Monday, May 31, 2010

The power of the voice

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Having survived the two-day drive from Oakland to Tucson this weekend, I have a renewed appreciation of the power of the audiobook. Okay, so I admit with twin 5-year olds I was listening to children's books the entire time but nonetheless I had to admire the 'power of the voice' to keep us all enthralled during the two most deadly-dull interstates (in my opinion) - I5 and I10. Best of all was hearing Jeremy Irons narrate Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. He was so good at portraying the dreaded Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker that my boys were still talking about it when we had dinner. Despite the 100 degree heat we are so pleased to be here at my folk's place in Tucson - and, as you will hear about over the next few months, this is the first step in our summer odyssey that will take us through almost all the National Parks in the American West.

I'm pretty beat now...the toll of the heat and the driving, no doubt...but the trip was made delightful by the power of both the story and the voice - boy, am I ever grateful for the invention of the audiobook!

So what's the best audiobook you've ever heard? Any other tips for surviving deadly-dull interstate drives? Because believe me we have some ahead of us I'm sure...though even the most scenic of drives might also be enhanced by a good story. Let me know what you recommend! In the meantime, I'm off for a nice glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with my hubby...(yes, I am composing this Sunday night not early Monday morning:)!)


  1. I am driving to NC from Florida today across a boiling hell with an AC that is revolting by occasionally blowing dragon's breath into the cabin. I didn't get an audio book, but I may have something in my iPod I haven't listened to. I hope so. Last night I dreamed I had arrived home without driving there and I was elated until I awoke this morning. I'm going to be alone, and I may entertain myself by firing my handgun out the window at road signs, a huge pastime in rural Mississippi;

  2. Good luck John! I hope you do find something to listen to:)!

  3. I had tried many times to read THE EYRE AFFAIR by Jasper Fforde. When I finally got the audio book it just clicked ... the British humor comes alive.
    Another good one is the trilogy by Philip Pullman.

  4. we're driving from phoenix to atlanta....across the body of if THAT doesn't make you want to poke a stick in your eye, i don't know what would!! and i don't know what book would make it any more enticing. my only thought is that it all will eventually get me to my beloved northern michigan...and for that i would WALK across texas. kathy d.

  5. I enjoy the early Stephanie Plum books as read by Debi Mazar. She's got the tough Jersey accent down.

    Another perfect blend of voice and material is Matt Dillon reading On the Road.

    Also: Don't Be On the Road if I'm Driving by John Ramsey Miller.

  6. By far the best audiobook I've listened to is America (The Book) by Jon Stewart and friends. It's one case where the audiobook is infinitely better than the print book because we get the hilarious delivery of Jon, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, and others.

  7. Clare,
    I drove from Cincinnati to Ashville, NC a couple weeks ago. I always get about 6 different books on audio in case the reader doesn't hold my attention. I found a gem in reader Nick Podehl who read Nora Roberts The Black Hills.
    The language is not for children but this guys voice was incredible to me. It was 14 hours long and although I thought the beginning a bit slow I really enjoyed the book. You could check and see what else he's read on CD, maybe there are some kid stories. Take care and count your blessings that John is on the other side of the country.:)

  8. Far and away, the best audiobook to listen to is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Just imagine the fun noises and voices you hear coming from that tale.

  9. ooh some great suggestions here - I loved the Eyre Affair and bet the audio book is hilarious (same with Jon Stewart - though again not for the kiddies I fear!) The boys would probably LOVE the hitchhikers guide to the universe so I might check that out - it has just the kind of wacky humor they would love - even if most of it will go over their head!...oh, and I am pleased to be avoiding John on the road! Safe travels kathy d!

  10. If you like the twisty plots of Dickens, if you like a whole city of characters that are somehow inter-related, if you like the first line, "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.", you MUST listen to the audio book--the largest ever British auction for a debut novel, THE MEANING OF NIGHT by Michael Cox. I promise you, that for hours and hours, you won't mind your AC's dragon breath or anything thing else. You may even not want to stop when you get to your destination. The dramatic reading is the best!

  11. Ahhh...Audiobooks, something I love both as a listener and as a creator. There are many narrators out there who can take a good book and make it come totally alive, one such book/narrator combo is Greg Iles "24 Hours" narrated by Dick Hill. Hill is a pretty darn good actor in my opinion and has many other great books out there.

    I am also a sucker for historical fiction and find most of the audio books by Bernard Cornwell and Stephen Pressfield to be pretty spectacular.

    That being said, for those who don't know it, the authors of this blog also have a pretty good audio book out there. The short story collection Fresh Kills is available as a free podcast audiobook narrated by, drum roll Check it out at my website or via iTunes.

    While there feel free to check out my own podcast audiobooks (3 thrillers & a set of action shorts all free).

  12. James already mentioned Kerouac's On The Road read by Matt Dillon, so I'll second it. An amazing synchronicity of story and voice.

    Another delight was listening to Robinson Crusoe read by someone with a British accent.

    On the flip side, I've listened to a few authors read their own work, often with excruciating result. The exceptions being authors who are already known as performers (e.g., Bob Newhart or Sidney Poitier).

  13. For grownups, any of the John Grisham books. They are read by someone with a proper southern accent that really brings the stories alive.

    For kids and grownups alike, the entire Harry Potter series.

    Our company does mailorder and I am the packer. Hour after hour of putting stuff in boxes and taping them shut.

    I started getting the Harry Potter sets on cassette from eBay and finally scored all seven books (the last on CD).

    Incredible! Again, it was all in the narrator. They had the same one for all seven books and he developed unique voices and inflections for all the main characters that stayed constant through the books. Also, the english accent corrected all of my mental midwestern accent errors in pronunciation and tone and, again, brought the world of Hogwarts to life for me.

    I also like Jeffrey Deaver's books on audio, they translate well.