A few years ago I bought Mary her first audio book– eight unwieldy CDs of Little House on the Prairie, three chapters or so on each disk. Every time Mary felt overwhelmed with the world she retreated to her room, dressed her dolls, combed their hair and listened to the adventures of Laura and Mary.
At one point she confessed she’d listened to the book more than twenty times. “It’s OK,” I told her, “that’s a good book to fill your head and heart with.”
For me, audio books are a little different than traditional paperbound copies. If I’m going to buy them (and these days I use audible.com) I require books we can listen to over and over. ie. I bought Mary The Secret Garden on audible but she can check out the American Girl books at the library. We are rereaders at our house. In fact, if I haven’t read a book twice you know I don’t really like it. I’m generally careful about what I read, but when I’m putting headphones in my ears, I’m especially mindful.
Fantastic narration also makes audio books worth a listen. Jim Dale revitalized the entire audio industry with his masterful recordings of the Harry Potter books where every character has a distinct voice (still only available on disks). I’ve been known to search favorite narrators when looking for a new books because I know they’ll bring the story to life.
Initially, my boys scoffed at audio books, “It’s cheating!” But eventually they were swayed. Audio is perfect for long car drives, projects in the yard or for me– long walks, cleaning the house, working in Photoshop and putting me to sleep when I’m stressed. Audio books offer the benefits of increasing critical listening skills, highlighting humor and enjoying a story in a gorgeous English accent (I like the Aussies too). For me, a little girl who read way too much, I’m finally learning how to articulate words I’ve been mispronouncing all my life.
I especially love audio books that make me see old favorites in a new light. Jane Austen is brilliant, but I think we can all agree Northanger Abbey is pretty weak until you hear the Juliet Stevenson narration. Juliet transforms a simple “oh!” into a multi-syllabic expression which makes you laugh out loud. After finding her narration, I bought all her narrated classics– a bargain at $2.95 each.
Enough of Austen, we’ve made you a list of our favorites:
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY ie. road trips (I’m only listing the narrator for books which have several versions)
The Hobbit narrated by Rob Ingliss– really, you haven’t read the Hobbit until you’ve heard this version.
Harry Potter series
Peace Like a River— I love this book more than I can possibly express and the audio version is exquisite.
The Narnia Series
Little Women narrated by Justine Eyre– once I was in a class where the instructor asked us to name the greatest adult influence in our lives besides parents. With an absence of grandparents, aunts, uncles and even neighbors, I immediately thought, “Marmee!”(C.S. Lewis entered my life a bit later) I’ve read Little Women more times than I can count, but this version made it new.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrated by Anne Hathaway. You’ll want to give Miss Hathaway another Oscar for this narration.
Unbroken a must-read, a must listen. I’m
pretty extremely prudish about swearing, but it’s worth cringing through a few moments in this book.
Into the Kingdom of Ice Why isn’t everyone buzzing about this fantastic book? They should be.
Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation
The Boys in the Boat
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (Volumes 1-3) Ok, I don’t expect anyone besides me to love this one, but I heart Winston.
FICTION (kind of in order)
Les Miserables translated by Julie Rose and narrated by George Guidall (and it’s 60+ hours, so it’s a good deal)
The Secret Keeper, The Lake House, The Distant Hours, The House at Riverton and EVERYTHING by Kate Morton my favorite Aussie writer who weaves history into her multi-generational mysteries. I could listen to narrator Caroline Lee all day long.
Maisie Dobbs series I’ll always have great affection to Maisie Dobbs for easing me through heartache. If you know anyone who’s mourning or just anyone who like smart, historical mysteries, listen to any one of Jacqueline Winspear’s books in this brilliant series.
The Nightingale I was so in love with this WWII novel about women in the French resistance I wanted to read every one of Kristin Hannah’s books. Ugh, don’t bother with the others. Happily, audible.com lets you return books you don’t like.
Secrets of a Charmed Life another WWII novel I absolutely adored.
The Robe by Lloyd Douglas such a good way to fill your head and heart.
Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson after Hans described these as “the best books I’ve ever read besides the scriptures” I had to read them.
Paris by Edmund Rutherford Warning! You’ll desperately want a trip to Paris after reading this book. I also love New York but I’m not a fan of his other novels. Again, that lovely return button.
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc Mark Twain named this the best of his books. It has been one of my favorites since my early twenties, but the audio version knows how to pronounce all those lovely French names and phrases and places.
What Alice Forgot I love all Liane Moriarty’s books, but I especially adore this one about a woman who loses 10 years of memory and doesn’t like the person she’s become.
Yet another reason to love the classics– most can be purchased for $2.99 on audible.com. You won’t see the price until you click on the book, so go searching. You have to buy the Kindle edition first, but since those are free or .99 I don’t mind doing that (even though I don’t have a Kindle). Every once in a while I just find three or four– the entire Sherlock Holmes Collection for $2.99, everything from Austen, Wharton, Gaskell, Dickens… Honestly, I think Dicken’s was made for audio. All those characters, all those accents. Children’s classics too– Treasure Island, The Once and Future King, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess…
I want to try some old favorites, but not quite classics, on audio, such as The Hiding Place. But I’ve found I don’t like non-fiction narrated– history yes, but not the scriptures or C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction or books like The Tipping Point.
And yes, I sound like audible.com sponsored this post, which they didn’t. We do check out audio books from the library but all those CDs and due dates are such a bother compared to my sleek audible app.
I’d love to know your favorites. How are you filling your heart and mind?