Audiobooks For A Person With Snowflakey Preferences
June 25, 2013 11:52 PM   Subscribe

This past year, I started listening to audiobooks while driving. I'm particularly drawn to how well a great audiobook reader can draw out the subtleties of the text. The reader who performed Gatsby was particularly amazing. Can folks recommend some particularly well performed audiobooks I may like? They must meet my criteria:

1. No books that are very popular in airports like DaVinci Code or The Firm.
2. No fantasy, or sci-fi.
3. No stream of consciousness, or very complicated stuff with multiple narrators.
4. Nothing with plots like The Long Goodbye. I have to typically get in and out of the car a lot, and I can't keep track of a labyrinthine plot.

I've been really impressed with the following: A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami, Country Driving by Peter Hessler, Columbine by Dave Cullen and an amazing reading of The Great Gatsby I got from the library. I'm nearly done with Columbine and I'm getting anxious about finding something that will fill the hole in my heart it will soon leave.

I read through previous audiobooks questions, and most recommendations seemed a little to fluffy for me. This question in May yielded recommendations of Tina Fey, David Sedaris and World War Z (not even quite sure what that last one is, but doesn't sound like my thing.)
posted by Hennimore to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Jeremy Irons reading Lolita is unsettling and fantastic. (It probably helped that he played Humbert Humbert in the 90s remake.)
posted by book 'em dano at 12:54 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I listen to a lot of audiobooks and have similar criteria. Some of my my recent favorites:

Villette by Charlotte Brontë, narrated by Nadia May
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, read by Anna Massey
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, narrated by Anna Fields
Watership Down by Richard Adams, read by Ralph Colsham
Anything narrated by Simon Vance, especially Dickens.

I also highly recommend Toni Morrison's amazing recordings of her own works, but they might be a bit hard to follow in the car.

Rupert Degas has narrated a couple other Murakami books you might enjoy, including Dance, Dance, Dance, which is sort of a sequel to WSC.
posted by lemerle at 3:47 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a big fan of Jane Lapotaire's reading of Vanity Fair for Naxos.

Another suggestion, although technically not exactly what you're after, is to look for radio adaptations of books. There are two excellent series from the BBC* that immediately spring to mind: the Complete Smiley, based on John le Carré's Smiley novels and starring Simon Russell Beale; and the Complete Ripley, for which you just need to substitute 'Patricia Highsmith', 'Ripley', and 'Ian Hart' into the previous description.

* Honestly, if you decide to go with radio drama, you can get a long way just by looking at the Radio 4 site.
posted by smcg at 5:15 AM on June 26, 2013

+1 for Simon Vance. His reading of the Dragon Tattoo books is especially well done, though I wouldn't necessarily recommend that series to you as they fall outside your criteria for a number of reasons.

He's narrated a lot of books - shows almost 500 titles credited to him (he wasn't the sole reader for all of those, however). I don't have a specific title recommendation for you, but when I looked through the list there seemed to be quite a few that would fit your criteria.
posted by Arrrgyle at 5:23 AM on June 26, 2013

Some of my favorite audiobooks from my commute:
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (which I think you might like since you like Murakami)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (the Sissy Spacek narration)
One Mississippi by Mark Childress

I've also enjoyed some books that might be too "popular" for you, although I don't think they should be categorized with Grisham:
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Several of Stephen King's novels (although I don't like reading Stephen King): Carrie, Under the Dome
posted by Kriesa at 6:22 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently finished The Help, and while it does have 4 narrators, it's all one stretch of time, shared places and characters, just internal narration by 4 characters (in different chapters), so not at all hard to keep track of. Fantastic writing, great narration, a really engrossing audiobook.
posted by acm at 6:45 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not sure if you want nonfiction, but I love listening to Bill Bryson read his own books (mostly about travel.)

In A Sunburned Country
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
A Walk in the Woods
Notes from a Small Island, one of my favorite books ever.
posted by pyjammy at 8:40 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you like Columbine, you might try In Cold Blood, which seems from the sample to have good narration.

In Audible, you can search by narrator. Try looking at the catalog of some of the greats, like Ray Porter, Jonathan Davis, Dick Hill, and Wil Wheaton. You'll find plenty of nonfiction and literary fiction.
posted by slidell at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2013

I really enjoyed Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, read by Barbara Caruso.

The plot isn't complicated (it's a memoir about a single year, mostly focused on a much shorter period), and its particular mood seemed extremely well suited to having someone read it to you while your eyes are busy concentrating on the road.
posted by carbide at 2:53 PM on June 26, 2013

« Older if i liked the movie l'avventura, what books will...   |   Teach me meat science, pretty please Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.