Audiobook Narrators: Are You Picky As I Am?

November 1, 2015 / 15 Comments / Blogging Life, Discussion, Personal

mostlyyalit_discussion_titleGuys, am I the only one who is extremely and utterly picky about who narrates my books to me?

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

  1. 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.
  2. Gabaldon_outlanderVoice 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.
  3. Voice must be pleasant: this sounds obvious, but it actually isn’t. What’s pleasant to certain people is not pleasant to others. youreneverweirdontheinternetFor 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.
  4. Must be able to do voices or each character in the book must have a distinct sound: thewinnerscurseI 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.
  5. 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 scarletbecause 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?

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15 responses to “Audiobook Narrators: Are You Picky As I Am?

  1. Great post I agree with all of these points! I am a super heavy audiobook user so I totally get it. I am flabbergasted that you didn’t enjoy Davina Porter reading Outlander! She is not crusty!!! Even though I lol’ed when I read that description. I like to think of it as distinguished. I also have listened to the remaining 7 books in the series in her voice and in those books Claire is about 20 years older so maybe my memory is a off. One thing she did that I though was absolute amazing was portray all the male roles in different tones. In fact, she did this so well I swore there was a male counterpart reading those parts. I beg you please give the later books a chance should you continue on. They are absolutely brilliant.
    I have come across a few meh audio’s….quite a few actually and the thing that usually kills me is voice thing. Some times I persons voice just doesn’t mesh with my ears. The only Audi book I actually HATED to the point where it destroyed the book was The Falconer by Elizabeth May which sadly was also read by her. She did this really strange cadaence whet the end of the sentence. I’m sure it was meant to be artistic but it was obnoxious, and all the men sounded like creepsters. It was just bad all around. Take a peak at the sample of that one and I’m sure you’ll be able to pick up on what I mean. As you can see I love my audiobooks so I also love this post! I will def give the Raven series a try in time for The Raven King. I’m plowing through The Lunar Chronicles and The Grisha Series right now and both are pretty decent.

  2. AWESOME post Tiff^^ I’ve been on a HUGE audiobook kick of late and like you, I’m still discovering what I like and don’t like where narrators are concerned. When I listened to Eleanor and Park, both the narrator that did Eleanor’s voice AND the one who did Park’s sounded bored, uninterested and UNINTERESTING. I had other issue with that book but I know their narration affected my overall experience with the book. I ADORED listening to Sabriel, which is narrated by Tim Curry and he does and absolutely incredible job. It fits the tone of the book perfectly and he’s really into the story! I’m loving listening to Ready Player One at the moment too because Wil Wheaton is so bloody brilliant at narrating that, it’s almost unreal. I actually just recently posted my review for The Lost Hero narrated Thank you for your tips with regards to Outlander, Raven Cycle, Lunar Chronicles and Winner’s Curse. ♥

  3. I only listen to books I have read as I listen at work so I don’t have to pay 100% attention. But it is seriously all about the narrator. Honestly if I listened to Anna and the French Kiss without reading it I probably won’t have liked the book. I didn’t enjoy the narrator at all for that one. She was a girl trying to do a boy voice in a British accent. It was so muddled. But I will say Throne of Glass has the best narrator.

  4. I totally am the same way and I am super picky about my audio books. If the voice isn’t right, I will not listen to the book no matter what. I need a voice that will be distinguishable between different characters and one that won’t bore me. A good narrator will draw me in. Great post you have here!

  5. I am SO picky about narrators. I didn’t use to be at first and it’s totally ruined my experience of a book. I’ve found that I hate breathy voices (SPEAK UP) and I generally get along with most male narrators for some reason. I think I’m pickier about female voices!
    I was so surprised to find out that Will Patton was the narrator for The Raven Cycle but I actually really, really enjoyed his narration. I totally wasn’t expecting to but I think he does a really great job. I mostly enjoyed Rebecca Soler’s narration but listening to the audiobooks back to back started to wear on me a bit. She does a fab job but some of her voicing (omg, I hated Winter’s voice in Cress) bothered me and the way she voiced Scarlet, I also didn’t like.
    I LOVE when the narrator puts so much enthusiasm into the voice and you’re like “YES, YOU’RE JUST AS EXCITED AS I AM!!” Wil Wheaton does a great job with that I also love MacLeod Andrews for that too <3

    • That’s so interesting, Brittany – because I think I get along better with female voices than male ones. As soon as I hear a male, I immediately think to myself, “is the MC a dude?” If he’s not, then I get annoyed. That said, I LOVED Will Patton and was surprised by him as well. I thought I’d hate his Blue, but I don’t at all.

      Rebecca Soler’s Scarlet took me a lot to get used to, especially because she didn’t THINK in a French accent, but she spoke in one…that was weird, right? But I liked her Winter – it kind of reminded me of the actress who plays Luna Lovegood in the HP movies, so it worked for me.

      YES, it’s very exciting when the narrator is super-excited, it just makes it that much more fun to read.

      Thanks for your thoughts, and I will check out Wil Wheaton – I feel like I’ll always think of him as Wesley Crusher and that might be a problem, haha.

  6. I totally agree with everything you’ve listed! I started listening to audiobooks this past spring and I am incredibly picky!! I feel like we have the right to be picky though because a narrator can make or break a story! When I find an audiobook narrator I like I always look to see what else they’ve done!

    I also thought Rebecca Soler did an awesome job on Cress! The narrator’s of An Ember in the Ashes and The Martian were really good too if you’re looking for something new 🙂

    • I’ve been trying to finish An Ember in the Ashes – maybe I should try audio? I got about a third of the way through and I just got stuck.

      Haven’t really heard much about The Martian, is it a good story?

  7. AC

    I can’t stand Will Patton’s slight Texas accent. It drives me insane bevause it keeps pulling me out of the story. He needs to say the letter E as eh not I. It’s PENNY, not PINNY, CENTER not CINTER. He changes the words and it takes me out of the story because I’m like, what the hell is tin cints? Oh, ten cents! For crying out loud, there is a whole vowel he chooses to ignore!

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