The Horror of Bad Audiobook Narrators

A few years ago I made the switch from paper books to ebooks, followed shortly by the switch to audiobooks almost exclusively. I once swore I’d NEVER read anything but paper books – there’s just something about the feel, the smell, the sound of the turned page. I love reading. When ebooks came along, I acknowledged that the space needed to store my books was much easier on an e-reader versus the bookcases in my house. In fact, at least half my books are packed away in boxes in the attic because if I brought them all out, my house would become a library versus a house. I have books in the living room, our bedroom and the guest room. Plus the kids both have bookcases. It’s the main reason that when we were planning to build a house, I wanted a room that would ONLY function as a library – all four walls of shelves from floor to ceiling.

However, eventually my sister talked me into trying audiobooks with her – sharing an Audible account since we mostly enjoy the same kinds of books. I said sure, and quickly realized that audiobooks are convenient because I can listen in my car, which is great for long road trips. A good book read by a great narrator can keep me awake and alert much better than loud music can.

But sometimes you get that dud. A narrator so bad you wonder if you can even finish the book. A narrator so disengaged that it makes you hate what should probably be a pretty good book.

I remember listening to a book a couple years ago that was read by a Hollywood actor who is very low-key on screen. He NEVER plays excitable characters but is always very stoic and quiet. Now picture that same personality as a book reader. Snooze-ville. And it didn’t help that the book was over-the-top maudlin garbage that I was only listening to for my book club. Add in the boring, non-expressive narration to a book that was akin to Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans (authors I do NOT read because their books are awful). Oh my word, I just yawned REMEMBERING having to listen to that book.

But then you have amazing readers – like Davina Porter. She reads the entire “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon and Hands down the best female reader I’ve ever encountered. when the new TV Series started on Starz, I found I was really disappointed that Clare and Jamie did not sound like the Clare and Jamie I’ve come to love thanks to Ms. Porter. The way Clare says, “Jamie…” is so definitively DAVINA that anything else is subpar.

I’ve recently come to love actor Wil Wheaton as a narrator. This year I’ve listened to three books narrated by him, and I’ve loved them all – in fact, one of them is my favorite book thus far for 2014 (that list comes out in a couple weeks). I just finished another book read by him and I absolutely loved it. He is a fantastic narrator. He doesn’t do voices like Davina does, but he totally gets into the reading and is very expressive. It’s awesome and Wheaton makes me laugh.

And then there are the celebrity memoir type of books. I loved “Bossypants” by Tina Fey and thought she did an amazing job reading her own book. I felt like she was talking to me rather than reading her book. And since I adore Tina Fey, having her talk to me during my commutes to and from work made those days sitting in traffic just a little better. I’ve also listened to Mindy Kaling’s audiobook as well as The Bloggess’s book – both were great, but I didn’t love them like I did Tina Fey’s book. I’m hoping to get Amy Poehler’s book soon and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.

So, the reason for this post. I’m currently listening to a book that I thought I would really enjoy. It is a post-apocalyptic kind of book (a genre I like) and the book summary sounded promising. Then I started listening to it. Oh my gosh. The narrator is terrible. His cadence is dodgy – he’ll pause in the middle of sentences or not pause between what should be natural breaks in paragraphs. He pronounces words incorrectly and you can tell he had issues because there are several points where the over-dub for proper pronunciation is obvious. However, he is not helped by the fact that the book is just a bad, poorly written book. How this thing got published – and APPROVED FOR AUDIO PUBLICATION – is beyond me. The author must be related to the CEO of Audible. That’s the only thing I can think of. This book reads like the worst of self-publishing (and I’ve read some major duds from the self-publishing world thanks to free books for Amazon Kindle).

What’s even worse – some idiot publisher decided to let the author publish this as Part I of a trilogy. Ugh. Horrifying.

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