best dramatized audiobooks?
February 24, 2013 1:17 PM   Subscribe

I've been recovering from a brain injury and find reading very hard, so I've really enjoyed listening to audiobooks. But not books just read out loud: dramatized adaptations of them, with a varied voice cast, background music and sound effects -- the lot. I've listened to the BBC dramatization of the Hitchhiker's Guide and a wonderful version of the Foundation Trilogy. What other fantastic dramatized audiobooks can I feed my temporarily defective brain with? Happy to consider both free and paid suggestions. Thanks in advance!
posted by idlethink to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
The BBC radio dramatization of the Lord of the Rings is rightly famous.
posted by colfax at 1:36 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Golden Compass books - Phillip Pullman ( I also like his melodrama series The Ruby in the Smoke The Tiger in the Well, etc.)
Charles Stross - The Laundry Novels - not full cast but excellent voice work

Generally I find that full cast readings of young adult books tend to translate pretty well.
posted by edbles at 1:36 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

BBC Radio 4 dramatized all the Le Carre novels featuring George Smiley a couple of years ago as the Complete Smiley radio plays which I quite enjoyed. I don't know if there's a legit way to get them, but they're probably still available on the torrents.
posted by russm at 1:52 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

FYI, a little googling for "Complete Smiley" found a box set of CDs on amazon, and individual books (which tended to run at ~3 episodes each) on iTunes.
posted by russm at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2013

The Harry Potter series has one narrator, Jim Dale, but his voices for each of the characters brought new life to the books for me and mr. mitt.
posted by ovenmitt at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

The audible version a World War Z is unfortunately abridged, but is still good. There are different actors reading each chapter.

I enjoyed the audio version of The Help...the novel has three main narrators, and there's a different reader for each.
posted by maryrussell at 2:47 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Very pleased to see LOTR as the first suggestion on here! The BBC adaptation is excellent. (Avoid the Hobbit; it's a very VERY dated recording and very hard going, sadly.) You'll find VAST amounts of BBC recordings for sale at their official website (there's a US site too, if that's where you are), and you can buy both CDs and downloads from them. Highly recommended, and if you're happy to explore their back catalogue (there's Shakespeare adaptations and all sorts), prices are pretty good.

Also worth exploring the BBC Radio 4 podcasts on iTunes. There's plenty of drama, but also lots of other good things to stimulate your mind. Particular favourites of mine are "More or Less" (about numbers in the news), "In Business" (bet you can't guess the subject matter!" and The Friday Night Comedy (better than most other Radio 4 comedy at the moment, IMHO!). All excellent listening.

I also have a soft spot for the Reduced Shakespeare Company (not BBC!) CDs, which (depending on your sense of humour) may be good for cheering up a dull day...

As for Harry Potter, as Brit, I have to wave the flag for the Stephen Fry versions. No music and only his voice, but my children listen to them incessantly (and I enjoy them too!) and took a lot of convincing that it was just him! They're outstanding.

Wishing you a full and speedy recovery (though perhaps not tooo speedy, as there's a lot of great listening out there for you!)
posted by monster max at 2:49 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Similar to dramatized audiobooks, Old Time Radio shows can be excellent listens - and many of them are in the public domain and downloadable via the Web - good sources are and Wisconsin Public Radio.
posted by apennington at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2013

I realize you said audio books, but the radio play versions of the original Star Wars Trilogy are terrific. Even in my cynical old age, long after I've lost interest in the movies, I still love those radio plays. They have the original sound effects and music from the films and many of the same actors.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:17 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites] has almost too many selections. Here are dramatized classics with top ratings.
posted by bearwife at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing the BBC's Lord of The Rings, and suggesting that maybe The Hobbit isn't as bad as monster max suggests (it's certainly better than the later American dramatisation, at least to my ears).

Other suggestions:
  • The BBC Radio 4 adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories, with Clive Merrison (as mentioned a few times previously on MeFi).
  • BBC Radio's Earthsearch I / II / Mindwarp, and The Destruction Factor, by James Follett.
  • Definitely the NPR Star Wars trilogy - though the first is definitely the best, they are all pretty good.
  • The BBC's adapations of John Wyndham's Chocky, The Chrysalids, Survival, The Midwich Cuckoos, The Kraken Wakes, and The Day of The Triffids.
  • Robert Rankin's The Brightonomicon.
If your tastes extend further than books into straight radio plays:
  • Absolute Power (with Stephen Fry and John Bird) - the radio series was later adapted/extended into a TV series.
  • BBC Radio 4's Nebulous - a comedy serial with Mark Gatiss (less annoying than usual too!)
  • At Home With The Snails - surreal, and a bid hard to describe.
  • ElvenQuest
  • Old Harry's Game - comedy of philosophical arguments between the Devil and a morally upright professor (who only ended up in hell because he didn't believe in God).
  • The Spaceship - sort of The Office / People Like Us, in space.

posted by Pinback at 4:07 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about this NPR dramatization of A Canticle for Liebowitz? [previously]
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

The BBC keeps on coming up in the above recommendations because they still produce a large quantity of radio drama of all sorts, not just dramatizations of books (though there are plenty of those): 15 minute plays, series, brief adaptations of books or short stories, many-part adaptations, one-off 90 minnute plays, occasionally adaptations of current West End productions (e.g. Collaborators), and even soap opera. Most are just available to stream via the iPlayer for seven days, but some are available as podcasts (e.g. Drama of the Week).
  • Drama on 3
  • Radio 4
  • Radio 4 Extra (mostly repeats -- things keep on coming round here, so if you miss something it might well be repeated in a few months).
All for free too!

[Minor nitpick: Hitchhiker's Guide wasn't "dramatized" for radio -- that was its first incarnation; books, computer games and movies all followed later.]
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 5:20 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also: I don't know what your tolerance is for Doctor Who, but there are a whole mess of radio stories for that series by Big Finish Productions.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2013

The Butcher Boy, spoken by the author. I'd read the book, but the story was much clearer in the shadings of the recording. After a long drive, we sat in the garage of the hotel and listened to the last ten minutes. My friend's teenage son put it best, "That was the best book I never read!"
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:22 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Kingdom Come," based on the fantastic graphic novel/series of the same name, is outstanding. It's the twilight of the superheroes, with a full cast. Recommended without reservation.

It doesn't seem to be on Audible, so you make have to explore other avenues to acquire it...
posted by MShades at 6:53 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know you said books, but Pontypool was edited into an excellent radio drama as well.
posted by odinsdream at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

these are so wonderful -- thank you all so much. I'm sure I have enough to occupy my convalescence ten times over, but feel free to keep them coming for the benefit of future threadreaders. as for me: migraine-vertigo-dizziness-inflected boredom be gone!
posted by idlethink at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2013

I would second maryrussell's recommendation of The Help
posted by tedunni at 6:29 AM on February 25, 2013

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