotions.

I've listened to her on fiction and non-fiction books. On Stiff, she does a very good job of saying humorous statements with just enough wit/sarcasm that you just have to laugh.

Stefan Rudnicki is also pretty good.

If you haven't tried Audible, it's definately worth a look. They provide short samples of every audiobook so you can get a feel if a narrator is absolutely unlistenable (is that a word?).
 

BillClinton

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I can't remember the narrator right off the top of my head, but he read "The Life of Pi" - a very enjoyable book to begin with, but the narration was excellent as well.
The narration of "The Time Traveler's Wife" was also very good.
 

Knitter

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My favorite is George Guidall, he did several of the Dark Tower books by Stephen King and his performance of American Gods is one of the absolute best I have heard, I would almost pay to hear him read a grocery list. Frank Muller is also wonderful, but I understand that due to an accident, he is no longer recording. Scott Brick is (just my opinion) somewhat uneven. I have enjoyed his reading on some books, and found him annoying on others. I think that the ones that bothered me were some of his earlier performances. Like Cellulose said, the preview option in Audible is really nice, I have skipped some books because the voice was so unpleasant or the reading so slow that I didn't feel like I could listen to it for the length of the book.
 

arsolot

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One of the most remarkable narrations I've had the pleasure of experiencing was Grover Gardner's reading of Wm. Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

Jonathan Cecil, Ian Charmichael and Frederick Davidson are among the best. Try any of the P.G. Wodehouse novels available on Audible, or Davidson's readings of Charles D i c k e n s.

Simon Prebble's reading of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is also excellent.

Jeff Woodman is the reader of Life of Pi. He's great, and also reads many others, including the popular Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Tom Stechschulte is another excellent reader. I thought his contribution to Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men added to my enjoyment of that book.
 

Vance

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I will second anything from George Guidall, Simon Prebble or Ian Charmichael.

Another excellent reader is Patrick Tull, who does the Aubrey/Maturn series (Master and Commander), as well as the Cadfael series, for Recorded Books.
 

dengar

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Wow, thanks for all the recommendations. I'll definitely check Audible out.
 

taj2

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The guy who read the Da Vinci Code did an awesome job. I can't remember his name but I would actually listen to another book read by him even if I wasn't jazzed about the content.
 

jemm

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Well I mostly only have the regular stuff. But I find Stephen Fry excellent at the Harry Potter series. I don't like the Jim Dale (US) versions so much - although I've only heard clips of them. That might be because I'm not american.
 

moriond

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In addition to the narrators already mentioned, Simon Jones (famed from the original Hitchhiker's Guide radio broadcasts and the current ones) does a great job. I'd also recommend Edward Herrmann, who reads many of David McCullough's non-fiction books (John Adams, The Johnstown Flood, Mornings on Horseback, The Great Bridge) and read Caleb Carr's The Alienist. I'd love to hear the Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter. Lisette Lecat, who reads the Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies No. 1 Detective series, is probably responsible for a large part of the popularity of the audiobook versions of these works.

Audiofile Magazine maintains a Golden Voices page with details about many of these narrators. Many read under multiple names -- so Frederick Davidson is David Case, who passed away in September.

There are also some great productions, such as the audiobooks of Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori (starting with Across the Nightingale Floor).
 
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Hrothgar

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jemm said:
Well I mostly only have the regular stuff. But I find Stephen Fry excellent at the Harry Potter series. I don't like the Jim Dale (US) versions so much - although I've only heard clips of them. That might be because I'm not american.
I actually find Jim Dale's readings of the Harry Potter books to be superb. He doesn't so much read them as perform them. He establishes a particular voice and inflection for every character and is amazingly consistent in going back to that voice every time the character speaks (if you've ever had an enthusiastic parent try and read you a bedtime story in this manner, or tried to do it yourself, you'll know how hard this is to pull off). I especially like his voices for Hagrid and Hermione. I'm not sure what being American has to do with enjoying it, as Jim Dale himself is British. Why they use different narrators on either side of the pond is a mystery to me. I've never heard Stephen Fry's readings, but I'm sure he's excellent as well.

Jim Dale's penchant for voices reminds me of Peter Dennis' excellent performance of A.A. Milne's ("Winnie the Pooh," "The House at Pooh Corner," etc.) books. He also assigns wonderful voices to all the characters and sticks with them throughout. When readers do this, you start to forget it's one person reading and can easily begin imagining these characters actually talking to each other and to you (especially invaluable when it is something that will be enjoyed by children). It's an amazing talent.

I'd also like to recommend Martin Shaw's unabridged reading of "The Silmarillion." The mere ability to successfully pronounce the littany of people, places, and things in Tolkien's mythology deserves a medal. But Shaw also successfully speaks Elvish and generally delivers a compelling reading of dense material as well.
 

moriond

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Hrothgar said:
I'd also like to recommend Martin Shaw's unabridged reading of "The Silmarillion." The mere ability to successfully pronounce the littany of people, places, and things in Tolkien's mythology deserves a medal. But Shaw also successfully speaks Elvish and generally delivers a compelling reading of dense material as well.
Back in February, the NY Times ran an article "Audiobooks Have Their Henry Higgins". Recorded Books, LLC employs a full-time pronunciation researcher, Paul Topping, who has been working for them in this capacity since 1994. One paragraph started, "Perhaps nothing is trickier than pronouncing words that don't exist. . ." and went on to describe the process by which Scott Brick worked with Brian Herbert to determine the correct pronunciation for 498 words of "Chakobsa", the language developed for Frank Herbert's Dune books.

Topping, incidentally, got started in this when studying Telgu and Armenian in grade school in upstate New York, then went on to study German, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek in high school, and majored in French and Portuguese in college. For the last five years he's been studying Korean. "In September he entered a Korean singing contest in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Onstage before 10,000 gathered for a Korean thanksgiving festival, wearing a traditional hanbok ('a big purple dress,' he explained), Mr. Topping sang all four verses of the Korean national anthem. He won first prize, a Samsung 20-inch flat-screen television, which he lugged out of the park with difficulty before hailing a cab."

Part of the extra audio listening experience is hearing the pronunciation -- it's what makes the audio versions of books like the Ladies No. 1 Detective series read by Lisette Lecat or Ireland read by Frank Delaney (the author) more enjoyable than just reading the book. The flip side to this is annoyance at hearing things mispronounced. The NY Times article mentioned that Blackstone Audiobooks had to cast a new narrator and issue a new release of "Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land", which earned a Pulitzer Prize for its author, but which was widely criticized for the mispronounced Hebrew and Arabic in the intial audiobook release. I've also noticed that some terms in Scientific American articles from Audible have been mispronounced, and wonder whether others have found this to interrupt their train of listening.
 

Vance

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The pronunciation issue is one of the reason why I encourage my kids to listen to audiobooks.

Another great "character" reader is Barbara Rosenblat doing the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters (mysteries with archealogists in Egypt in the early 1900's). I heard an interview with both the reader and the author which was VERY interesting. Peters said that she had Rosenblat's voice characterizations in her head as she was writing the subsequent books ever since the first recording, and that the characters had become a kind of joint creation between reader and author.
 

moriond

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Barbara Rosenblat's readiings of the Amelia Peabody Series are among Recorded Books, LLC's bestselling titles. I forgot to mention that there are sometimes "extras" to the Recorded Books recordings. For example, in the Patrick Tull narration of Chapter 1 of "Post Captain" by Patrick O'Brian, the narrator actually sings the ditty about the naval reaction to peace -- the lack of opportunities for promotion and what the admiral, captain, lieutenant, and midshipman plan to do (and also how the doctor will go set up as mountebank in a country fair). I've never heard that in the other audio recordings (by Robert Hardy, etc.) of this work.
 

jemm

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Vance said:
The pronunciation issue is one of the reason why I encourage my kids to listen to audiobooks.
I was given the Harry Potter first book very early on as an audiobook after I had read the book about 5 times from my parents. I was the only one pronouncing 'Hermione' correct for ages at my school!

I'm glad my parents encouraged me to read and also listen to audio since I found it a very relaxing thing and still do!
 

Vance

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My daughter (9) plays her audiobooks on a little Rio Nitrus while she is doing art, and other little projects in her room (she does a great deal of cutting and pasting of stuff to create art montages, etc) and I am not sure whether the books are something to do while she is "working" or whether the "work" is something to do while she is listening!

Personally, I tend to find little odd jobs around the house so I can listen while I do them.
 

arsolot

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moriond said:
I'd love to hear the Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter.
I've got Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as read by Stephen Fry. He is excellent, and while so is Jim Dale (I recall Dale's reading of Lucius Malfoy [Draco's father] as reminding me of the marvelous voice of James Mason), I prefer Fry.

But, I'm a fan of Stephen Fry. I enjoyed him in the Jeeves & Wooster TV series. And I've read some of his books, and listened to his book, The Hippopotamus, which was read by Stephen Fry. The Hippopotamus is one of my very favorite audio books.
 
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