June is audiobook month—the perfect prompt to celebrate the sublime pleasures of being read a story. As the narrator is the key to enjoying an audiobook, this week consider some that have trained to become characters, learned to deftly switch voices, and mastered how to deliver a line. These five actors are but a sampling of the many, including Meryl Streep, Sissy Spacek, Annette Bening, Laura Linney, and Judi Dench, who have taken time off from starring in TV and movies to literally read a book.
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, read by Bryan Cranston (Brilliance Audio).
The deep, rumbling and mesmerizing voice of Cranston (most lately heard selling drugs on the TV drama series Breaking Bad) does great justice to O’Brien’s amalgam of stories about the Vietnam War. Cranston’s carefully measured and deliberate reading will provide new access to this modern classic.
- The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham, read by Claire Danes (Macmillan Audio). Homeland star Danes reads Cunningham’s elegant, lyrical, and finely observed story of mystery and everyday life with subtle inflections, a warm tone, and a rhythm that makes slipping into the story very easy and deeply rewarding.
- Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, read by Bronson Pinchot (Blackstone Audio).
Pinchot is a newly minted audiobook superstar but was once better known for an 1980s sitcom and small parts in movies such as Beverly Hills Cop. He reads the second in the “Southern Reach” trilogy with verve, creating distinct voices for the characters and fully capturing the mystery of the series.
- To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, read by Campbell Scott (Little, Brown).
The moody, smooth, and subtle voice of Scott (perhaps best known as Peter Parker’s father in The Amazing Spider-Man movies) is a perfect match to Ferris’s questing, comic, and smart novel of belief, doubt, and the Internet.
- My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young, read by Dan Stevens (Harper Audio).
Perhaps many came to know Stevens through his role of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey, but audiobook fans also know him as a reader with an exquisite sense of pacing, strong characterizations, and a lovely, resonant voice. He puts all to great use in Young’s richly detailed novel of love, class, and war.