≡ Menu

Great Audiobooks – Who Knows Some?

I usually listen to a handful of audiobooks each year, but since beginning the Dewey reading project, I have been listening to a lot more. Listening to books will be a great way for me to get through and additional 15 or 16 books in a year, I think.

I have never had anything against audiobooks, although I have listened to a few that were so terrible (the reading, tone of voice, etc) that I had to quit listening, even if it was a book I wanted to read that  I couldn’t track down on paper as easily. I usually just chose music instead of reading when I drove.

Now that has changed, and in the course of that change, I have discovered a few audiobooks that are absolutely wonderful. A couple of them are even better on audio than in print, in my opinion, but I won’t tell you which ones those are because I’ll get yelled at.

Here are some great audiobooks. By great I mean that the performances are impressive and engaging, the story or work is not diminished or diluted in any way by the transfer, and they grab my attention and insist that I listen, not read the billboards on the roadside.

*In the future, I’m going to make it clear whether I’m reviewing the audio version of a book.

The Hobbit on audio

The Recorded Books version. Until I listened to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I had prety much skipped over all of the songs. In the audio version, you can actually hear the dwarves singing. I don’t know why I focus on that, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed that part of the book, as long as I was listening.

The reading of The Hobbit is a performance. It really is.

1984 on Audio

Here is my review of 1984. On audio, again the Recorded Books version, I was even more hypnotized than usual–I read this book about every other year. Probably always will.

When things get really scary in the final act of 1984, the voices amplify the dread of the pages by a, well, maybe exponentially isn’t the right word, but it works. If the guy barking at Winston was barking at me in that same voice, I’d be just as miserable and timid as Winston is by the end.

And it’s one guy reading all the voices! I’m always so amazed by that, maybe because the only good impression I can do is James Hetfield from Metallica. No joke.

Don Quixote

If you don’t already like Don Quixote, the recorded book probably make you like it more. If you love it as much as I do, I hope you’ll also adore the Recorded Books version. For the record, I think Don Quixote is one of the funniest books in existence. Every page makes me laugh. Every single page.

On audio, the voice of Don Quixote, regardless of what it is saying, also makes me laugh. And of course, everything the voice says is funny as well.

And if you thought Sancho sounds tired in the book by about page 20, you’ll really get a feel for his weariness when you hear his voice.

And now over to you. Assuming you listen to books, have there been any that you think are worth pointing out, for good or bad? More great audio books?

Update: I just listened to The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson and it’s one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard.


If you liked this post, please Subscribe To The RSS feed.

And have you joined the World’s Strongest Book Club?

Tired of this page? Head back to strength training for body and mind.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Shane Hudson August 16, 2010, 5:42 am

    Hmm now I think about it, I am not sure I have ever listened to an audio book! To be honest, I do not even know where to get them from… iTunes?

  • Jen H August 16, 2010, 7:14 am

    @Shane: try your public library first! In my state your library card gets you free access to a decent sized collection of downloadable audio and e books. Free, of course, ’cause that’s how us public library folks operate.

    These are 3 that I’ve listened to in the last 6 months and loved. The pacing is perfect, the narrators do an excellent job of getting into character without sounding campy and in all 3 cases I was reluctant to get out of the car once I got to work.

    River of Doubt by Candice Millard
    Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, if you are a Harry Potter fan of course.

    • Jen H August 16, 2010, 11:32 am

      I should have added: River of Doubt is nonfiction, the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s trek up what came to be named the Roosevelt River after his rather humbling defeat in 1912.

  • Shane Arthur August 16, 2010, 8:10 am

    Just finished Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.

    Fascinating book. There’s so much we were never taught.

    For example, 102 pilgrims spent over 60 days in a “tween” deck, a living quarter not even 5 feet high, and about 90 feet long. Could you imagine?

  • IthacaJake August 16, 2010, 9:31 am

    The two that I like the absolute best are World War Z (as performed by a cast of a bout a dozen including Rob Riner, Alan Alda, the guy who was Mohinder on Heros and Henry Rollins, among others), and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, as performed by the author. Both highly entertaining!

    • IthacaJake August 16, 2010, 9:33 am

      Opps, forgot about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, read by Eric Idle, which was this edition.

  • Mason August 16, 2010, 10:51 am

    Shot in the Heart

    The Gary Gilmore story was a great audio for car trips.

  • Keith Lau August 16, 2010, 11:10 am

    The Harry Potter series voiced by Jim Dale is great.

    Empire by Orson Scott Card was entertaining enough to listen to twice.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 16, 2010, 11:30 am

      I’ve been meaning to read Ender’s Game again. I’ll give that a try on audio.

      • MrO August 3, 2012, 11:17 pm

        It’s quite good as and audio book. The author makes a note at the end that he wrote the book with the intension that it be read aloud.

  • Elle B. August 16, 2010, 2:19 pm

    I really enjoy The Classic Tales podcasts by B.J. Harrison (http://theclassictales.com/). He has a wonderful voice and offers many of his short stories free. He also offers public domain books for a small fee. Recently: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, also Captain Blood and Tarzan. Really worth checking out for those great old classics.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 16, 2010, 3:27 pm

      Elle, have you read Drood by Dan Simmons? It was about Dickens and Collins. I was an English major, I read all the time, and I’m sort of ashamed to say that was the first time I ever heard Wilkie Collins’ name.

      • Tim Hinkle August 17, 2010, 3:51 am

        I read Drood; thought is was great. There’s supposed to be a movie version directed by Guillermo del Toro sometime in the next few years. I can’t see how it will work. It’s such a booky book.

        It was probably finishing Drood, not too long ago, that put me in the mood to seek out some of the Dickens I’d been meaning to get to.

        • Elle B. August 17, 2010, 1:03 pm

          I only found Wilkie Collins because I like old-timey ghost stories. Sounds like I need to put Drood on my list. Don’t know how I missed it, since I enjoyed The Terror. Thanks, Josh!

  • Tim Hinkle August 16, 2010, 2:52 pm

    I am currently really enjoying Charles Dickens’s Bleak House read by Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher. I’ve got it out from the library to listen to; last night I thought, I may have to buy this so I can listen to it whenever I like, over and over.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 16, 2010, 3:26 pm

      Thanks Tim. How are things going with your music?

      • Tim Hinkle August 17, 2010, 4:38 am

        I’ve been letting life knock me around for a while, actually. Sigh. I’m just now clawing my way back up onto the horse.

    • Tim Hinkle August 18, 2010, 5:39 am

      Gah! The end of disc 11 is too scratched to play!

  • Casey (North and Clark) August 16, 2010, 3:54 pm

    I am dyslexic and have always enjoyed listening to books on tape. I like the classics: Lolita was revelatory when read by Jeremy Irons, Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms have fine audio adaptations. My favorite newer book on audio is World War Z it has a huge and talented cast including John Turturro.

    Incidentally, I am listening to Watership Down. I had read it years ago but am re-listening to it largely because of your review.

  • Christine August 17, 2010, 7:40 pm

    Which version of Don Quixote do you recommend?

    Since there seems to be a “peril related to water” theme here, I can recommend “Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History”.

  • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers August 17, 2010, 8:11 pm

    Librivox.org has audio books for a ton of public domain works. Journey to the Interior (center) of the Earth by Verne is an alltime favorite of mine.

    As far as contemporary works, I’m a big fan of Nelson DeMille’s The Lion’s Game. I’ve listened to the 25 hour audio book at least 6 times over the last several years, read the book twice, and listen to the abridged version once (ugh – the reader wasn’t as good and I don’t like how they abridged it).

    I also like DeMille’s Up Country – I think a lot of it has to do with the reader, Scott Brick. It sounds weird to say this about a guy, but he has a voice I could listen to all day long.

    Then, of course, there is “The Cell Window,” by Kosmo – truly a classic 🙂 Just kidding …

  • Daisy August 18, 2010, 9:13 am

    My son (age 18, blind) loves audio books. He gets them from the public library often, and we swap for them on Paperbackswap.com.

  • Jack T August 21, 2010, 4:39 am

    For the past year I usually always have an audio book playing in the car. The one that sticks out in my mind the most is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

  • BlackAdder September 7, 2010, 7:33 pm

    For those into self-help –
    How to change your life in 7 steps by John C Bird is a good listen.

  • Lisa Brown October 5, 2010, 7:23 pm

    I LOVE audiobooks! I posted reviews on my site – but you can also check out my list of best to worst here: http://lisabrowndesign.blogspot.com/2010/05/great-audiobooks-list.html I’ll be sure to give some of yours a try as well! 🙂

  • Josh Hanagarne October 8, 2010, 12:56 pm

    I’m going to keep adding to this list. I just listened to Hell House by Richard Matheson. Good stuff, great audiobook. Here’s a link to my review:


  • Charlotte Sisman March 31, 2011, 5:25 am

    I can’t tell you how brilliant the BBC dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings is. It’s very long (13 tapes, not sure how long they are), but I promise you; when you get to the last tape you’ll wish there were 13 more.

    Ian Holm is an extrodinarily brilliant Frodo, William Nighy (now better known as Bill Nighy) is a very moving Sam. Aragorn is Robert Stephens and Gandalf is very powerfully portrayed by Michael Horden. Gandalf is very different from ‘The Hobbit’ ‘s Gandalf but don’t let that put you off. Honestly, try it!

    Also try: Kingdom by the Sea
    Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy