audiobook pet peeves


I’m sad to admit it, but not all audiobooks are created equal.  Just as there are a few authors who are so good that I’ll read anything they write, there are a few good narrators who I’ll listen to, even if the description of the book is not appealing to me.  I asked my co-workers for proof of my theory, and boy did they deliver.  A lot of what they told me can be summarized into a few general audiobook truths:

  1. It takes talent to convey multiple ages and genders.  Ask any of the library staff to give you their impression of a horrible audiobook narrator trying to read in a voice of someone in the opposite gender.  I dare you not to laugh.  The truth is, not all male narrators can pitch their voices correctly to read a female part.  One co-worker complained that bad female narrators make all men sound like surfer dudes.  Adults trying to read in a child’s voice isn’t always successful either.
  2. Use the right accent.  Unfortunately, I’ve run into some bad examples of this lately.  I immediately stopped listening to an audiobook when the president of the United States spoke in a British accent, and his butler sounded like he was from the Caribbean.  I listened to another book where one character kept switching between French and Italian accents.
  3. Be consistent in the voices you use.  Related to my complaint above, if the narrator is going to give a different voice to every character in the novel, those voices should be consistent throughout the book.  I don’t mean just in terms of accent, but also in tone and in speech pattern use as well.
  4. Authors do not always make great narrators.  While there are exceptions to this rule (Hi, Neil Gaiman!  I love you!), authors generally read in a monotone that makes me less than excited to keep listening.
  5. Watch Your Pronunciation.  Just as J.K. Rowling cleverly inserted directions on how to say Hermione Granger’s name in HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (am I the only one who called her Her-me-own until I read that part?), a good narrator checks beforehand on the pronunciation of names and places.  It’s Nev-aa-duh, not Nev-ah-da!
  6. Other comments/pet peeves. The above comments were by far the most popular opinions given by everyone I talked to.  Here are a few others that were mentioned by our staff:
    • Narrators who read in a monotone voice are boring.
    • As vague as it sounds, sometimes the reader is just not the right one for the book.
    • I think a good audiobook narrator should be able to be played at 1.25x without sounding like a chipmunk.
    • I hate heavy breathing (breathiness when it isn’t really supposed to be there or too much if it is supposed to be there).
    • When you can tell when a narrator took a break (as in the audio recording just doesn’t seem seamless…it suddenly goes from just right to too soft/loud or vice versa or when the pacing of the reading is off tends to jar me just a little bit)
    • When the sound effects/singing are awful!
    • Once when listening to an audio book there was a whole track that was repeated. It wasn’t supposed to be…but somehow the track was in there twice so I heard one chapter two times. It took me a minute to figure out why part of it seemed familiar…and then I was pretty frustrated that I had spent time listening to what I had already listened to.
    • I just listened to an audiobook where a few chapters sounded like the reader had a cold.  It drove me bonkers.

So that’s our list.  Don’t worry, my co-workers gave me some great recommendations as well, and we’ll cover those soon.  In the meantime, did we miss any of your pet peeves?

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