I love audiobooks. For me, they fill a certain niche. I listen to them when I’m walking my dog, playing video games, or partaking in any other activity that requires my eyes but not my brain. I also, unashamedly, use them to help me plough through my reading list for university (12 novels in 10 weeks is surely a challenge for anyone). I particularly enjoy using them for books I find a bit long-winded (looking at you, Jane Eyre).
I’m also aware that audiobooks can be considered a contentious subject in the literary world. Do they count as reading? Are they the same as absorbing the story with your own eyes and your own narration? My answer to both of these questions would be a resounding yes. But then I’m a millennial, and everyone knows we’re all about short attention spans and quick fixes.
So, on the back of my declaration of love for the audiobook, here is a list of my favourites. This list is based not just on the book itself, but the performance given by the narrator(s). When it comes to allowing someone else to read a book for you, this is surely one of the most important factors. My list is based off books available on Audible, just in case you were thinking of checking any of them out. I hope you enjoy!
NOS4R2 – Joe Hill. Narrated by Kate Mulgrew.
This is a brilliant book, and a valuable addition to the world of modern horror (I’ll inevitably do a review of this soon). The story focuses on Vic McQueen, a young woman who can travel through space using her bike and a mysterious bridge. She ends up using this ability to rescue her son from Charles Manx, a convicted child molester. Manx kidnaps children in his Rolls Royce Wraith and takes them to a special place called Christmasland, where he turns them into vampires and feeds of their life-force. I consider this book to be more thrilling than scary, but it is certainly brought alive by the oddly cheery voice of Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway/Star Trek, Red/OITNB).
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection – Arthur Conan Doyle. Narrated by Stephen Fry.
Everyone (I assume) knows the stories of Sherlock Holmes in some form or another. Whether it’s from the original source material, the (frankly awful) Guy Ritchie films, or the modern TV adaptation. I’ve read the books several times before, but had to download the audiobook purely because it is read by Stephen Fry. The Audible version is a commitment, it’s over 70 hours of listening, and was around £69 last time I checked. But, with an Audible subscription, it can be yours for the low, low price of £8! How could you say no? I would recommend this for old and new fans alike, as Stephen Fry certainly knows how to bring a world alive.
Dracula – Bram Stoker. Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley.
As far as classic literature goes, Dracula is up there with the best in my opinion. Stoker’s choice to tell the story as a series of letters, transcripts, telegrams and newspaper clippings (an epistolary novel for you literary buffs) is a perfect choice for a story about a mysterious creature of the night as it highlights the questionable validity of the written word. Audible commissioned a production by some pretty big stars to bring the world to life again for a newer audience. The use of the original manuscript and different narrators certainly adds to the tension of the novel, and really works with its format. This was one of many I downloaded for university and it definitely made me appreciate the quality of the novel more than I already did.
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood. Narrated by John Chancer.
It was necessary for me to include a Margaret Atwood novel on this list. Oryx and Crake is the first in her “MadAddam” trilogy; a series of speculative fiction novels set after the world is ravaged by a pill that makes people infertile. The first book focuses on Snowman the Jimmy, a man who bumbled his way through pre-apocalypse life and is now searching for his lost friends. The books are unusual to say the least, but show off Atwood’s power of imagination. Chancer’s performance is not the most noteworthy on this list, but there’s something about his reserved charm that made me enjoy the performance much more than reading the book.
Moonraker – Ian Fleming. Narrated by Bill Nighy.
Let’s be real here. If you’re a fan of the James Bond series, we can agree that Moonraker is not the best story. But Bill Nighy has an amazing voice. It’s like chocolate. He manages to bring the post-imperial, casually racist world of Bond alive with his dulcet tones. The series on Audible are all narrated by big names (David Tennant, Rory Kinnear, Damian Lewis), which gives listeners even more reason to visit this series again. I’ve read the Bond series countless times, and these audiobooks certainly breathe new life into them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and one that I’ll definitely be updating as I make my way through Audible’s catalogue. Are there any particular gems you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.