Thursday, January 22, 2015

Audio Appeal

What makes an audiobook appeal to a reader? As a reader who goes through quite a few audiobooks, I find that certain factors make me more enamored of certain books, adding to the appeal of the book in new ways.

For me, series often come to be associated with the reader's voice, and I prefer the audiobook format for certain series as a result.
Ralph Cosham's voice is Armand Gamache and the other characters in Louise Penny's mystery series set in Quebec. His voice is the perfect mix of authority and gentleness that is the essence of Gamache. The other voices, conveyed through the smallest differences of inflection bring the other characters to life, from the abrasive poet Ruth to the calm and insightful bookstore owner and psychologist Myrna.
Dick Hill is Jack Reacher in Lee Child's thriller series. His voice is calm, sure of himself, yet not arrogant. It is strong, intelligent, and can slide into sexy as easily as Reacher dons a new set of clothes.
Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley's mystery series. She conveys the quirkiness, intelligence, of the child perfectly. Her supporting voices for characters like calm, quiet Dogger, and silly yet solid Mrs, Mullet convey their natures to a tee.

Range of voices
For other books it is the wild range that a single reader can bring to a book to convey different characters.
Simon Vance does wonderful things with his voice in Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime mystery series to bring the wide variety of characters to life, ranging from wild Punch and Judy, to gruff bears, to aliens.
Laurel Merlington in Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad brings not only the voice of Penelope, but also the other maidens, to life in unique ways.
Stephen Fry brings us Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect along with the many characters they encounter along the way in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Evocative voices
Sometimes it is the fit the author makes of his or her reading to the book that makes it special.
Mark Bramhall, reading The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin does an amazing job of storytelling, using slow speaking, pauses and other means to bring the story to vibrant life.
Sunil Malhotta brings the perfect voice to Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, emotional yet never jarring.
Sissy Spacek reads the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in such a way that you are in the story, feeling what Scout is feeling, experiencing what she is experiencing.
Cassandra Campbell reading The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon has the loveliest Italian accent that makes you feel like you are in Venice living the story of Caterina.

Authors as Readers
Books read by the author also have a different sense that makes you listen more closely
In See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid which has her using inflections, pauses, and a particularly non-emotional voice for very emotional scenes that add an intensity to the book.
Sidney Poitier's Life Beyond Measure, written as a series of letters to his first great-granddaughter has a more intimate feel with his reading than it would in another form or with a different reader.
Joshilyn Jackson's Backseat Saints comes alive with her sassy, twangy voice which exemplifies the daring story of Ro Grandee as she escapes her life to create a new one through delving into her past.
Winter Journal by Paul Auster is a memoir made all the more special and intimate with the author reading it making the emotions described real.

Multiple voices
Sometimes two or more voices can bring a different feel to a book.
In Richard Dawkin's memoir An Appetite for Wonder, the author reads the majority of the book himself, but the diary entries from his parents are read by Lalla Ward and bring a true sense of another viewpoint.
In Gone Girl, Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne become the voices of Amy and Nick, taking turns telling their disturbing story. The use of two voices here made the reality of two versions of a story stand out in an amazing way.
One Good Dog by Susan Wilson has two readers, Fred Berman and Rick Adamson for the voices of Adam March and the dog Chance, and this makes the two characters who become so important to each other distinct and individual.

What makes an audiobook appeal to you?

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