Audiobooks: The Performance Truly Matters

It’s only been in the past year or so that I have truly discovered audiobooks. (And by discovered, I mean fallen head-over-heels in love with.) I had minimal experience with audiobooks in the past– the kind spread across a dozen cassette tapes that had to be ejected and flipped to the other side to continue the story. Later came the CD versions, still on a multitude of discs, but at least they didn’t have to be flipped from Side A to Side B.

girl in white short with white headphones hanging around her neck
Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

An audiobook’s narrator will make or break the experience for a listener.

My first enjoyable audiobook experience was with Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by JK Rowling. It was on cassette and I listened to it in the car while driving my kids to and from school every day. It took us a while to listen to the entire thing, but I found it difficult to abstain from listening when I ran errands without the kids. I wanted to listen, to continue the story, but we were in it together, the kids and I, and so I restricted myself.

My next experience was with a set of CDs loaned to me by my husband-person (with whom I was only in a budding dating-ship at the time and whom I wanted to impress by listening to this book he’d raved about). The book was Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and I hated it.

I have thought a lot about those two experiences and what really set them apart. Aside from the subject matter being vastly different, the main reason why I enjoyed Harry Potter over the Vonnegut classic is due to the narrator. An audiobook’s narrator will make or break the experience for a listener. It certainly made the difference for me.

several open books lying in the grass
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I have promised myself that I’ll give Slaughterhouse Five another go in the future, but I’ll make sure that I choose a version that’s performed by someone else. This particular version was voiced by Ethan Hawke and I just can’t. Sorry, Ethan.

After the failure with Vonnegut and Hawke, I began perusing the library for every audiobook that looked remotely interesting. On my commutes between work and home, I listened to memoirs and fantasies, mysteries, and more. Some I finished and loved. Some I returned well before the due date. The deciding factor on why I enjoyed one over another: performance. Hands down, every time, performance won out. The story can be wonderfully written, but if it is poorly performed, I’ll spend more time being distracted by the performer’s lisp and halting, staccato voice than I will spend time imagining the story.

Now I’m subscribed to an audiobook service and have recently discovered that I can search by performer. What an incredible discovery for me! You can’t imagine the elation I felt when I clicked on one of my favorite performer’s names and was taken to a multitude of other works she has done. EUREKA! I am considering adding genres I typically am not a fan of simply because she is the voice behind the story. It makes that much of a difference. Truly.

What about you? Are you an audiobook fan? What is it about an audiobook that decides your ultimate enjoyment?

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