I have been an avid reader since I was a child (a librarian who likes to read, quelle surprise!), but audiobooks are a fairly recent discovery for me. Despite friends going on and on about their many virtues, I resisted giving them a try for the longest time. Why would I want to take the time to listen to a book when I could read it so much faster? A couple of years ago, I was required to listen to an audiobook for a readers advisory class. That book was the classic space adventure The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams and read by British actor Stephen Fry. I read this book as a teenager many years ago, but listening to it as an audiobook made it so much better than I remembered. I found myself laughing out loud (no one does British disdain better than Stephen Fry), replaying the funny bits, and, more than once, idling my car in the grocery store parking lot just so I could listen to a few more minutes of the book. From that moment on, I was hooked.
I finally realized that part of what gives me pleasure about reading is the feeling of being swept up and carried away within a story. I can think of nothing more relaxing after a long day than snuggling down with a good book and losing myself in the words. Audiobooks have given me the opportunity to carve out a little of that same feeling while in my car running errands or doing chores around the house. An added bonus: listening to children’s audiobooks while shuttling my kids to and fro has been a great way for me to introduce them to books they would not have chosen to read on their own. I can recall many occasions when I’ve practically had to force them out of the car because they wanted to stay and find out what happened next. I wonder who they get that from? Audiobooks are also my favorite way to “read” nonfiction. You’d be surprised at the level of interest an excellent narrator can generate. I’ve enjoyed many nonfiction audiobooks on topics I never knew I had any interest in!
To celebrate national audiobook month, I asked library staff to share some of their own favorite titles. If you haven’t given audiobooks a try, there’s no better time than the present to start! In addition to cd audiobooks, Cook Memorial Public Library District also offers electronic audiobooks (eAudiobooks) through our eLibrary service which can be downloaded with a Cook library card and listened to via computer, tablet, or smartphone. One-on-one appointments are available Saturday mornings at both Cook and Aspen if you need help getting started. Happy listening!
American Gods by Neil Gaiman [fiction/fantasy]. Read by Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, and Dennis Boutsikaris. I highly recommend the audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s magnificent fantasy novel, American Gods. The 10th anniversary edition with multiple narrators is especially good. This version is available on Hoopla and Overdrive if you have a Cook Memorial Public Library card. American Gods has been turned into a mini-series on Starz, which I’m sure will drive more interest to Gaiman’s inventiveness and creativity. – Jo, Popular Services
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie [historical fiction]. Read by Cassandra Campbell. This historical fiction novel tells the story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, first daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Patsy was extremely devoted to her father throughout his life. His post-Declaration of Independence accomplishments, disappointments, tragedies, etc., as well as her own, are wonderfully told through Patsy’s eyes. The story is filled with drama, love, sadness and unrealized hopes due to promises made. I highly recommend it! – Donna, Administration
Armada by Ernest Cline [sci-fi]. Read by Wil Wheaton. This fantastic story has a lot of crossover appeal for teens. A must read for gamers and fans of 80s culture. If I had the choice, Wil Wheaton would narrate every audiobook even remotely related to geek culture. – Mark, Adult Reference/Teen Services
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson [fiction]. Read by Tavia Gilbert. The Frank in the title of this book is a young boy on the Autism spectrum who is smart, funny and more than a bit eccentric. Narrator Tavia Gilbert lends a style and cadence to her voice for Frank that completely captures the charm of his character. Hearing him speak, rather than just reading what he said, really brought this endearing character to life for me. – Becky, Adult Services
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah [nonfiction]. Read by Trevor Noah. Narrated by the author, this memoir of growing up mixed race during Apartheid-era South Africa is hilarious, thought-provoking, and poignant. – Ellen J., Popular Services
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro [fiction/fantasy]. Narrated by David Horovitch. Mystical, fable-like story, with themes of memory, longtime married love, and war. The language is beautiful and the gentle, mesmerizing narration allows you absorb and enjoy it. – Sue, Children’s Librarian
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, book one of The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun [mystery]. Read by George Guidall. (Available to request through LINKin partner libraries with a Cook library card.) These stories feature James Qwilleran and his 2 Siamese cats who live in a fictitious Midwestern town and solve murders. George Guidall has a great voice and wonderful acting sense; he is the perfect narrator for these. This is an older series, but I find them timeless. – Barb, IT
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan [children’s fiction]. The power of music is an important theme in this book, and a magical harmonica binds the disparate parts of the story. The audio version adds music at certain crucial places, sometimes in the background and sometimes at the forefront. The harmonica music was composed and performed by the legendary Corky Siegel. This one is an absolute gem for all ages. – Sue, Children’s Librarian & Jocelyn, Library Intern
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain [nonfiction]. Read by Anthony Bourdain. (Available to request through LINKin partner libraries with a Cook library card.) I think the single best audiobook I’ve ever done is Kitchen Confidential. Anthony Bourdain reads his own book, and he’s good, so it feels like he’s just talking to you. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Anthony Bourdain?! It’s as if he’s gotten one too many drinks in him and he’s decided to spill all the dirt on what it’s really like working in the restaurant biz while dishing (no pun intended) out a few cooking/fine dining tips in the process. My commutes never felt so short. – Nate, Emerging Technology Librarian
Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up by Jon Scieszka [children’s nonfiction]. Read by Jon Scieszka. One that the whole family can listen to… we were crying laughing listening to his stories! – Jenny B., Adult Reference
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith [mystery]. Read by Lisette LeCat. This mystery series takes place in modern day Botswana. I was completely transported as I listened to the rhythm and tone of the narrator’s authentic South African accent. Her pronunciation of Botswanan names and locations really made the people and events in the book come alive. – Sonia, Adult Reference
On the Road by Jack Kerouac [autobiographical fiction]. Read by Matt Dillon. Matt Dillon’s authentic narration makes Kerouac’s classic cross-country adventure even better. – Dave, Library Director
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon [historical fiction]. Read by Davina Porter. Davina Porter narrates this series in a very passionate historical fiction storytelling. Her voice is beautiful! Her portrayals of Claire and other male/female characters, with varied accents, emotions, drama, and timing, are so convincing! – Carol, Technical Services
Scowler by Daniel Kraus [horror]. Read by Kirby Heyborne. One of my favorite horror novels by one of my favorite Young Adult (YA) authors. I read the novel and also listened to it on audio. It won the 2014 Odyssey award for excellence in audiobook production. Kirby Heyborne is a fantastic narrator. – Mark, Adult Reference/Teen Svcs
Substitute: Going to School with a Thousand Kids by Nicholson Baker [nonfiction]. Read by Tom Zingarelli. Funny reader captures kids’ voices in this book about public schools on the east coast. What a job it is to be a substitute. – Rob, Children’s Librarian
You Don’t Look Your Age… and Other Fairy Tales by Sheila Nevins [nonfiction]. Read by multiple narrators. Part memoir and part essay, this collection of stories by famed HBO documentary filmmaker-of-a-certain-age Sheila Nevins is charming, witty and wise. Nevins tackles a myriad of issues women face during their life and careers with honesty and gusto. Individual essays range from laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreaking, and are read by a large, remarkable cast of A-List actresses. – Becky, Adult Services