I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, and have been for quite sometime. My days are typically spent in someones kitchen, whether it be mine or a clients. One of the perks of personal cheffing is blissfully working in solitude for hours on end. I take advantage of this by popping in headphones and loading up an audiobook, while I begin preparing recipes for the next several uninterrupted hours.
Which brings me to a topic I’ve wanted to tackle for quite a while.
CAN AN AUDIOBOOK RUIN A BOOK?
That is a serious question. I’m leaning towards HECK YES. Though, a lot of different factors go into it. For one thing, I truly believe that the narrator of said audiobook carries the weight of whether or not it’ll be a good listen. Does the narrator pour emotion and tone in while reading? Do they give different characters different voices? Does it feel like someone is simply reading a book out loud to nobody in particular? OR does the book simply suck? Because even the best narrator can’t make a poor story shine.
THE DATA FOR MY EXPERIMENT
I picked a handful of books that I consumed via audiobook format in the last 18+ months and decided to dissect them. Alternating between books I hated listening to, but believe I would’ve enjoyed reading a physical copy, and books that I loved listening to but not 100% sure I would’ve enjoyed reading a physical copy. BecauseI do believe some books are meant to be listened to!
Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower
For the most part, I enjoyed the content in this book. But Drew was the narrator of her own book, which was fine, but she made me want to rip out my headphones and throw my phone as hard as I could against the kitchen wall. She was way to DRAMATIC and way too LOUD. She screamed long, high pitched hysterics at least a dozen times. And just for that alone, I rated her book a 3 on GR. *shrug emoji*
Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.
SO MANY PEOPLE HATED THIS BOOK that I’m a bit surprised I’m in the love love love camp. But the two narrators (Will Damron & Julia Whelan) were so fantastic, and the spoke Groff’s words so beautifully that I actually re-listened to this a year later for the second time. I’m willing to bet had I read this with a physical copy, I would’ve been just as annoyed as everyone else. This was a story that was meant to be listened to.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Whoever narrated this sounded like he had a cold, and I hated how sappy he sounded. He also did horrendous voices for any other character besides the main male character, and OMG his female voices were god awful. It was so painful and distracting to listen to. I almost DNF. I honestly do not know how I felt about the story, mainly because of how distracted I was.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Kathleen Early, the narrator of Pretty Girls, was AWESOME. I almost wished she narrated every book I listen to, she was so freaking great. I really enjoy Karin Slaughters novels and can say with confidence that I enjoyed the audiobook mainly due to the fact that she writes an interesting thriller with plenty of twists to keep you on your toes. The characters were deep (good writing) but more than that, Kathleen Early was great with accents, male and female roles were both preformed convincingly, and she brought the dialogue to life.
PS. Early is also the narrator of Slaughters newest novel The Good Daughter, and yes, it was just as great!
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
I couldn’t stand the narration of this book. It came across as very pretentious. I strongly believe that having this book read out loud ruined it for me, and I actually did not finish it. I literally couldn’t stand to listen to it. Though I would be interested in reading a physical copy of the book. Will keep you posted…
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
OK so I’m giving Ann Patchett 90% of the credit here, this was a GORGEOUS story that left me weeping many times, and left me with such a large book hangover when it was finished. But the narrator, Hope Davis was so wonderful too. Her pacing was great, her tone, emotion, and pitch were just perfect. I could listen to Hope Davis read toilet paper reviews and find it meditative.
What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
I was totally surprised by how much I didn’t enjoy this book. But I 100% blame the narrators. I believe I would have gobbled this up in a physical copy. But yeah, just couldn’t get over the super slow pace of the book while it was read out loud. The characters drove me nuts in a way I would have forgiven had I read it myself, I think.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
I didn’t mind the narrators voice in this one. I just thought the story was terrible. Sometimes I can power through books and overlook shitty plots for interesting and deep characters, but not with this one. Having it read out loud to me showed me how weak this book was from A-Z.
Between January 2016 through Present (October 2017), I’ve listened to 42 audiobooks. Of those 42, I enjoyed 24 and disliked 18 of them. Of the 18 I disliked, I’ve broken it down into the two reasons why I didn’t enjoy the book:
A. Terrible story, poor writing. Even the best narrators couldn’t fix these stories. (7/18 audiobooks)
B. Terrible narration, annoyed me so much I couldn’t look past it. (11/18 audiobooks)
OK, so you get the point. I’ve definitely realized that yes, the narrator of a book can totally make or break it for me. ELEVEN of the 18 audiobooks I didn’t enjoy fell into this camp. That’s a HUGE percentage!
Thank god Audible lets you listen to a sample before you make a purchase. I’ve decided moving forward, I’m no longer choosing based on reviews, I’m simply going by that 3 minute or less audio sample of the narrators voice. And on the flip side, I do believe that some books are meant to be listened to.
Others audiobooks that I loved listening to…
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. Still Life by Louise Penny. The Silkworm by J. K. Rowling. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.
Other audibooks I totally hated, probably because of poor narration (or maybe just a poor story)…
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. My Husbands Wife by Jane Corry. My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella.