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