No one knows just how a sentence should be paced, an inflection stressed, or a word uttered better than the author. Yet not all writers are the best narrators of their own work. Here are five authors who create as equally wonderful work in the ear as on the page.
At Home: A Short History of Private Life. written and narrated by Bill Bryson (Recorded Bks.). Humor and a lovely sense of fun mark Bryson’s reading of this riff on ordinary things connected to a house—from locusts to furniture. The wit and attention to detail in Bryson’s prose equally match his narration, which is quickly paced, perfectly inflected, and endlessly engaging.
In the Body of the World. written and narrated by Eve Ensler (Macmillan Audio). In a raw, poetic, and brash reading, Ensler matches her forceful, clarion writing with a powerful performance that recollects her early life working with women in the Congo and her battle with uterine cancer. This engrossing, all-consuming experience sweeps listeners into a world of hurt, outrage, passion, and hope.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane. written and narrated by Neil Gaiman (Harper Audio). To overstate how grand Gaiman is at reading his work is nearly impossible—he paces his lines perfectly and infuses each with lush tonal qualities that are constantly delightful. Here he takes listeners back in time as an unnamed adult remembers a terrible, magical, astounding event from his childhood.
A Delicate Truth. written and narrated by John le Carré (Recorded Bks.). Le Carré is a fine reader of his own work, offering listeners dry, nuanced, and superbly paced aural experiences. His fluid reading matches this tightly constructed story that starts with a counterterrorist operation gone wrong and brilliantly spins into a tense spiral of personal responsibility and institutional power.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. written and narrated by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio). Sedaris’s work, as funny as it is in print, is even better in audio. His sly, drawling voice, perfect sense of timing, and deadpan delivery combine to create a listening experience that is hysterical…and actually painful to hear. At least while reading the print you can stop to laugh. Here you’ll hit the pause button—over and over.