Top Ten Audiobooks

I haven’t participated in Top Ten Tuesday these last few weeks because the topics didn’t apply to me. Top debuts I’m anticipating for 2015? Um, don’t know any… Top ten books I meant to get to in 2014 but didn’t? Well, there’s only a couple… This week, however, the topic is a freebie! Top Ten whatever we want. And I want to talk audiobooks!

I didn’t start regularly listening to audiobooks until August of 2010. There were maybe three or four that I’d listened to before that time, and only one pre-blogging. I fell in love with audiobooks in 2010, however, and over the last few years, I’ve listened to 86 of them. I keep a directory of audiobooks listed by narrator, and I’ve marked the ones that are particularly wonderful performances. There are 19 marked this way, and I wanted to take today to highlight the ten best-of-the-best in my few short years of audio-listening.

1. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, narrated by Alan Rickman – This was the performance that hooked me on audiobooks, and remains my favorite review ever written. It’s funny, because in general, I have disliked classics on audio except for revisiting old favorites with specific celebrity narrators. Return of the Native was a first-time read, and yet I loved it. Rickman might have something to do with that. 😀

lolita2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, narrated by Jeremy Irons – A reread of an old favorite, performed by a celebrity. I say “performed by” instead of “read by” because it really was performed. Irons was Humbert Humbert. It was an amazing performance, and helped me to understand the book far more than I did the first time I read it in print. And I’ve watched this particular audiobook turn Lolita-haters into Lolita-lovers (as in Lolita the book, not Lolita the character…), so it must be very, very good.

3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, narrated by Donald Sutherland – is there any doubt that Donald Sutherland is the perfect narrator for Hemingway? This is a book that I’d read and loved multiple times prior to the audio version, and I never would have considered listening to an audio performed by anyone else. When I read a book enough times, it gets a rhythmic soundtrack in my head, and I don’t want that ruined by someone else’s interpretation. Sutherland was perfect, though, and enhanced the book rather than ruining it.

4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal – Another old favorite I didn’t want ruined/changed by an audio-listen. I was told this one was really good, however, and I gave it a try. Gyllenhaal added dimensions I’d never thought of before to the text, and it was brilliant all the way through. I was incredibly impressed with her subtle vocal changes through Esther’s journey downwards and upwards again. It was powerful.

Host-Stephenie-Meyer-unabridged-compact-discs-Hachette-Audio-books5. The Host by Stephenie Meyer, narrated by Kate Reading – I was leery going into The Host after my not-so-hot experience with Twilight, so I decided to try on audio, as I’m generally more forgiving of books that way. This turned out to be brilliant. Kate Reading is one of my very favorite audio narrators, and this is where I discovered her. She made the book and characters come to life. (And enter my dreams for weeks on end, heh.)

6. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, narrated by Jenny Sterlin – Sterlin was perfect for this book, and its two semi-sequels. I especially liked the subtle Welsh accent of Howl’s. This is one I’ve listened to many, many times now. I almost always revisit Howl on audio instead of in print, it’s that good. It’s one of the few audiobooks I’ve actually bought. I wish Sterlin read all of Jones’ audiobooks!

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale – Everyone raves about Jim Dale, especially his performance of the Harry Potter books. I’ve not listened to those – see my reasons under The Old Man and the Sea above – but he certainly did a fabulous job with this book. The audio made me love the book even more than I did in print.

Good-Omens-3397438. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, narrated by Martin Jarvis – As I said with The Host above, Martin Jarvis really made this book come alive for me. Yes, I would have loved the book in print, but the audio was just so much more. The voices Jarvis gives the characters are so distinctive and memorable. This is one I’ve listened to multiple times.

9. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield – I’m not always a huge fan of multiple narrators in an audiobook, but as this one was mostly Lowman, and Caulfield only read out the excerpts at the beginning of each chapter, it worked for me. The story and narration together combined to make this one a nonstop listening experience for me, something that rarely happens with me and audiobooks.

10. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark, narrated by Simon Prebble – I admit, this one is a bit of a cheat answer. I’m not all the way through this audiobook yet. It’s 26 disks long! However, as I’ve listened to 16 of them at this point, I can already tell that this is going to be one of the best-of-the-bests on my audiobook list. I’m particularly enamored with the way Prebble manages the footnote sections. And despite its length, I am very happy I chose to experience this book on audio instead of in print. Though I’ve recently found out there’s illustrations, and therefore must acquire a paper copy, too…

So what’s your favorite audiobook? Any narrators or performances you particularly enjoy(ed)?


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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11 Responses to Top Ten Audiobooks

  1. Akilah says:

    Love this!

    I’m a big fan of Gerard Doyle who did some of Dianna Wynne Jones’s other books. I do NOT recommend Jim Dale’s reading of Harry Potter simply because his Hermione and Luna are terrible and completely take me out of the narrative. If not for those two characters, though…


  2. Karen K. says:

    One of my all-time favorite audiobooks is Anansi Boys narrated by Lenny Henry who is BRILLIANT. In the afterward of the print volume Neil Gaiman writes that he imagined Lenny as the character Charlie, so he was very pleased when Lenny agreed to narrate the book.

    Also the Naxos audio versions of Jane Austen are wonderful — 5 of the 6 are narrated by Juliet Stevenson (who played Mrs. Elton in one of the film versions). Pride and Prejudice is narrated by Emilia Fox who played Georgiana Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation and it’s also excellent. In general I find the narrators of the Naxos audios to be just wonderful.

    Oh, and right now I’m listening to Mary Poppins narrated by Sophie Thompson and it’s just delightful (and nothing like the Disney movie!).


    • Amanda says:

      Anansi Boys WAS pretty good. I think it’s one of the 19 I marked as starred. (I checked. It was.) And I liked that book so much more than American Gods, so I’m glad you kept bugging me to try it. 😀


  3. christine says:

    great list! I wish I had thought of that. :O


  4. Danica Page says:

    I still need to read The Bell Jar. I keep meaning to do so. Great list!

    Thanks for sharing. My post is about the 10 series I never finished. here’s mine


  5. Trish says:

    Oh man! What a great topic! Kind of wishing I had thought of it. 😉 Actually–I should probably do a directory of audio narrators as I don’t have anything specifically for audiobooks (mostly because I’m so bad about actually reviewing them that there aren’t many even in my review directory).

    I so want to listen to Lolita (and think I have a copy thanks to your rec) and good to know about Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narration. This year I WILL read The Bell Jar.

    Favorite narrators? Simon Vance is probably my most listened to narrator. Love him! I also really enjoyed Good Omens (even though I feel I need to READ the book to do it justice). I also really like Cassandra Campbell. And I’ve had surprisingly good luck with celebrity memoirs lately (listening to Aasif Mandvi right now and loving his memoir).


    • Amanda says:

      I hope you end up enjoying The Bell Jar. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a book that, like Catcher in the Rye or The Awakening, has to be caught at the right time, you know?

      I love Simon Vance too! I think I’ve listened to four books by him. I admit, the one book I read narrated by Cassandra Campbell was not at all to my liking. That might have been more the book than Campbell herself, though. Sometimes, even when I think a performance is bad, it turns out that it’s not the performer him/herself but the book. Like, I really hated the audio of To Have or Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (performed by Will Patton), but then I adored Patton’s reading of Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle books. Right narrator for the right books – and sometimes I find a narrator works well for some but not for others. So I wouldn’t avoid Campbell. I just don’t think I’d read more of Delinsky’s work!


  6. jilllora says:

    Re: #2. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. That was a brilliant performance. His voice was so seductive, I kept having to remind myself of the huge ICK factor in the book. And while I struggled with the print version, the audio really made me realize that it was a beautifully written book.


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