I've been thinking a lot recently about what makes for a good audio book. In my experience of 304 books, not all are good for audio. Maybe not all are good for books, but that's not the point. Sometimes a book may be fantastic on the page, but listening to it on audio will drive a listener to loathe it.
Reading aloud is not kind to books. It makes every whiny statement the main character makes pronounced. It highlights duplications in dialogue and internal thought like a Magnalight. It makes sensory details really stand out and stay with a reader. And in many cases, it makes what might be very subtle clues on the page blatantly obvious such that the listener figures out the mystery well before the author intended.
I'm trying to make a list of rules of what works well for audio (and what does not work so well).
1) First, lets talk series.
The first in a series has the most potential on audio. I've exercised extra minutes on the elliptical many times in order to be able to extend my listening time for these. What doesn't always work so well are second and third in a series. Frankly, most of the time, I get sick of spending so much time with the same character, especially when the character tends toward the weak and whiny side.
I'll use TWILIGHT as an example here. Loved TWILIGHT on audio. I wanted to listen and listen and listen. NEW MOON I started to get annoyed with Bella, and by ECLIPSE I would find myself talking back to her while listening, yelling at her when she would do (yet again) something everyone in the universe knew she shouldn't do. Readers may say this was the case in the books, too, but I only have the audio experience for the TWILIGHT books.
2) Next, let's go with length.
There is the "I want to get my money's worth" mentality, and thus the buyer may try to buy the longest audio book they can. With a subscription, I get two books a month; it doesn't matter the length.
But in audio, longer is not always better. Longer can mean pages and pages of description. Case in point: MOBY DICK. As my husband said, do we really need to know the extended history of whale blubber hunting? Pages and pages and pages and pages of it over and over again?
So my rule has become to avoid the "longer" books on audio. Under 20 hours is normally what I shoot for with around 10 being ideal.
These are hard. The language is so different. The writing is so filled with descriptions and repetitions and what we would now consider overdone dialogue. My opinion is classics are best left to the page and not the ear. I recently switched to the paper version of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN because I was frustrated with audio book pace.
And now, I'll give my top audio book recommendations:
1) Anything TERRY PRATCHETT. This guy is a genius. The narrators they use for the series are hilarious. I honestly think listening to Terry Pratchett far surpasses reading it on the page.
2) First in series that I loved:
- UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld
- A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray
3) THE DAVINCI CODE by Dan Brown. Honestly one of the best audio listens I've ever done. So much that I'll listen to THE LOST SYMBOL rather than reading it.
4) SNOW CRASH and THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson. Loved all these.
5) Personal development books like
- GOALS by Brian Tracy
- THE SECRET by Rhonda Byrne
- YOU: THE OWNER'S MANUAL by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.
- A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME by Stephen Hawking
- DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT MYTHOLOGY by Kennith C. Davis
- A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson.
7) JANET EVANOVICH's Stephanie Plum series. Hilarious. Though I did burn out on these after about book 10.
So what are your thoughts on audio? Love it? Hate it? What makes for a good listen for you?