Friday, January 28, 2011

new semester, new classes, and audiobooks

Classes started this week.  They were surprisingly good.  As has been true every semester since I started driving down to UTown, my choices were dictated less by what I wanted to take than by my driving schedule, so I wasn't really looking forward to them.  But, as has also been true the other semesters, I think they will end up being interesting anyway.  But ohmygod do I have a lot of reading to do.  *AB quails before the thought*

Starting The Drive again reminded me about audiobooks.  I neglected audiobooks when I did my post about the books I enjoyed reading last year because I completely forgot about them.  It doesn't feel like reading when you're listening, or at least not to me.  But I depend (heavily) on audiobooks to keep me sane during my interminable time in the car, so I almost always have one in progress.

My requirements for audiobooks are a little different than for regular reading, though, so take these with a grain of salt.  I spend a lot of time in the car on the days I'm headed to UTown, but not so much on the other days. So I don't want an audiobook that I'm so sucked into that I end up listening to it around the house after I get home.  In other words, I want something entertaining, but not too entertaining.  Also, I've found that a good narrator makes a mediocre book interesting.  All three of the ones that come to mind from last year are books that I'm sure I would not have liked if I'd read them in print.  But with a good narrator doing voices and inflection and bringing the story to life, I'm hooked, even though the book itself isn't all that great.  So the three I remember are David Rosenfelt's Open and Shut, the first in a series of books about a nutty lawyer in New York City who solves impossible crimes; Julia Quinn's It's In His Kiss; and ...oh, I'm really embarrassed to admit this... Robyn Carr's Whispering Rock.  

I'm a so-so fan of Quinn's.  I've read half a dozen of her books in print, and only one or two of them are ones that I thoroughly enjoyed--but they were good enough that I keep trying others of hers just in case.  Her heroes often have a subtly condescending, isn't-she-cute attitude toward the heroine that just grates on me.  But either the hero of It's in His Kiss isn't that bad, or the narrator (Simon Prebble, who is terrific) more than made up for it, because I really did enjoy this one.  The plot kind of wanders around in a way that would have made me crazy if I'd read it in print, but while driving, stopping for gas, getting something to eat, not listening for a couple of days, etc, I lost track of that and just went along for the ride.  It was great.  And Robyn Carr...honestly, it's like listening to a soap opera.  Everybody in her little town is perfect, even their flaws are perfect.  but you know, soap operas can be addictive, and it was just what I needed for the drive last fall.  I'd be utterly hooked while I was listening, and then forget all about it when I was out of the car.  Perfect.  apparently there are 8 or 9 in that series (Virgin River, I think it's called), so if I ever am in the mood for another one, they're just out there waiting.

The only one I can recommend unequivocably is House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, narrated by Eleanor Bron.  It's a great book and a great narrator (make sure you get the right narrator, because there are several different versions on audible).  Bron's delivery is crisp and elegant, but subdued in a way that reflects all the stuff that's going on under the surface of that repressive New York society.  Although as I've said before, it's a great book because it so accurately describes a particular time and place, not because you'll like it or any of the characters. 

So what audiobooks and/or narrators have you enjoyed? any recommendations for me?


  1. Bona Fide Betty is your best choice for info here, she had a discussion about this very thing. I know nothing about them. Seriously. Nothing.
    With one exception. I have a friend who records them now. She did local radio voice work for years but in the past year or two has picked up some contracts for books. I'll have to ask her what she's done so far.
    If I ever need one of these I am going to ask you and BFB for recommendations.

  2. Simon Prebble rocks the house. He read the first audiobook I ever listened to-- Hot Money by Dick Francis. I don't think I've read a Dick Francis before or since, but I thoroughly enjoyed that one.

    Lorelei King absolutely makes the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. I'd listen to anything she read.

    Johanna Parker does an excellent job with the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. She was also very good with the Mediator series by Meg Cabot. YA, but entertaining, with a nice romantic element.

    And Jim Dale is completely amazing as the voice of Harry Potter. I associate him so strongly with that series that I can't listen to him read anything else, which is a real shame because he's extremely talented.

  3. Love Stephanie Plum and I enjoyed the first couple Sookie Stackhouse but then lost track. But I haven't listened to any of them on audio-- great idea! I read Meg Cabot's princess books along with my daughter but haven't read the Mediator ones. thanks for the suggestions.

    But we already have listened to the entire HP series with Jim Dale. He is awesome, I hear his voice in my head now when I re-read them.