I often imagine that the voice heard on an audio book is the voice of the book’s author, but most of the time I am wrong. Talented voice actors usually provide the narration. Some of Salem Public Library’s devoted audio book fans become just as fond of the actors as of the books themselves. Doubtless there are some authors who should never narrate the audio version of their own literary baby, but with many writers, it’s a treat to hear the author read his or her own words. Here are some of my favorites.
When it was first published, I read Bill Bryson’s memoir, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” and loved it. I love the audio book more. Bryson, although born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, has spent most of his adult life in England.
He has developed a peculiar accent — not quite British, but definitely not typical of a son of the Hawkeye state. His plummy accent, added to a delivery that can only be described as perpetual astonishment, makes the audio book a delight.
Radio personalities are natural choices for self-read books. Listeners would probably riot if anyone other than Garrison Keillor read his many Lake Wobegon tales. “This American Life”‘s Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris bring us a variety of audio gems. Vowell, a self-proclaimed nerd, has a squeaky, nasal voice that might be annoying if she weren’t so funny and smart. Listening to her “Partly Cloudy Patriot,” a series of essays on the nature of patriotism is like listening to that brilliant, slightly subversive kid we all knew in high school. Sedaris has recorded many of his books, including “Holidays on Ice,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” and “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.” He writes about everything from his job as an elf in a department store Christmas extravaganza to struggling to learn French, and it is all funny. Also enjoyable is “Fresh Air’s” book critic Maureen Corrigan’s “Leave me Alone, I’m Reading.”
Sometimes a good audiobook can introduce a listener to a subject he or she might not ordinarily choose. This was true for me of “Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Read by Dubner, this book discusses some of the surprising factors, from cheating to child-rearing, that the authors claim are what really make our economy tick.
Another fine offering is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver, best known for her fiction, tells the true story of her family’s move to Appalachia. We hear the voices of the whole Kingsolver clan as they tell of their attempt to get back to the land.