I’ve listened to 25 audiobooks so far this year. I just checked. Frankly, I’m a bit blown away by that number.
What prompted me to look at my list was a post by Melanie at Reclusive Bibliophile, who just finished her first audiobook and is looking for suggestions for what to pick up next. As I scanned my LibraryThing collections for recommendations I could pass along, I found myself thinking about the first audiobook I finished and the impact it had on me.
I only started listening to audiobooks in 2009. Before then, I didn’t really “get” them. I’d heard bits and pieces of various productions, all of which I hated. They came across as phony, overdramatic, and sometimes even painful to listen to. I didn’t understand that, just as there are good writers and not-so-good writers, there good audiobook readers and their not-so-good counterparts.
At Book Expo America in 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris, the readers for Muriel Barbery’s bestselling novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I picked up a signed copy of the audiobook, figuring I could always give it away if I hated it.
But oh. I did not hate it. I loved it.
I listened to The Elegance of the Hedgehog almost nonstop one weekend, driving a total of 6 hours to and from Boston to visit a friend. I was enthralled. I could not wait to get back in my car and start driving again. The way the readers breathed life into their respective characters was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I was hooked.
After finishing The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I began seeking out other well-done audiobooks. Initially I always borrowed them from the library, as my early experiences with audiobooks had taught me to try each one before committing. Now that Audible.com offers free online samples, feeding my semi-addiction has gotten much easier. I always have an audiobook loaded up on my iPod shuffle. When I cook, clean, knit, walk, even drive, I’m always listening to an audiobook. (Though, um, not with headphones while driving.)
Personally, I’ve found I prefer audiobooks told by rather than about the characters. Pair a first-person narrative with an outstanding reader and it’s like having someone telling you her story. I’ve tried fancy productions like the Harry Potter audiobooks, but they’ve never done anything for me. I prefer the intimacy of having one or two characters talk to me. Any memoir or first-person fiction is fair game.
Over the next few Fridays, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite audiobooks by group: fiction, classics, nonfiction, and young adult. These are all productions I’d recommend to anyone, whether you are new to audiobooks or have been listening much longer than I have.
Of course, I’ll be asking for your recommendations on future posts. But for now, I’m curious: Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there certain genres or styles you prefer as audiobooks over others? If not, are you interested in trying them?