So lately I’ve been really on the audiobook train. It used to be that I couldn’t “read” audiobooks unless they were books I’d already read (e.g. Harry Potter). But I’ve been finding it incredibly soothing to get things read to me. And audiobooks are especially helpful if I’m doing something boring like dishes or laundry and I just need to get it done, but I don’t want to waste precious reading time.
That said…it takes a lot for me to borrow, buy, or use one of my Audible credits for an audiobook because I am super particular about the narrators. I will sift through entire catalogues of books from Audible or my library, and I’m like, “nope, too deep”, “nope, too old”, “nope, too British.” Like, seriously, Tiff? TOO BRITISH? (affirmed Anglophile here).
I’ve tried to sort out a list of things I look for in audiobook narrators, and while it does change with every book (and my expectations of that book), here are the things I’ve narrowed down:
Mostly YA Lit’s Necessities for Audiobook Narrators
- Must actually care about what they’re reading: This is the bare minimum. I can’t remember which audiobook I was reading, but it was one where it literally sounded like the narrator had picked up the book that day and started reading. Very little inflection and everything just sounded like a monotonous loop of words. Nope. If you’re an audiobook narrator, I expect you to have read the book at least once, if not twice to make notes.
- Voice must fit the main character of the book: This is a biggie for me. The narrator for Outlander had a lovely, older, crusty lady voice, and if it had been a lovely, crusty, older lady she was narrating for, I would have been golden. Unfortunately, the main character in Outlander is a young woman in her twenties, and the story is a romance, and I just…could not have her reading me love scenes in that voice. It didn’t work.
- Voice must be pleasant: this sounds obvious, but it actually isn’t. What’s pleasant to certain people is not pleasant to others. For instance, I loved that Felicia Day narrated her own book, but her voice was a bit grating to me. That said, I forgave her because the book was good and it was ABOUT HER, so I wouldn’t want another narrator.
- Must be able to do voices or each character in the book must have a distinct sound: I had this problem with the audiobook for The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – I couldn’t finish it because I kept getting confused by who was talking when. When you’re reading to me, I want it to be almost like a play.
- Voice must fit the tone of the book: this is probably the most important one, and also the vaguest one. I can’t explain it, but above all, the mood that the narrator creates has to fit the mood of the book. If it does, you can usually break a lot of the other rules. For instance, Will Patton did the audiobooks for The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Now, admittedly, I haven’t listened to the first book, where most of the narration is through Blue’s eyes, but in The Dream Thieves, I still felt like anything with the women still worked really well because he got the tone of the books and understood the aural implications of each inflection. Similarly, in Scarlet, from Marissa Meyer‘s The Lunar Chronicles, narrator Rebecca Soler uses her own voice to narrate most of the description, even though Scarlet has a French accent. That didn’t grate on me at all because she really understood the pacing and mood of the book, and thus, it flowed effortlessly. It also didn’t bother me that she used her own voice to narrate Cress or Fairest because the tone of each book is still there.
I should also stipulate, however, that it doesn’t bother me when my husband is reading out loud to me – none of these things apply. I guess because I know he’s not paid to do it? =p If you’re paid to be the narrator, I expect a lot, especially since audiobooks are fairly expensive and for me, they take a long time to listen to.
What about you? Are you picky about audiobook narrators, or will you listen to anyone narrating anything? Do you even read audiobooks? If you’re a heavy audiobooker, who are your favourite narrators that you’ve listened to?