Audiobooks are loved by people with reading difficulties and people who like to multitask. They are inclusive and accessible, which means if you’re visually impaired, or not, these books can be enjoyed on the commute to work, on a walk or run, in the gym, when you’re cooking dinner or cleaning up at home. In the same way traditional or electronic books can leave the reader uninspired, audiobooks sometimes hit a snag that becomes insurmountable for the listener, and that is often related to the narrator’s presentation.
The narrator’s voice can make or break the audio experience, which is largely subjective. Perhaps it is the intonation, pitch, or inflection that does not hit the listening ear well. Having a book read by the author is one of my preferences; others enjoy the more theatrical readings. Whatever the cause, when an audiobook, or even just one character, sounds bad, it may be difficult to get through.
Twenty years ago I successfully moved from reading books with my eyes to reading with my ears, a process that took some work. Around that time I was hearing about the massive international bestselling novel by author Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code. The male narrator provided his rendition of the french-accented female protagonist. Every time she spoke, I wanted to cover my ears. I did not give up, but it took a good long time to finish this book. To be fair, the audiobook was successful and the narrator received favorable reviews, and there is no evidence to say many others had the same reaction as me. My difficulty tolerating a narration has been repeated only a few times over many years, and that is probably typical. Overall, the audiobook reading experience is more good than bad.
Recently I received a message from a friend, new to audiobooks. He was coming off an audio experience he did not enjoy and asked, “Do you know if there is a way to search audiobooks by narrator? I really miss the guy who narrated The Lincoln Highway.” A very good question and one I did not have an immediate answer for. It made sense, though, if you appreciate a narrator, why not follow their work? My search for the answer began on Google, where I used search terms like, “best audiobook narrators” or “audiobooks narrated by (name).” The search results confirmed that the narrators were in a league of their own. There were numerous articles ranking and rating narrators; here are links to just a few.
To be sure, I was providing a thorough and accurate response to the question, “how do I search audiobooks by narrator,” I consulted my go-to audiobook expert, Michelle Ritholz, who had also generously shared her expertise with us in a previous episode of the OE Patients Podcast. Michelle wrote, “I have two suggestions for searching for audiobooks by narrator.” Here they are:
1. AudioFile Magazine currently has more than 55,000 audiobook reviews. You are able to search by several criteria, including narrator. Each of these books is (or has been) available commercially. Here is the link to the search form on the AudioFile Magazine site:
2. You can search on both Audible and Libro.fm audiobook sites by narrator. All you need to do is locate the search box and type in the name of the narrator. For example, if you go to the Libro.fm site and type in Julia Whelan, you will get 361 results. Here is the link to the Libro.fm site with the search box:
Listening to an audiobook is meant to be easy, convenient and enjoyable. The success and growth of the audiobook segment proves it is very good overall. Should you hit a snag in the narration, don’t give up, get another book, and try again!