Books, How's This Book?

What Makes an Incredible Audiobook

Let’s face it. As adults, we don’t have a lot of spare time in our day-to-day lives. Between our jobs, chores around the apartment, social lives, and familial obligations, it can be hard to find time to do everything we want to. Often times, we need to put harsh scheduling limitations on our pleasures in order to fit them into our responsibilities comfortably.

That’s why it’s so hard to find time to read a great book! Taking the time to sit down and read a novel is very time-consuming! Sure, you can set aside thirty minutes to an hour before bed. But if the novel is really good, then how can you resist staying up late to keep reading, thus throwing your whole schedule out of balance.

Which may or may not be a problem that I frequently face.

This is why audiobooks are such a godsend for me. With one of these, I can take care of my mundane busy work while still experiencing a fantastic piece of literature! It doesn’t have the same charm as sitting down with a book and flipping the page, but hey! You take what you can get! And audiobooks have plenty of their own charms as well!

As well as their own criteria for greatness.

Today,  I want to discuss my personal criteria for what makes a good audiobook. I’ll explain what makes for a good audiobook and what makes for an incredible one. Take note, this is (as with all things on this blog) my own personal opinion. If my opinion differs from your own, great! I’ll be interested in hearing your side of the discussion!

The first necessity is easily the most important. For an audiobook to be good, it must have a good narrator! This one is the most obvious. No matter how good the quality of the book, listening to a narrator that bothers you could ruin the experience!

What makes for a good narrator is entirely subjective. Personally, I look for a few things in a quality narrator.

  • Quality of voice: is their voice just nice to listen to?
  • Variety of voice: does each character in the story have a distinct, or at least distinct enough, voice to set them apart?
  • Consistency: are they as good on the first page as they are on the last?

If the book has an ensemble cast (which we’ll discuss more in a moment), there are a few extra things that I look for. They are:

  • Dynamic: if the cast members interact, do they have chemistry with one another?
  • Are all the cast members great, or do some lack behind the others?

At the very least, a good audiobook needs to have one decent narrator. If they’re an excellent performer with great love/respect for the material, they can make listening to the fun a lot of fun and interesting! If they don’t care, or their voice is grating on the ears or just dull, it can make listening to the book feel like a chore.

That is the bare minimum. But there are some things that can propel an audiobook from good to great!

For starters, an ensemble cast is a great addition! Giving each character a completely distinct voice can go a long way in increasing interest, especially if the narrator is lacking. Plus, it gives the book a more dramatic feeling to it, almost like you’re listening to a radio drama.

Remember those? Radio plays? No? Only me? Okay.

Music and sound effects help as well. The point of a novel is to take the audience away and make them feel like they’re really there in the story, right? Well, what better way to do that than to fill their ears with the sounds of an encroaching storm? With the clash of blade against blade? Putting sounds like these, along with background music, behind the narration and voice-over can transform an audiobook from ‘listen to this professional voice actor reading a book to you’ to ‘listen to this full-on non-visual production of this amazing novel’!

Of course, this isn’t a necessity. In fact, you could very well argue that all of these additions push the production away from being an audiobook and come closer to being a drama. Personally, I don’t fall into this way of thinking; so long as the narration and dialogue from the novel are still there, it is still an audiobook in my mind. But I can understand why people wouldn’t like this way of thinking.

Some people enjoy just having a man with a buttery smooth voice reading a book to them. If they wanted music and sound effects, they’d watch a movie. I can get that. But I don’t agree with it.

If I’m reading a fantasy epic, I want it to be epic dammit!

I know a lot of people who don’t consider audiobooks to really count. When I tell them that I just finished listening to, say, ‘The Way of Kings’, they’ll respond “Well, you didn’t really read it, so does it count?” Even now, there’s still this stigma that audiobooks aren’t a ‘fair’ way of experiencing a novel. Which is strange, considering that they’re most people’s go-to way of keeping up on literature!

Or maybe I just hang out with a bunch of hipsters, I dunno.

I do love sitting down and reading a book. Few things are quite as relaxing as scanning a page and flipping it, reading at your own pace. But time is a resource that we don’t have much of anymore. Luckily, I can still experience those amazing stories thanks to audiobooks!

Because nothing makes folding my boxers more interesting quite like a good sci-fi novel.

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