Is there life after Dickens?
August 25, 2010 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Is there life after Dickens? (What should I try next after listening to all of Dickens via audiobooks?)

Over the past year or so, I've listened to nearly the entire Dickens canon of novels on audiobook. Dickens is of course one of the novelists whose work gains the most from interpretation by a gifted voice actor who can handle the range of class and regional dialects the novels require, along with just plain quirky characters with their own idiolects.

Several days past Our Mutual Friend (I'm holding off on Edwin Drood for now), I'm starting to feel withdrawal symptoms. What authors/works would you recommend as similarly benefitting from the audio format—where a good audiobook turns it into practically another order of art altogether? Preference for continuing with 19th-century British, but all English-language suggestions welcome!
posted by Creosote to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so glad other people do this, too. I just spent the last few months reading all the Jane Austen novels and and now I am watching every version of the movies for each one. Totally delightful. I don't know anything about audiobooks for Jane Austen, but I certainly recommend her nonetheless.

For audio books not in the 19th century, David Sedaris reads his own books and that really makes a big difference in the tone of the stories.
posted by CathyG at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2010

The Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle should prove to be similarly entertaining.
posted by grizzled at 8:23 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by thivaia at 8:35 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Trollope occurred to me. But will I be able to get anything else done (that I can't do without earphones on anyway) in the next four years? :-)
posted by Creosote at 8:45 AM on August 25, 2010

I was going to suggest Austen. The stories are similarly convoluted and humorous, though there's less direct social critique.

The Holmes stories are another great suggestion.
posted by Miko at 9:08 AM on August 25, 2010

If it's the sound of a talented English voice you crave, I do have some favorites. I quite enjoy the sound of Neil Gaiman's voice, and he read for his audiobook of The Graveyard Book (like the jungle book, except for animals in a jungle it's ghosts in a graveyard). Stephen Fry did a great job on the copy of The Hobbit I have, and it's a short book at that.
posted by lizbunny at 9:11 AM on August 25, 2010

Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, read by Simon Prebble. It's a fantastic book and the narration is excellent (Mr. Prebble does all kinds of accents.)
posted by capnsue at 9:23 AM on August 25, 2010

You might want to check out Wilkie Collins. Some of his stuff is a bit melodramatic, but he tells some good stories that I think might well gain from the audio format. Oeuvre size is similar to Dickens, not in the Trollope range. Try The Woman in White or The Moonstone to start with. Some of his other works, while still good, are a bit more obscure and might not be available in audiobook form. If they are, though, give 'em a shot.
posted by littlecatfeet at 9:28 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As for Trollope: Start with The Way We Live Now. See how far you get. You could also try Vanity Fair, if you haven't already, which is one of my favorite books of all time, though I'm not sure how long it would take to get through it as an audio recording. If you like you're interested in the class/industrialization aspects of Dickens (with, admittedly, less humor), you might also consider Elizabeth Gaskell.

Though technically written in the early 20th century, both Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh and Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale might also work for you.
posted by thivaia at 9:28 AM on August 25, 2010

Vanity Fair is Thackeray, by the way. Just realized I didn't make that clear above.
posted by thivaia at 9:31 AM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: Watching this topic with interest, as I've also gone through all of Dickens and need long, long, old-school audiobooks to survive!

Highly recommended, with stellar reader/book combination:

Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell, tremendous reading by Simon Prebble
Ivanhoe, also read by Prebble, hurrah!!
The Moonstone, cosily read by Peter Jeffery
Jane Eyre, read by Lucy Scott, I'm not normally a Bronte fan but she really sells it
Crime and Punishment, the George Guidall version, though its a real downer
Ireland, read by the author Frank Delaney in a showy and entertaining spectrum of regional accents
Divided Kingdom, not 19th century in any way, but in love with language and with a beautiful reading by Glen McReady
Ulysses, eye-opening production led by Jim Norton, requires full concentration
The Master and Margarita, Julian Rhind-Tutt, strange and absorbing
The Barchester Chronicles, dramatized, full cast. Soap opera but posher.
All the Pratchett readings by Stephen Briggs are great company, and he's your man for the voices and accents. Monstrous Regiment is both my favorite and the longest.

Still pretty good:

Middlemarch, read by Nadia May
Wives and Daughters, ditto, also North and South.
The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnet-- I've heard people rave about the books, still trying to get into it myself, but interesting
The American Boy, pretty good mystery with a first-class reading by Alex Jennings
posted by Erasmouse at 9:33 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding Wilkie Collins. The free Librovox recording of The Woman in White is very good.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 9:36 AM on August 25, 2010

I enjoyed the master and commander series as read by Patrick Tull. I think there are 2 or 3 narrator options for these books, but tull really nails the accents, pauses, and expresses the emotions of the characters perfectly. Each character has a different voice, and you can really tell who are you listening purely by Tull's inflections and accents.

The series covers your English, late 1700-1800s perfectly.

And if you saw the movie, don't worry, none of the books follow that plot line exactly. It was a separate story made up of several of the books plot lines combined.

Give the first one a listen, if you enjoy it, there are 20 or so more to listen to :)

My library had all the books available for audio book as well, which saved me a lot of cash.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2010

As a Dickensian, I know whereof you speak when it comes to addiction and withdrawal.

I know I'll get pilloried for this, but Jim Dale's reading of the Harry Potter books is simply amazing. Amazing. Every character is given a different voice, a different inflection, and the whole thing just flows so smoothly.

He won a Grammy in 2008 for his work on "...and The Deathly Hallows".
posted by willmize at 11:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Beardman at 11:29 AM on August 25, 2010

Dropped by to second Master and Commander, with Patrick Tull narrations only. Very sharply drawn characters as in Dickens, and a close and authentic look at the period as in Dickens.
posted by bearwife at 11:58 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Some very nice suggestions are piling up! Re Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, in fact I tried that as an audiobook a couple of years ago, liked the narration, was too bored by the plot to continue after 10-12 hours. I've gone through all of Austen in audiobook, as well as Pratchett, and thorougly second the recommendation of the latter. Oh, and in return let me recommend any of Michael Chabon's books in audio form you can get--his own reading of Summerland is a wee notch below professional but grew on me immensely, with excellent character voicing .
posted by Creosote at 12:08 PM on August 25, 2010

Came in to recommend the Barchester Chronicles, so I'll nth Trollope as far as they go (altho I recently found Dr. Thorne quite unlistenably boring, so I counsel caution. Ditto Cranford by Gaskell; big disappointment after enjoying the video…), along with Wilke Collins. You might also check out Hugo and Dumas, esp. if you've got an Audible account; I'm currently quite enjoying the Count of M.C. which was only $5 from Audible, for over 50 hours… and have Les Mis. queue'd up, which was similarly inexpensive.
posted by dpcoffin at 1:32 PM on August 25, 2010

Cancel that warning on Doctor Thorne; once I made it through the opening hour and a half of pure set-up discourse that proceeded the first instance of dialog, all was well.
posted by dpcoffin at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2010

« Older I need to Get Things Done on my iPhone   |   Recommend a Skype camera/speaker setup for a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.