Friday, July 30, 2010

Top Ten Audiobook Love

The Broke and the Bookish hosts a "Top Ten" meme each Tuesday. And though it's no longer Tuesday, I mean to complete it! Today's meme comes with an Audible Candy spin: here is a list of my all-time favourite audiobooks.

10) Rebecca's Tale, by Sally Beauman. Read by Gerard Doyle, Emily Gray, Virginia Leishman, and Simon Prebble. It is so DIFFICULT finding information on this particular audiobook edition. I listened to it on cassette a year ago and fell in love, because 1) GERARD DOYLE, OMG. My fangirl worshipfulness comes from the fact that I'm familiar with Doyle's voice from the Inheritance Cycle, and the way he reads Terence Grey reminds me of how he reads the Cycle's Designated Villain, Murtagh. And I fangirl Murtagh, so... yeah; 2) I adored the diverse talent of the ensemble, and how there were four narrators rather than one: it made the transition from one point of view to the next more palatable; and 3) the story was pretty interesting, too. I enjoyed the mystery of Terence Gray's connection to Rebecca, as well as hearing Rebecca's tale told in her own voice. I did have a few problems with the story - the current Mrs. De Winter's characterization, and Maxim's rebirth as an example of All That Is Wrong With Men - but I enjoyed the book over all.

9) Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. Performed by Stefan Rudnicki and an ensemble cast. I didn't expect to love this novel as much as I did; I once balked, hard, at science fiction, child prodigies, and any setting not tethered to Earth. But Ender's Game? So much love. Card's prodigies are people in their own right - I could root all day for Ender and Valentine, and even appreciate the cold genius of their monstrous brother, Peter. I liked that the adults had solid reasons for not interfering with the students - not because they're too incompetent to live, but because they saw no other way of shaping Ender into the independent commander they need him to be. And yet, for all their justifications, this doesn't change the fact that the fate they subject Ender to is too uncompromising, too cruel. There are consequences and compromises and really visceral conflicts and WOW. The cast that performs Ender's Game was a bit surprising. They aren't exactly an ensemble, as not everyone has an equal part and the narration feels somewhat uneven, but I loved each voice - they fit the atmosphere of the story.

8) The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Read by Alexandra O'Karma. An old, nostalgic favourite, one of the defining audiobooks of my childhood. I want to listen to it again.

7) The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. Produced by the BBC Radio and performed by an ensemble cast. Another defining (series!) of audiobooks - or more properly, radio plays - from my childhood! There were sound effects and the narration was wonderful, and though the stories were abridged, the performances were lively enough that I didn't mind - I always had the books on hand, if ever I did.

6) The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Read by Jill Tanner. Another childhood love. Tam Lin is one of my favourite folktales, and I love how Elizabeth Marie Pope re-imagines it. Kate Sutton is one of my all-time favourite heroines, and the Fair Folk took my breath away. That final scene, between Kate and the Queen, was awe-inspiring, and has lived in my memory ever since I first heard it.

5) The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Read by Simon Prebble. I love Jasper Fforde's imagination. The idea of characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes living mundane lives - except... not - drew me to this book initially, and businessman Humpty-Dumpty, the homicidal Ginger Bread man, and Simon Prebble's narration kept me there.

4) Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Read by Jeremy Irons. Nabokov's elegant prose (that is more than aware of its sophistication) + Jeremy Irons' voice = Audible chocolate. Jeremy Irons is truly the perfect narrator. The character of Humbert Humbert breathes. Irons does "unreliable narrator" so well: there was all the conviction of a man convinced of his own guileless innocence. The humour translates brilliantly (making this was one story I could not listen to while washing dishes), but the poignancy - and dare I say, the horror - of the story is all there, particularly near the end.

3) The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik. Read by Simon Vance. I have a confession: I have not yet read a single book in the Temeraire series. Dreadful, yes! But when you're introduced to Temeraire, Captain Laurence, and the entire company of dragons and their aviators, as narrated by Simon Vance, as I was... it can be difficult to return to the print. Temeraire is the one series of novels about dragons that I love unconditionally, because Novik re-imagines the world during the time of Napoleon brilliantly. The dragons are a natural part of the societies in which they live (either among humans or separate from them), and are as thoroughly realized characters as any of the humans. Simon Vance has a distinct voice for everyone.

And now Tongue of Serpents is out and I cannot find it in any of the libraries in my area. I think I need to go cry now.

2) The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Read by Ron Rifkin. I listened to this story at least once a month for years as a child. The simplicity of Lowry's prose and plot, beside the profundity of her story, is utterly breathtaking. And I always found how Ron Rifkin read this story to be rather comforting.

1) The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. Read by Simon Jones. Some days, just thinking about this trilogy tickles me hard enough to make me laugh aloud (even when there are other people in the room!) Jonathan Stroud's skill at characterization and suspense and worldbuilding and simply everything is phenomenal, and Simon Jones' narration is perfect, whether he's Bartimaeus (who believes in the power of FOOTNOTES, and whose snark is capable of paralyzing me with laughter), Kitty (my favourite literary heroine, hands down), or Nathaniel (another anti hero I fangirl with helpless adoration). I've listened and re-listened to the trilogy so many times that I've lost count.


  1. Things I have read in my childhood often become my favorites - nostalgia plays a BIG part. I also reread those books from time and time, and those which I don't have a copy of, I buy! Great list, I see myself getting an Audible account in the future...:)

  2. I really need to read The Big Over Easy. I'm always game for a good fairy tale or nursery rhyme retelling. Also have the first of the Bartimaeus trilogy on my stacks!

    Happy Hopping!

  3. Elle - I like that idea - buying all your old, nostalgic favourites so that you have them close at hand!

    Andi - The Big Over Easy is one of the most amusing fairy tale/nursery rhyme re-imaginings I've yet read; Fforde's worldbuilding is excellent - and hilarious - I hope you'll have a chance to read it soon. Enjoy the Bartimaeus trilogy!