June is National Audio Book Month!

Did you know that June is National Audio Book Month? I didn’t until I saw it advertised on my library’s website. The great thing about audio books is you can do physical activities that make holding a book awkward or impossible while still getting your stories. Washing dishes? Walking the dog? Doing a bit of exercise? Breastfeeding or staying up with a fussy baby? These are all great times for an audio book! I know loads of people like to listen to audio books during their commute, but if you live in a city, like me, that may be a dangerous choice. That doesn’t mean I haven’t laid in bed for far too long trying to get in just a few more chapters through my headphones. Here are some audio books I would recommend in celebration of National Audio Book Month!

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, narrated by Tavia Gilbert — A harrowing memoir about the seven children and two parents fighting for their dignity in an internment camp during the Cambodian Genocide. Gilbert reads clearly and emotionally, and one benefit of the audio book is hearing correct pronunciations of the cities’ and people’s names. Dark, tragic, educational.

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes, narrated by Lorna Raver — A good, old-fashioned horror story based on Jack the Ripper. Raver does different, unique voices for each character, making dialogue tags practically unnecessary! Spooky, tense, a nail-bitter.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, narrated by Janet Mock — The audio is clear and sounds genuine. Some unusual pauses give the book a weird wavy rhythm, almost like the ocean, but overall is strong for someone who isn’t a voice actor. Hawaiian slang terms and colloquialisms are pronounced correctly. The author is honest about herself, her feelings, and her experiences. Educational, hard-hitting, fair to other trans people.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough — A thriller that credits four voice actors, all of whom narrate clearly. Half the fun is figuring out what the title refers to. When you learn about half way through, you sit on the edge of your seat wondering what bad things will befall the characters. Thriller, exciting, can’t stop listening.

The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood: Although I read Oryx & Crake, I listened to both The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam. The audio book publisher kept the same cast of actors for the same characters, creating consistency over the novels as they fall into this futuristic place. Dystopian, survival lit, multi-voice cast.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, narrated by regular audio book voice actor Orlagh Cassidy — A gentle, easygoing voice actor who pronounces clearly and gives a girlish tone to her work, which fits with the plot and main character. Surreal, a social sciences sub-plot, surprising.

Do you listen to audio books? Do you prefer one voice actor for the whole book, or different voices for books with characters who narrate from their points of view? When do you listen to audio books?

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57 comments

  1. I listen to lots of audio books – up to 200 a year. Mostly sourced from my local library but some from LibriVox and Project Gutenberg. I probably prefer one actor for the whole book, most professional readers are very good at differentiating the voices of different characters. Without being able to think of examples I sometimes get books where there are a number of readers when chapters are written from more than one point of view, and very rarely where, as in a play, there are different actors for each character. The best reading I ever listened to was Reece Witherspoon reading Go Set a Watchman. There are any number of worst, nearly always volunteers.

    Loved ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’, have borrowed it more than once. An engrossing story competently read.

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    • You’ve read/listened to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves more than once?? That makes me want to read it again. I listened to it on a drive from Indiana to Virginia — back before I had a smart phone with GPS, so I was using a paper map. I am concerned that I possible listened to the story more shallowly than I should have, but I still enjoyed it overall.

      Do you ever listen to radio plays? I knew they existed, but didn’t really get into them before I met my husband in college. He was a radio major, so he directed a couple of radio plays! It was so fun to watch the work come together. His baby was a radio play version of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.

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  2. First They Killed My Father sounds incredible. I didn’t consider how listening on audio would help with tricky pronunciations. I’m not an audio book person but might have to consider it for some books with that issue, I hate not knowing how something is pronounced!

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    • I bought The Brothers Karamazov a few years ago and am now considering listening to the audio book while reading along. I don’t know how to pronounce anything in Russian other than “goodbye” and “mouse.”

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  3. I’m a fan of audiobooks – they keep me sane on the treadmill and also while I’m ironing. I abandon quite a few just because I don’t like the voice of the person reading the book or because the narrative is too introspective…

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  4. I’m a recent convert to audios. I used to think they were a bit of a cheat but now I love them. I mostly listen in the car but sometimes when I’m out walking too. I need to be doing something I don’t need to think about so I can focus on the book otherwise I miss chunks.

    I’m not too fussed whether it’s one narrator or multiple, provided they’re clear and make it easy to tell which character is speaking.

    I’ve listened to a few Tavia Gilbert’s and she is wonderful at voices and accents. I also love Stephen Fry, Richard Armitage, Michael Sheen, James Marsters and Will Wheaton (actors often make great narrators).

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    • The guy who played Beast in the live action Beauty and the Beast, Dan Stevens, does a wonderful job! He sold me in his audio book anyone Murder on the Orient Express.

      Glad you’ve come over to the audio side. Storytelling is never cheating, no matter the medium.

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      • I’ve listened to Dan Stevens narrate Frankenstein and he was great, unfortunately however I got a little bored with the story and gave up. I have found audios a good way to venture into classics I’ve been wary of but for some reason that one just didn’t work.

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        • Frankenstein is a tough book because we’ve been sold on the narrative of the monster, but the monster is only a small part of whole novel, and when he’s finally “born,” he spends a bunch of his time telling us information in the most proper English you’ve ever heard in your life.

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  5. I didn’t know June is audiobook month! I love listening to audiobooks during my commute to work or while I’m doing mindless tasks – they make up about a third of the books I read! I’ll try just about anything in audio and love the option to sample them from my library’s digital catalog because the narration can really make or break the experience.

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  6. Oh I absolutely adore audiobooks. And in fact Audible has just come to India this year and while they only accept certain credit cards (not all) I am really hoping to manage to get a one year subscription so I can audiobook away!!!

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  7. I love audiobooks! I mostly use them for Poirot (Hugh Fraser, who played Captain Hastings in the series, narrates most of the Poirot audiobooks and he is completely perfect), but I do sometimes listen to nonfiction in this format as well. I listen on my commute and when doing housework, and sometimes while I’m gardening.

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    • Dan Stevens did a wonderful Poirot for Murder on the Orient Express, and I know people are nutty for him thanks to Downton Abbey. I tend to like listening to either thrillers or nonfiction best, as I feel like both are heightened by a voice when I’m listening. For a thriller, you FEEL the fear in an actor’s voice, and with nonfiction, I feel like I’m a journalist, listening to someone’s account of what happened!

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  8. Yes, I did know it was audiobook month; I saw it in an email somewhere and quickly made a note of it. I remember my first audiobook: How Green Was My Valley, with Ralph Cosham as the narrator. I was hooked and haven’t looked back since. I often switch between a hardcopy and an audiobook so I can stay with a book if I don’t want to put it down or have things I have to do.

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      • It’s probably for several reasons, one of which is that I started my book journal on or around that time. I loved the book and now that I think about it, maybe I should read it again just because. I confess, I also loved the narrator and even listened to a book I had no interest in reading but the narrator made me!! 🤣

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        • I think many of us have chosen media we didn’t really care for because a certain person was attached. It’s the reason I have the Nextflix movie Unicorn Store saved on my list — Samuel L. Jackson. Do I really want to watch this lady do things with a unicorn store? No. Do I want to see how Jackson handles this film that is practically the opposite of a Quentin Tarantino film? Yes. I’m also hoping Jackson will say something like, “DOES HE… LOOK… LIKE A UNICORN?”

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  9. I just responded to your comment on my post about audio books but I wanted to say that I do love when audio books are narrated by the author. It just seems to add something to hear the words exactly the way the author hears them. I have great memories of listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on road trips as a kid.

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    • I loved hearing Junot Diaz read his own collection, This is How You Lose Her, but that author and I have since parted ways after he was accused of sexually harassing loads of women, including students.

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          • There was a moment during my time at university when everyone seemed to love Diaz and so I read Oscar Wao and didn’t love it that much and felt like I must be missing something. I seem to remember enjoying his short stories more but, yes, there was definitely a repeated theme there.

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            • Junior was in Oscar Wao, even! And Oscar has this sister who almost cruelly tries to reinvent Oscar so he’ll be more “fuckable.” I didn’t love that book, either. I hated Junior, Oscar’s sister, and Oscar after he starts trying to romance (or is it stalk??) the wife. Plus, so much didn’t add up logically.

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  10. One of these days I’m going to try an audiobook! How long does it take you to get through an audiobook? I’m afraid I’d get impatient with the narrator and end up buying the actual book to read as I am not sure I’d stick it out with an audiobook (listening to anything using headphones gives me a headache, and those earbuds hurt my ears). But I would like to try one at some point!

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    • Audio books will tell you how long the CD or digital file are. A lot of them are around 10-12 hours. Does your library offer audio books? Check out the details on the library website. If headphones done work for you, you may wish to get a clock/radio/CD player for your kitchen and listen while doing dishes. I like that very much!

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      • Thanks for the great idea of utilizing the library for an audio book! I think I’d have to go the CD player/radio route for while doing stuff around the house. My commute isn’t very long (approx 15 mins each way) so I think while doing chores or working on a puzzle at home would work perfectly. One of these days I will do it!! 🙂

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  11. I’ve never listened to an audio book (I think you know that about me already) although I suspect that if my life’s circumstances ever changed, I would pick these up in a second. Also, strangely, the idea that if I ever go blind I can still listen to audio books is strangely comforting to me. Weird, right?

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    • Not weird; I think that comforts a lot of us readers. Me, I’ve been practicing reading for ages to my husband — you know, should he ever go blind! I may have told you this, but my former blogger friend Margot @ Lectito became a new mom about 2 years ago, and she was super pleased when I convinced her to check out audio books. She would listen to them while breastfeeding and sitting up with new baby.

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  12. Do you listen to audio books?

    I discovered audiobooks in 2016 and am obsessed. I listen to around 40 audiobooks a year! That’s 40 EXTRA books I read that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t utilize audiobooks!!!

    Do you prefer one voice actor for the whole book, or different voices for books with characters who narrate from their points of view?

    Ooooo good question! I actually enjoy both! If the narrator is good, I am fine with one narrator for the entire book, HOWEVER different voices can really flesh out the different characters….

    When do you listen to audio books?

    When I am driving, cleaning, doing laundry, doing yardwork…

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    • You sound like you’re on the same path as my mom, who discovered audio books just recently and now listens to them on her commute. She is nutty about them and says she has a hard time getting out of her car when the story is really good. She uses the library app Hoopla to check out books, but you can only do so many a month — 10, I think? — and she runs out of loans!

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