If you have been following me for a while, you know that audiobooks are my format of choice. Listening to an audiobook is an immersive and captivating experience. Contrary to popular opinion, studies have proven that there is not much of a significant difference in comprehension between reading and listening.
For those just starting out or planning to explore the medium, a great narrator can make all the difference. Enhancing and sometimes even defining the experience. The right narrator can even make a mundane story a joy to listen to. It would not be wrong to say that they can make or break an audiobook.
That said, narrators are often under-appreciated. Much like translators, they rarely get the recognition they deserve. Needless to say, it is difficult to identify and pick the best narrators.
We’re way off the Audiobook Month (June) but do we really need a dedicated month to appreciate the charm of audiobooks and celebrate the narrators? As an avid audiobook listener, I share with you a list of my favorite narrators and recommendations for what I consider their best works. Voices that bring books to life.
At the top of the list is the incomparable Stephen Fry. The first audiobook series I listened to was the Mythos series written and narrated by the legendary actor. There has been no looking back since.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Sherlock Holmes collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse series, and of course the Harry Potter series. You will be spoilt for choice.
Coming in a close second is the fantastic Julia Whelan. If you have enjoyed a Emily Henry book on Audible, you probably have heard her narrate. Educated by Tara Westover. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Need I say more? The award-winning narrator has more than 500 titles under her belt.
Don’t miss Thank You for Listening authored and narrated by Julia herself. A piece of fiction, it can also be considered a behind-the-scenes look at audiobook production. Definitely recommended.
Bahni Turpin is an award-winning powerhouse narrator with titles across genres, be it non-fiction essays or young-adult fiction. A voice that pulls you in and keeps you hooked. I know I have a good audiobook in my hands with her name in the credits.
Some of her popular titles that are my favorites include The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Everything, Everything, and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.
As a South Asian reader who enjoys listening to audiobooks, nothing irks me more than the anglicized (and often weird) pronunciation of desi words and names. Why publishers choose to pick a narrator who does not even take the time to learn the correct pronunciation also baffles me.
Deepti Gupta is an award-winning ownvoice narrator. I listened to her on-point narration of Lioness of Punjab by Anita Jari Kharbanda and have been a fan ever since. I do hope more audiobooks narrated by her will be available in India soon. I am particularly looking forward to listening to the Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Book Of Everlasting Things by Aanchal Malhotra, and All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir.
Taking a cue from a fellow blogger and lifestyle journalist Noor Anand Chawla’s Poirot Project, I have been planning to reread the Agatha Christie series. In audiobook format this time. The audiobooks narrated by Hugh Fraser on Storytel are a goldmine.
You might recall Hugh Fraser as the actor who played Captain Hastings in the Poirot TV series. The books including the ever-popular And Then There Were None, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd are such a delight to listen to. Do check them out.
Some more recommendations
Celebrity narrators have always been popular with audiobooks. Tom Hanks, Richard Armitage, Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Or closer home, Rahul Bose. A word of caution, though. A celebrity narrator does not automatically reflect a good book. Case in question, Heartburn by Nora Ephron narrated by Meryl Streep.
Check out some top-notch narrations that I have enjoyed.
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (narrated by Tom Hanks)
- Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney (narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine)
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda)
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch)
- Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (narrated by Lynnette R. Freeman and Simone Mcintyre)
- Smoke and Ashes by Amitav Ghosh (narrated by Ranjit Madgavkar)
- Aanandi by Jyoti Jha (narrated by Jyoti Jha)
- The Strange Death of Anindyasundar by Anish Deb (narrator by Rahul Bose)
Do you read audiobooks? Who is your favorite audiobook narrator? Do share in the comments below.
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