Your favorite books on tape?
November 16, 2005 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Your favorite audio books?

(I know it was discussed before, but I cannot find it, sorry)
I remember hearing that the narrator is almost more important than the book itself, when it comes to the quality of an audiobook. I'm driving from Orange County to San Francisco and I don't want to have to listen to music the entire time.
Things that are available on iTMS are a plus.
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Writing & Language (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I wrote this thing on lifehacker based on two previous ask mefi threads on audiobooks, along with my own recommendations.
posted by mathowie at 12:28 PM on November 16, 2005

I had a lot of fun listening to this recording of The Hobbit. Rob Inglis is really great to hear. I only have one caveat-- although The Hobbit is a short book, only about 300 pages, Inglis reads so dramatically (not to mention singing all the songs) that the final recording clocks in at eleven and a half hours on ten CDs. As soon as I got it, I ripped it to MP3 and burned the whole thing onto a single disc.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2005

I didn't answer on the last two threads, but after reading them, I must agree with the recommendations of Scott Brick and Frank Muller. They are my two favorite narrators.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2005

Harry Potter, read by Jim Dale. He's got all the voices...

I imagine his voice when I read the books. Good stuff.
posted by UncleHornHead at 12:52 PM on November 16, 2005

I was going to recommend Nancy Willard's Things Invisible To See and Micklethwait's The Company ... but I encountered them at the local library and can't find either searching a few web sites or the iTMS.

So now I'm wondering what the best way to search for audiobooks is.
posted by weston at 12:59 PM on November 16, 2005

The Butcher Boy, read by the author Patrick McCabe. I had read the book myself first, but the author's vocal shadings really illuminated the layers of the story. (Don't think about the movie.)

I took it on a road trip and my friend's 15 year old son sat in the car for 10 minutes once we arrived to hear the end, and then remarked "boy, that was the best book I never read!"
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:06 PM on November 16, 2005

Here's a link to one relevant previous Q&A, on February 5, 2005: I'm looking for recommendations for great audiobooks, and, in particular, great readers..
posted by WestCoaster at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2005

Bryson's A Brief History of Nearly Everything (or whatever it's called) is excellent.

The Tender Bar written and read by JR Moehringer was also very good.

Eugenides' Middlesex was a terrific reading (can't remember the reader)

Dunno about iTMS but they're all available from Audible.
posted by dobbs at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2005

I posted the Feb 05 query regarding audiobooks, and I've continued to listen to them since, so I have some very definite opinions. It sounds as if you're looking for a one-time thing, though, right? If that's the case, you just want to find a good combination of reader and writer. It would help to know what kind of books you like and exactly how long your trip will be. It won't do any good for me to recommend Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which is a wonderful audiobook, if you a) don't like fantasy or b) don't have thirty-two hours to devote to the experience. Can you provide a few more parameters?
posted by jdroth at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2005

The America book by Jon Stewart et. al. is really great. It's a 3-CD book, read by Jon himself with the correspondent pieces read by Samantha Bee, Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert and Rob Corddry. If you like the Daily Show (and even if you don't) it's worth a listen.
posted by apple scruff at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2005

I'm not so much a fan of war or CIA books but I loved the audio book : Charlie Wilson's War. I listen to a lot of books, and this is by far my favorite reader. It's a fascinating true life story about CIA/Pakistan/Afghanistan that reads like spy fiction.
posted by ill3 at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2005

I would recommend any and all of the books by Dick Francis - great mysteries, and read with a British accent (which is why I much prefer the listening to the reading of these). And all about the horse racing world, which is another bonus for me (the horses more than the racing).

And the books all pretty much meet the criteria Matt laid out in his Lifehacker post - fun, but not really deep.
posted by bibbit at 1:42 PM on November 16, 2005

Another nod for Bill Bryson's A Brief History of Nearly Everything here!

It's the only one of his books that I've listened to rather than read, but I've enjoyed everything he's done so far, so I imagine the other audio versions are also good.

I also enjoyed Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as read by Eric Idle.

And as Matt points out in his link -- anything by David Sedaris is infinitely better when being read by the man himself.
posted by Robot Johnny at 1:44 PM on November 16, 2005

I really enjoy books read by John McDonough. He has read over 800 books so take your pick!

The ones I have listened to were Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck and
Wicked by George Maquire.

I second Frank Muller. His readings of the first 4 books of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King are excellent. It is so unfortunate that he had a motorcycle accident and couldn't finish the series. His predecessore George Guidall is also great though.
posted by meta87 at 1:46 PM on November 16, 2005

Oh I forgot. I have to disagree with the Jim Dale recommendation for Harry Potter. I really liked Stephen Fry's reading more. Although you really can't go wrong with either.
posted by meta87 at 1:48 PM on November 16, 2005

I don't know if this counts, but the BBC have recently released full audio dramatizations of all 38 Shakespeare plays. My library has the whole line; they run 2-3 CDs per play.

I've done 11 now and they're pretty consistently good.
posted by futility closet at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2005

Best answer: The hell with it: I'll just make some recommendations, without waiting for more info. These have all given me pleasure over the past year. They all feature great stories and skilled readers:

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brien, read by Patrick Tull — an exciting tale of naval adventure during the Napoleonic era, and the first of a series of books

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, read by Cherry Jones — this book tells several intertwining stories in a Depression area small southern town

Mind Wide Open by Steven Johnson, read by Alan Sklar — this is sort of lite non-fiction about advances in brain research, and it has some interesting moments, but don't expect anything resembling depth

Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell, read by George Guidall — a fantastic translation of the oldest narrative known to man and a fantastic reading, highly recommended

My Antonia by Willa Cather, read by George Guidall — a wonderful book filled with vignettes about life on the prairie during the last part of the 19th century

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, read by Frederick Davidson — another wonderful book, this time about a priest in apartheid South Africa coping with the coming murder trial of his son

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Lisette Lecat — I had picked this up out of desperation and did not expect to like it, but found it top-notch fun: a Botswanan woman starts a detetive agency and investigates crime — feels very African

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, with various readers — one of the best books I've audited, though it's probably too long (20 hours) for your purposes — the beginning can be a struggle, but if you stick with it, the payoff is worth it

And, of course, I can't leave the thread without recommending Proust:

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, read by John Rowe — a piercing meditation on time, memory, and love, but the language can be daunting — not for the faint of heart

As I said, if you can provide a bit more info about your preferences, we can tailor recommendations to suit your needs.
posted by jdroth at 1:55 PM on November 16, 2005

American Gods, read by George Guidall, is fantastic. It's a great story to begin with, and Guidall's voice is amazing. I'd pretty much listen to a phonebook, if George Guidall read it.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2005

america the book
posted by at 2:16 PM on November 16, 2005

I'll second the recommendations of Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and Neil Gaiman's "American Gods".

I'll also add "Blink", by Malcolm Gladwell, and "Freakonomics", by Stephen Levitt.

"Snow Crash" was great too.

I'm reading "Pattern Recognition" right now, and it's the first audiobook I've gotten that I really don't like the reader much...

All that said... screw iTunes. I <3 audible/a>...
posted by twiggy at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2005

your best answer is a good one, and one of my favorite narrators does the No. 1 Ladies' Detectives Agency series of little mysteries set in Botswana. The narrator, Lisette Lecat, has a beautiful voice and an accent (South African?) that matches the main character Mma Ramotswe and the lilting, sometimes rambling path of the stories themselves. It's available as digital download from Amazon, don't know about iTunes.

One of Lecat's other Ladies' narrations was listed as a Best audiobook of 2004 by Audiofile, a "magazine for people who love audiobooks." Their list covers a wide variety of genres and includes reviews and details that may help you choose more books.
posted by whatzit at 2:25 PM on November 16, 2005

I third America: The Book, I really enjoyed that one, I actually listened to it twice when my boyfriend and I drove cross-country, but that's mostly because I often lose track when listening to audiobooks and need to go back and re-listen to the places where my mind wandered off. We also really enjoyed Garrison Keillor's reading of Huck Finn.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:32 PM on November 16, 2005

The Kite Runner, read by the author is the best I've ever listened to.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 2:41 PM on November 16, 2005

Anything by Sarah Vowell, read by her. The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Take The Cannoli are my favorites.

Samuel Pepys' Diary, read by Kenneth Brannagh, from Highbridge Audio. I listen to this over and over.
posted by shifafa at 3:17 PM on November 16, 2005

I've really enjoyed Al Franken's audiobooks. While they have a definite political slant (you'll hate the books if you hate Franken's political positions), they're hilarious. And the physical texts just can't compare to Franken's readings.
posted by rockstar at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2005

Response by poster: thanks guys- I ended up getting "freakonomics" and "The world is flat". Some of the other suggestions look great, too, which I'll try in the future if I enjoy this whole audiobook experiment.
(jdroth- would've given more info but I've got very eclectic tastes and like and dislike things out of every genre... as it is, if I had read your suggestion before I had already purchased the others, I'd almost certainly have gotten Gilgamesh as well- thanks!)
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:01 PM on November 16, 2005

Anansi Boys! I forget who the reader is but he's pretty good. Gets Carribean/British/American accents spot on
posted by pantsrobot at 4:40 PM on November 16, 2005

The Night Manager by John LeCarre and Essays on Love by Alain DeBotton. Both great.
posted by madstop1 at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2005

Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon. Narrated by Frank Muller . From Recorded Books.

..Snip: The real life of this book lies in the amazing variety of American originals the lonely and curious author meets along his journey: Kentuckians rebuilding log-cabins, a Brooklyn cop turned Trappist monk in Georgia, Cajun musicians on Bayou Teche, and the boys in the barbershop in Dime Box, Texas.
posted by Triode at 5:58 PM on November 16, 2005

Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell. Great reader.
posted by kaestle at 8:01 PM on November 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

Flo Gibson is the ULTIMATE Jane Austin reader... and she’s pretty damn fine with Dickens, Kipling, and Baum, too. She’s the perfect Grandma-tells-a-story voice.

Frank McCourt is the ULTIMATE Frank McCourt reader.

Jeremy Irons is the ULTIMATE Evelyn Waugh reader. (Was once stuck in a rental car with a single tape from Brideshead; listened to it loop about 3 times one long afternoon, loving the language more and more each time...)

Alexandra O’Karma IS Beryl Markham in West With The Night, and Annie Dillard in An American Childhood, but she simply IRRADIATED The Queen’s Gambit; it’s within 1 or 2 of being my favorite Audio Book of all time...out of thousands.

Richard Farrone is my personal favorite thriller-reader; for some reason I always think I’m listening to Willem Dafoe when I hear him; who seems to me just the person I’d prefer to have telling me grim and dangerous story.

Barbara Kingsolver was pretty ultimate narrating her own Prodigal Summer.

I’m afraid I eventually wearied of Frank Muller’s relentless portentousness (except in All The Pretty Horses, where it was PERFECT), but the world around me vanishes with the first breath from George Guidall (any T.Hillerman), Patrick Tull (The Breaking Wave still gives me goosebumps at the thought) or Barbara Rosenblat (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn)...

If you missed Lonesome Dove, Lee Horsley does a fine job with it, and you should get to it...

All my other MANY favorites I remember chiefly as books, not especially as narration, so I’ll stop with these.
posted by dpcoffin at 8:58 PM on November 16, 2005

Harry Potter, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings

Eragon (Inheritance Trilogy #1)
Christopher Paolini, Performed by Gerard Doyle
ISBN: 1400090687
Format: Compact Disc, 5pp
Pub. Date: February 2004
Publisher: Listening Library, Inc.
Edition Description: Unabridged, 14 CD, 16 hrs. 25 min.

Eldest (Inheritance Trilogy #2)
Christopher Paolini, Performed by Gerard Doyle
ISBN: 0307280721
Format: Compact Disc
Pub. Date: August 2005
Publisher: Listening Library, Inc.
Edition Description: Unabridged, 20 CDs, 23.5 hrs.

The Horse Whisperer [UNABRIDGED] (Audio Cassette)
by Nicholas Evans, Frank Muller (Narrator)
Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (May 4, 1998)
ISBN: 0553502204

The Smoke Jumper [UNABRIDGED] (Audio Cassette)
by Nicholas Evans, Eric Conger (Narrator)
Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (May 4, 1998)
ISBN: 0553502204

The Loop [UNABRIDGED] (Audio Cassette)
by Nicholas Evans, John Bedford Lloyd (Narrator)
Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (September 8, 1998)
ISBN: 0553502107
posted by chase at 4:32 PM on November 17, 2005

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