2015: My year in audiobooks

2015 reading

Yesterday, I wrote a wrap-up post about the graphic novels I read and loved in 2015. Which made me think — why not do the same for audiobooks?

Appreciating audiobooks has been an acquired skill for me. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have said that listening to people read puts me to sleep. Period. Little did I know how soon audiobooks would become an essential part of my daily routine!

When I first started listening to audiobooks, I stuck to re-reads, figuring that if my attention wandered, I wouldn’t be missing out on much. But over time, I’ve found that I can stay focused on a good story (so long as I pause the audiobook for things that take concentration, like finding a parking spot!).

I actually have no idea how many audiobooks in total I listened to in 2015, since I didn’t add an “audiobook” shelf on Goodreads until sometime about mid-year. Still, these are the listening adventures that really stood out for me this past year.

1) It was a year of Austen for me! I listened to Jane Austen’s six novels in the spring and summer, and absolutely loved them! All but one (Pride and Prejudice) were narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and she does an amazing job of bringing the characters and stories to life. There’s something about Austen’s dialogue that really is enhanced by being heard, I think. Emma, especially, is just laugh-out-loud funny (which can be embarrassing if listening to the audiobook in public… as I know from personal experience.)

Austen collage

2) I revisited a childhood favorite that I always remembered fondly, despite having forgotten most of the details. The Witch of Blackbird Pond was a real treat — a quick listen with a terrific plot and beautiful writing.

Witch of Blackbird Pond

3) I was looking for a quick listen one week, and happened to stumble across a price break for Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. How did I miss this book during my school days? The audiobook was perfect for my mood that week, and made me eager to read more by London.

Call 2

4) One of my greatest delights this year was getting involved in two different mystery series. In general, I’m not much of a mystery reader, but somehow they seem to work for me as audiobooks. I’m now four books into the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow, and have listened to the first Maisie Dobbs book (but plan to continue with the series) by Jacqueline Winspear.

 

5) A wonderful aspect of listening to audiobooks that I’d never really considered before is hearing an author narrate his or her own work. It’s really special to hear the author’s inflections, character voices, and points of emphasis. I especially enjoyed listening to Neil Gaiman’s narration of Stardust and Trigger Warning.

Trigger Warning

6) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a book told from two characters’ alternating points of view. For the audiobook, each of these characters has her own narrator, and the effect is so powerful. The story itself is terrific, and hearing the characters’ voices in this way makes it an exceptional listening experience.

Invention of Wings 2

7) The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: I rarely take the time to read non-fiction — I’m a fiction-lover, through and through. But when my book group picked The Boys in the Boat for one of our group discussions, I realized that the audiobook version might be the perfect solution for me. It was a great experience, especially thanks to the talented narrator who made me feel like I was listening to someone telling me folktales in front of the fireplace.

The Boys in the Boat

8) Last but not least, my absolute favorite audiobook of the year is one that I came close to abandoning! When I first started Uprooted by Naomi Novik, the narrator’s accent was a huge distraction for me. I had a hard time getting into the story, as the narrator’s speech patterns made it clear that she wasn’t a native English speaker. And then, a few chapters in, something just clicked. The flavors of the story seemed to come alive, and the entire audiobook conveyed a sense of the magical elements that make Uprooted so special. In fact, I took a physical copy of the book home from the library, but then realized that the words on the page seemed somehow flat to me without the narrator’s intonations to bring them to life.

Uprooted

 

What were your best audiobook experiences in 2015? Please share your recommendations!

14 thoughts on “2015: My year in audiobooks

  1. I do listen to audio books but all as the text-to-speech variety on my very old Kindle (new Kindles don’t have this feature). I like it because although the voice is robotic, every book sounds the same, so you focus on the words, not the voice. Alas, the number of books left to listen to on my old Kindle is dwindling so I’m thinking I’ll soon have to get used to different narrators!

    • Oh, how interesting — I have an old Kindle too, with the text-to-speech option, but I’ve never tried it. I like the Whispersync function with Kindle/Audible books, so you can switch back and forth between formats and always get to the last place you’ve read/listened.

  2. I haven’t listened to any audiobooks, ever, but am really looking to get into them this year, as I want to do lots more walking and drive for work a lot more as well! Some great looking suggestions on this, will definitely be sampling a few!

  3. Oh, you’ve just reminded me that I need to listen to my Gaiman books! I love the fact that he narrates a majority of them himself (though I am looking forward to Lenny Henry’s take on Anansi Boys!)

    Some of these sound great 🙂 I’m curious about the audio of Uprooted. I have the book and have heard such mixed things, so I’ll definitely keep the audio in mind when I get to it 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for doing an audiobook top ten. On your recommendation I’m listening to Uprooted now. I had the same initial and subsequent reaction to the narrator and story as you, and I can’t wait to get on my commute everyday.

    Here are some top recommendations in return. Check out The Guilded Earlobe blog for other recommendations, I believe your tastes overlap to some extent. My best listens lately are:

    The Rook by Daniel O’Malley reviewed by The Guilded Earlobe
    https://theguildedearlobe.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/audiobook-review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley/

    The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman, reviewed by The Guilded Earlobe:
    https://theguildedearlobe.wordpress.com/?s=The+lesser+dead
    This one is in atop ten list, so scroll down. Narrated by the author and he does an amazing job with a fantastic story.

    You’ve already read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, but Bray narrates the audiobook and does a terrific job. Neil Gaiman is another author who, in my opinion, narrates his own work better than anyone else doing his books. The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere are two excellent examples in addition to those you mention. The audiobook version of Code Name Verity was wonderful, and Wil Wheaton was great in his narration of Ready Player One. For a terrific nonfiction listen, check out Lincoln, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The beginning is a little slow with background on the players, but then, wow.

    Happy listening!

    • I’m so glad you’re enjoying Uprooted! Thanks for the recommendations. I read The Rook a few years ago, but maybe I should listen to the audiobook before picking up the sequel. I definitely agree about Neil Gaiman’s narration. I listened to Stardust this year, and so enjoyed hearing him read it. I picked up the audiobook for The Graveyard Book, but haven’t started it yet (but I”m looking forward to it!). I’ve listened to Code Name Verity, and I agree that it was wonderful, although I little hard to listen to in public, as it made me very teary. Ooh, Wil Wheaton for Ready Player One? Sounds perfect! Thanks again — you’ve given me some great books to pursue!

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