Audiobook fans are like print readers in that they keep up with new releases and seek out productions featuring favorite narrators. Casual listeners, those, for example, who might only turn to audio when facing a long solo drive, are confronted with vast collections to navigate without knowing where to start. Librarians can help such patrons find great listens by highlighting excellent works in a range of genres. Here are five starting suggestions—each features a work that will entertain and a narrator who will help convert even the most casual listener into an avid fan.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; read by Allan Corduner (Listening Library: Books on Tape).
Corduner has a strong, steady voice as lush and smooth as heavy cream and he uses it to great effect to read the story, told by Death, of Liesel Meminger—a young foster child who steals books during the horrors of World War II. As Death both tells Liesel’s story and comments upon it in insistent asides, listeners are drawn deep into the novel’s sharp observations and rich characterizations.
- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd; read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye (Penguin Audio).
The terror of slavery and the fight for identity and freedom form the backdrop of Kidd’s powerful and intimate novel of two girls—owner and slave—who come of age beside each other. Readers Lamia and Oduye highlight each of Kidd’s many strengths with their pitch-perfect and resonant performances.
- Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase; read by Kate Reading (Blackstone Audio).
The rocky and fraught courtship of Jessica and Sebastian is witty, deft, and great fun. The allures of one of the most beloved historical romance novels of all time is equally matched by the verve and keenness in which Reading delivers the story—with charm and affection for both the characters and her listeners.
- Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks; read by Julian Rhind-Tutt (Macmillan Audio).
Hijinks, humor, and droll wit mark Faulk’s continuation of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories of society gadabout Bertie Wooster and his unflappable gentlemen’s gentlemen, Jeeves. Rhind-Tutt’s plummy, gleeful, and spot-on performance furthers and deepens the many delights of this screwball adventure.
- The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée; read by Simon Vance (HighBridge Audio).
Literary biography and political thriller combine in this exploration of Russian poet and novelist Boris Pasternak and how the CIA used his famous novel to undermine the Soviet state. Vance’s voice is clear, crisp, and smooth as he nimbly navigates the history and establishes an engrossing pace.