What are some good Audiobooks?
April 17, 2007 10:14 PM   Subscribe

What are some really amazing audiobooks that people would highly recommend?

I've recently heard Al Franken's Lying Liars and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go on mp3 and cd respectively and I'm becomign convinced that the audiobook itself can be an artform. Those are both books that I had read before but it was a totally new experience hearing them from good orators.
What are some particularly good Audiobooks that would leave a lasting impression?
Fiction slightly preferred, but I'm open to everything.
posted by Holygrail2 to Writing & Language (45 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
Truman Capote -- In Cold Blood
David Sedaris -- (most of em)
Patrick O'Brien -- The Aubrey/Maturin Series -- important note: there are two different versions of this series (at least) and one of them is not good. the other is very good. listen to a sample first!
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 10:22 PM on April 17, 2007

Not fiction, but Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation and The Partly Cloudy Patriot, and not just for the guest voices. If you can get past Vowell's own voice -- and I found that it doesn't take long -- they're charming and enlightening.

My wife is a fan of fiction audiobooks, and she recommends the reading of Pullman's His Dark Materials along with Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter, if you can get hold of the latter in the US.
posted by holgate at 10:28 PM on April 17, 2007

These are non-fiction (memoirs), but all three Frank McCourt books (Angela's Ashes, 'Tis and Teacher Man) are narrated by Frank himself... They're wonderful (especially Angela's Ashes ~ but don't see the movie, it's crap)... His lilting Irish voice is wonderful.
posted by amyms at 10:32 PM on April 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

The three books of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass). They were narrated by the author but the dialog was read very well by a full cast. Plus, the first book is going to be a movie by Thanksgiving.
posted by awesomebrad at 10:48 PM on April 17, 2007

On postview, oops.
posted by awesomebrad at 10:49 PM on April 17, 2007

The Bluest Eye read by Lynn Thigpen was wonderful. Toni Morrison's text is so poetic, I can't decide if I prefer it spoken or read.

The Silence of the Lambs in audio was great, I listened to it as a pre-teen in bed at night and wow that was fun.

NOT Jeremy Irons reading Lolita. He drones. Sexily, but still.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:15 PM on April 17, 2007

I must second Stephen Fry's reading of HP. Go to Amazon.co.uk; they ship to the US.

For storytelling: Donald Davis. Aunt Laura and the Crack of Dawn is lovely.
posted by jaruwaan at 11:23 PM on April 17, 2007

Ever heard of The Teaching Company? They tape prominent professors giving full-course length lectures on their areas of expertise. I've listened to about 10-12 of them, I'm hooked. They're not all great, some are just okay, some are too basic. But the good ones are so fantastic, I've been telling lots of people about them.

My top recommendation is for University of Pennsylvania History Professor Thomas Childers. I've listened to his series on Hitler's Third Reich, it was as engrossing as just about any movie I've ever seen. I promise you it's not shallow History Channel bullshit, it's serious in depth analysis of the sort you'd get in a good college level history course. Childers definitely knows how to build drama within a lecture. His careful framing of the events of WWII really made me eager to listen to each successive lecture.

Good luck, this thread should be great for audiobook fans.
posted by bluejayk at 11:23 PM on April 17, 2007

John Hodgeman's The Areas of my Expertise audiobook is fantastic - read by the author (the PC from the Mac vs. PC ads, and a sometimes correspondent on the Daily Show) in hilarious deadpan. There's musical accompaniment too. Samples here.
posted by Paragon at 11:29 PM on April 17, 2007

story, storytelling, and accents: Find any of the Alexander McCall-Smith No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, as read by Lisette Lecat. The stories are fun, light "whodunits" that tell a bit about life and history of Botswana. Lecat has a fantastic accent (I think she's South African?) that really lends itself to the story's setting and matches the somewhat rambling "oral" feeling that all the books have.

(also check out this old thread and some of the others tagged with audiobooks for some more recommendations)
posted by whatzit at 11:31 PM on April 17, 2007

Sigh, I hate to admit it, but the entire Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale is amazing and fun. I held out for a long time, not wanting to be one of those adults-who-read-harry-potter, but I finally caved in and became obsessed. Well worth the listen. These, unfortunately, are not yet available on Audible.com, you have to buy them on CD.

David Sedaris books, read by the author, are fun. Orson Scott Card's "Enders Game" (multiple narrators) was a very well done audio book. George Orwell's "1984" was an intense read/listen, and very compelling.

I've been listening to audiobooks during my commute for a year or two now--I'm sure I'll think of a few more good ones later, and I'll be sure to post them.
posted by Alabaster at 12:03 AM on April 18, 2007

I've cast a vote for Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Some excellent voicing there. And, while I was introduced to him via Tony Hillerman's mysteries I'll listen to pretty much anything voiced by George Guidall - esp my all time fav American Gods
posted by mce at 12:46 AM on April 18, 2007

Alan Rickman doing Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native.
posted by zadcat at 12:48 AM on April 18, 2007

Audiobooks that I've listened to and really enjoyed:

His Dark Materials series narrated by the author Phillip Pullman and cast.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman, narrated by George Guidall.
George Guidall is awesome! I also recommend his narrations of The Epic of Gilgamesh and Wicked.

I love Roy Dotrice's narration of The Song and Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. It broke my heart when I found out he stopped at the third book. The new narrator is alright though.

Oh and I can't forget Rob Inglis's awesome narration of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. He even sings all the songs!
posted by meta87 at 1:09 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Roy Dotrice reading most of George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I couldn't stand his voice at first, but about 3 minutes in I saw the error of my ways. He does a fantastic job, and I was very, very sad to see someone else read the (so-far) final novel of the series.
posted by esilenna at 1:09 AM on April 18, 2007

Keep an eye out for Frank Muller as the narrator. Also, anything by George Guidall, such as American Gods.
posted by tomble at 3:36 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I mean anything narrated by George Guidall, of course.

Frank Muller did a wonderful reading of The Great Gatsby, which took that book from a high school chore to a wonderful piece of literature in my mind.
posted by tomble at 3:37 AM on April 18, 2007

Douglas Adams did the audiobook reading for all of his books except for his last ('cause he was dead) and starship titanic (cause it sucked).

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Life the Universe and Everything
Restaurant at the End of the Universe
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish
Mostly Harmless

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

Last Chance to See ( a non fiction work about looking for endangered species)

He had a great voice and read with the inflection and style that only the original author can.

His final book "Salmon of Doubt" is read by a number of people and while quite good, is also quite sad. The first 2/3 is articles by or about Adams, the last 1/3 is the unfinished novel.

And, if you're not too strict about the "book" criteria, the BBC produced radio show of the hitchhiker's guide is also quite enjoyable.

William Gibson's reading of Neuromancer is also quite good, assuming that you can get used to his southern drawl, which eventually becomes quite soothing.
posted by jaded at 4:04 AM on April 18, 2007

America the Book Audiobook is hilarious. It is narrated by John Stewart and has guest appearances by other Daily Show people. I drove from CT to Chicago and back, and listened to it on repeat the whole time.
posted by sneakin at 4:07 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell read by Simon Prebble of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
posted by mattholomew at 4:22 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Second anything by Frank Muller. If he had recorded the phone book, I would listen to it.
posted by Raybun at 4:56 AM on April 18, 2007

Thirding the recommendation of anything read by Frank Muller (particularly 1984 and All Quiet On The Western Front).

Another narrator I haven't seen named here is Scott Brick - he read In Cold Blood, Under the Banner of Heaven and Dune, all of which were utterly fantastic.

Michael York (Logan 6) does a good narration of Brave New World too.

Ron McLarty's narration of Stephen King's Salem's Lot is great as well.

Love John Hodgeman's The Areas of my Expertise too.
posted by Lucinda at 4:58 AM on April 18, 2007

Excellent thread.

I just picked up an audible.com account. My first pick was Freakonomics, which was good but dry- I don't know if I would recommend it as an audiobook. I just finished the last chapter an hour ago. It was an examination of how children's names indicate socio-economic status. So, lots of "...consider the following 20 names from high income, white families in the 1980s. [Reads names]. Now here are the top 20 names from *low* income white families in the 1980s. [Reads names]." It seems like the kind of thing you could scan with your eyes in five seconds, but you can't scan when you're listening.

I have to agree with alabaster- the Harry Potter books read by Jim Dale are among my favorite ever.

If you like John Hodgeman's voice, which I do, 'Areas of my Expertise' is very good.

In podcasts and the like, here are some of my favorites. I love these things:

This American Life (Free podcast, and you can purchase archived episodes on iTunes or Audible)

Radiolab (Free. Fascinating, and very well produced.)

Ricky Gervais, but I think this is a love him or hate him proposition.

Claybourne. This is a radio drama produced in New Zealand. It is 95 five minute long episodes. It's excellent- very well written and produced. It's free. The only problem with it is that it apparently ran out of funding, so the storyline ends mid-sentence. So many good things end that way.

I would be very interested to hear whether anyone knows of any quality radio drama available online. For some reason most of what I find is very poorly produced and written, and seems to be trying to emulate "classic old time radio." Why do they do that? Instead of trying to do something new and different, it's like the people involved in audio drama seem intent on reinforcing the idea that the format died in the 50s. I am unaware of anything else like Claybourne, which seemed to be a genuine attempt at something new. The SciFi channel made a sincere attempt to revive radio drama about 7 years ago but gave up.
posted by JamesToast at 5:19 AM on April 18, 2007

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. No idea who was reading it, but it was great.

Also, City of Falling Angels by John Berendt was excellent.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:26 AM on April 18, 2007

-Corelli's Mandolin, read by Stephen Lang
-(again) Anything by Frank Muller- I especially liked the Stephen King & Anne Rice ones.
-I can't stand George Guidell's tone and will not listen to anything by him except the Tony Hillerman ones.
-I thought Jeremy Irons was fabulously creepy in Lolita. (also reading Brideshead Revisited)
-David Sedaris live, esp. Me Talk Pretty One Day
-Mark Hammer reading Faulkner, James Lee Burk, or Stuart Kaminsky

I also enjoyed listening to War and Peace- about 49 cassettes as I recall. I never would have gotten through it in hardcover, and I wouldn't have known how to pronounce the names.
posted by MtDewd at 5:47 AM on April 18, 2007

Can't believe I forgot:
Alexander Spencer reading P.G. Wodehouse !!

also, Bill Bryson reading his stuff and Prodigal Summer read by the author.
posted by MtDewd at 6:02 AM on April 18, 2007

I haven't listened to many audiobooks, but I thought Ian McKellen's reading of the Odyssey was quite good.
posted by Durin's Bane at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2007

I've had an audible account for 2.5 years. I don't know what your tastes are, but here are some I've really enjoyed -- which usually means both a good story and a good reader (I've starred some of the absolute standouts). I will note that compared to my dead tree reading, my audio book preferences tend towards thrillers and nonfiction, and away from literary fiction. I just find it more difficult to listen to, and appreciate, literary fiction in the audio format. Likewise, I find the format (with the right reader) can actually enhance a thriller or an otherwise dry piece of nonfiction.

Happy "reading"!

Heart-Shaped Box
Joe Hill

*The Faithful Spy
Alex Berenson

Act of Treason
Vince Flynn

*The Thirteenth Tale
Diane Setterfield

Erik Larson

Echo Park
Michael Connelly

Sharp Objects
Gillian Flynn

The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials, Book 3
Philip Pullman

*The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials, Book 2
Philip Pullman

*The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1
Philip Pullman

*The King of Lies
John Hart

Jolie Blon's Bounce
James Lee Burke

No Second Chance
Harlan Coben

Shanks for Nothing
Rick Reilly

The Innocent
Harlan Coben

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Max Barry

Chasing the Dime
Michael Connelly

Odd Thomas
Dean Koontz

*The Narrows
Michael Connelly

City of Bones
Michael Connelly

*The Lincoln Lawyer
Michael Connelly

A Darkness More Than Night
Michael Connelly

Jeffrey Eugenides

Lost Light
Michael Connelly

*The Johnstown Flood
David McCullough

*Under the Banner of Heaven
Jon Krakauer

*The Closers
Michael Connelly

James B. Stewart

Company Man
Joseph Finder

*The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

*The Memory of Running
Ron McLarty

*The Last Juror
John Grisham

Alexander Hamilton
Ron Chernow

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon

*The Company
Robert Littell

*The Devil in the White City
Erik Larson

Skinny Dip
Carl Hiaasen

posted by pardonyou? at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

I second liking Jeremy Irons reading Lolita. Also T. Coraghessan Boyle reading his short stories Tooth and Claw. And from Audible, Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God"
posted by readery at 6:52 AM on April 18, 2007

JamesToast, do you ever listen to A Prairie Home Companion on public radio? I think they do a great job with audio drama, in their short bits like Guy Noir. I would say it pokes fun at old-time radio drama, rather than trying to imitate it, and usually the results are pretty entertaining.

All I can add here is yet another David Sedaris recommendation.
posted by vytae at 6:52 AM on April 18, 2007

vytae- yes, actually, a Prairie Home Companion was my introduction to audio drama. I like what they do, but it seems like something they play around with on the side. As you say, they're all 'short bits.'
posted by JamesToast at 7:02 AM on April 18, 2007

Go to the NPR archives and download as much of This American Life as you can. FANTASTIC audio short stories and essays from a wide variety of voices.
posted by krark at 7:48 AM on April 18, 2007

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection, read by the author, is outstanding. Gaiman's delivery really adds to the stories.
posted by tdismukes at 8:27 AM on April 18, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife was the first audiobook that really grabbed me. Since the story switches between the two main characters, there are two narrators on the audiobook and I think they do a great job. Annoyingly, it's abridged, so keep that in mind if you read the book too.
posted by cabingirl at 8:39 AM on April 18, 2007

I'm going to third Hodgman -- more a performance than a conventional reading, and akin to the Little Gray Books lectures, and Jonathan Strange.

I'd also suggest the BBC's output, much of which exists in a space between drama and literature: the Tolkien novels, the Hitch-Hiker's Guide series, the Radio 4 Wodehouse adaptations with Michael Hordern and Richard Briers as Jeeves and Wooster, etc. (JamesToast: BBC, BBC, BBC.)
posted by holgate at 8:54 AM on April 18, 2007

Annoyingly, it's abridged, so keep that in mind if you read the book too.

There is an unabridged (17 hour) version on Audible. I've been tempted, because people seem to really like it.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:04 AM on April 18, 2007

The unabridged Time Traveler's Wife is fantastic. It's what I'm listening to currently, and can't recommend enough.

I fell in love with Richard Condon listening to the unabridged audiobook of The Manchurian Candidate, read by Christopher Hurt.

Scott Brick is the ringer qua ringers in terms of audiobooks -- I love his readings of David McManus' Positively Fifth Street, Michael Lewis' Moneyball and David Lehane's Mystic River; I just got a copy of him reading Kevin Guilfoile's great Cast of Shadows, but haven't listened to it yet.

Ron McLarty is also excellent -- his Salem's Lot is terrific -- and Frank Muller is wonderful, too -- his reading of, coincidentally, another King story, The Breathing Method, is what kicked off my current era of audiobook appreciation.

Tom Stechschulte's read of Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island is also first rate.

The Jasper Fforde/Thursday Next books read by Emily Sastre, also recommended above, are good listens as well.

The works of Chuck Palahniuk make uniformly excellent listens -- he really writes for the ear.

I found I couldn't stand Simon Prebble's Cryptonomicon after about eight hours.
posted by blueshammer at 10:07 AM on April 18, 2007

Dark Tower series by Steven King is great (both Guidell and Muller read em)
posted by ZackTM at 10:33 AM on April 18, 2007

Looks like someone already mentioned him, but I was going to suggest Bill Bryson. I just listened to In a Sunburned Country, but now I'm coveting this (which includes my favorite book of all time, Notes from a Small Island.)
posted by pyjammy at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2007

If your definition of 'audiobook' includes full-cast dramatizations, I heartily recommend the Arkangel Shakespeare recordings, which feature excellent casts in well-produced uncut (for some value of the word) versions of the plays. All of them. The BBC Tolkien recordings are well-regarded, and of course the Hitchhiker's Guide radio shows are among the finest in the medium. Adams's readings of his own novels are also quite good.

People say great things about Jim Dale (upthread, for instance) doing the Harry Potter books; Stephen Fry does the British releases, if memory serves, and has also gotten high marks, but listeners go over the moon for Dale. I've heard great things about Tim Curry's readings of the Lemony Snicket books (but mixed reviews of the books themselves).
posted by waxbanks at 10:55 AM on April 18, 2007

Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers — funny, well-read, slightly macabre, and reverent all rolled into one.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2007

I also whole-heartedly recommend the Harry Potter series, read by Jim Dale. Not only are the books very enjoyable, but Jim Dale's performance is excellent.

Douglas Adams' reads of the Hitchhiker's Guide and Dirk Gently series are also fantastic.

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 1:14 PM on April 18, 2007

Oh my gosh! Listen to Stephen King's The Shining, as read by Campbell Scott.

I also did enjoy Stiff, by Mary Roach, which was mentioned above.
posted by houseofdanie at 2:35 PM on April 18, 2007

If you like a good action story, I highly recommend Scott Sigler's free books Earthcore, Ancestor, and Infection, all available at podiobooks.com and http://www.scottsigler.net/ All three are a mix of sci-fi and action- I think I heard them described as techno-thrillers. Good stories, and they're free- listen to a few chapters, and if you really like them, spring for the paperbacks on Amazon.
posted by gadavis at 8:19 PM on April 19, 2007

In the Woods by Tana French
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Nthing His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
posted by jiiota at 3:33 PM on December 13, 2007

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