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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?