George: You know what? I can't do this. I can't read books anymore. Books on tape have ruined me, Jerry! I need that nice voice. This book has my voice. I hate my voice.
Sound familiar (pun intended)? Whether we want it to or not, our society is rapidly moving from a nation of book-readers to one of book-listeners. In a recent industry survey conducted by the Audiobooks Publishers Association, audiobook retail sales totaled nearly $1.5 billion in 2014, a 13.5% jump from 2013 sales. And it makes sense - listening is hands-free. Audiobook allow listeners to multitask in a way that traditional books never could. Chances are, you're listening to something even as you read this article.
Whether or not you're an audiobook junkie, you can't deny the power of a well-trained voice (admit it, you get a little excited when you find out that Morgan Freeman is narrating anything). As the demand for quality audiobooks as risen, so has the demand for quality audiobook narrators. In almost all cases, the narrator can be just as important as the author in bringing characters to life, in setting the scene, and in presenting an even flow of ideas, events, and attitudes. (For a full list of audiobook providers, check out our company reviews)
Even if you don't hate your voice like George Costanza, here's a list of some audiobook narrators that could make the dictionary (and maybe even the Twilight Saga) sound rich and interesting:
Few authors can successfully narrate their own works for audiobooks. Neil Gaiman is one of them. With stories like Coraline, Stardust (both of which now full-length motion pictures), Neverwhere, and Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman expertly navigates the hidden side of the known world. And while many narrators compose a certain self-importance to their craft, Gaiman keeps his simple, speaking informally as though he were simply reflecting upon an interesting idea.
For a full list of Neil Gaiman's narrated works, CLICK HERE.
Maya Angelou is another one of those gifted authors with a talent for self-narration. Best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her poem And Still I Rise, the late poet literally gave a voice to the disenfranchised. Though many of her narrations were recorded while she was in her seventies and eighties, her diction is both clear and engaging. Angelou speaks from impassioned experienced like no other audiobook narrator can. And while this literary great is no longer with us, her words will continue to be both relevant and revelatory.
To sample her works, CLICK HERE.
As you might imagine, certain genres require a specific voice to both capture the attention of the listener and convey the mood of the story. When it comes to mystery and thriller novels, that voice belongs to Simon Vance. In spite of his perfect English diction, Vance carries a slight edge to his voice, which reflects the continuous undertone of tension championed by many of the novels he narrates. Vance has done narration for The Millennium Series, including its most popular and well-known installment, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
To listen to Simon Vance's recorded works, CLICK HERE.
How good was Frank Muller? Frank Muller was so good, that when he was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident that landed him in the hospital in 2001, the authors whose works he narrated organized a benefit in his honor. Who were those authors? Stephen King, John Grisham, and Pat Conroy, to name a few. In terms of voice transformation, few can top Frank Muller. Not only could he voice the American grit necessary for Stephen King's The Gunslinger, but he could also capture the necessary English accent for many of Charles Dickens's works.
To access Muller's wide array of narrated works, as well as the recording of the Frank Muller Tribute, CLICK HERE.
Best known for his narration of the Harry Potter series, Jim Dale remains one of the most popular and beloved audiobook narrators of our time. Dale has mastered a skill that many audiobook narrators struggle with and few attempt; he provides a unique and identifiable voice to each character in his narration. As he does mostly children's books, Dale's imaginative and clean-cut narration is a great way to get introduced to the audiobook industry.
For more on Jim Dale's work, CLICK HERE.