3 “This Is Going To Be Good” Narrators: Great Audiobook Performers

As an audiobook aficionado, I have my favorite narrators. When I see their names on a book, it jumps to the top of my to-read choices. “Narrated by Robin Miles”—yes please. “Read by Kate Reading”—check out now.  “Narrators: Steve West and Fiona Hardingham”—this book is for me.  “Bahni Turpin”—that’s all I need to know, I’m in.

There’s something really personal about hearing someone talking to you for hours that builds a familiarity. Storytelling opens up our hearts to those telling us the story, whether they are authors, actors, or narrators. There are some narrators whose voices I’ve been listening to for so long that I am ready for a story as soon as I hear them start speaking. These are narrators whose voices make me settle in, my subconscious saying, ‘This is going to be good!’

Levar Burton

I’m sure this is a common choice for younger Gen X and Millennial adults. There’s something about Burton’s warm voice that makes it so easy to fall into his smooth storytelling. Though he narrated very few of the actual books on Reading Rainbow, Burton’s voice is inextricably linked in my head to stories. I was delightfully surprised when I pushed play and found him reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. His podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, is exactly what you want if you have fond memories of Reading Rainbow, amazing short stories read by that voice full of stories.

Jim Dale

My British spouse and I have agreed to disagree about who is the voice of the Harry Potter audio, him choosing the Stephan Fry versions and me a diehard for Jim Dale. I struggle with the soft r’s he gives Hermoine, but his voice has the loud authoritative confidence of a timeless storyteller and his manages the many voices of the Harry Potter series with tireless accuracy. I rediscovered him outside of the Wizarding World when I decided to listen to The Night Circus. When I heard him narrate the opening of the first episode of Pushing Daisies, I knew I was going to love the show. Something about his voice settles my brain into readiness for stories.

Jenny Sterlin

I first encountered Sterlin in The Hollow Kingdom when I was in high school, listening with my mom. Sterlin’s voice is amazingly versatile, able to easily do elderly woman and confident little girl in the same breath. Her voice is one that I have found in my favorite comfy fantasy stories. Howl’s Moving Castle and The House of Many Ways, and more recently, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen. Sterlin’s soft but direct voice drops me into the kind of worlds where magic is everywhere, and yet tea is just as magical as it is in this world.

What narrators have been with you for so long that their voices alone get you ready for a great story?

Millennials and Generation Z Drive Audiobook Listenership

“In an oversaturated new media market, one medium is tried and true – books. Contrary to popular belief, technology hasn’t hindered a good story. Rather, it has helped an increasingly busy society continue to consume books, in a world full of always-on distractions. Reading technology has given people the option to choose the format that can be seamlessly integrated into their traditional reading habits,” begins a new report from Rakuten OverDrive exploring the effects of technology on U.S. book consumption.

The report, released this week, highlighted the popularity of audiobooks as a tool for reading, particularly among adults. OverDrive surveyed over 730 adults in February of this year, diving into their reading lives and where and how technology has impacted it.

For those working with books, the results are not surprising, but rather validate the reality of audiobooks continuing to be not only a growing market, but a way for many to enjoy reading while juggling many other tasks in their daily life. OverDrive reports that one in three adults listen to audiobooks, spending at least three hours a week listening. Almost a quarter of those who listen do so at seven or more hours a week.

Audiobook consumption is most common among younger adults, who tend to listen while taking part in other tasks. The ease and availability of audiobooks to be taken along via a personal device makes this a more common choice than print or ebooks for multitasking and reading.

Over half of audiobook listeners tune in while completing tasks around the house, including cooking and chores, and 40% tune into a book when exercising or driving. Still others (roughly 45%) use audiobooks as a means of passing time while waiting in lines, in doctor’s offices, and similar activities.

Audiobook listenership by age groups

It comes as little surprise that Gen Z and Millennials are among the most likely to listen to books on audio, with 48% of audiobook consumers. Technology being such a constant part of their young lives and dominating their adulthood suggests that using personal devices to tap into more reading is only nature.

Baby Boomers and Gen X listeners make up only about a quarter of audiobook selectors.

Libraries have only helped make the use of audiobooks easier, as many listeners consider them a reliable source for acquiring new titles to read. The desire to support local libraries, as well as the ease and convenience of borrowing while on the go, were cited among reasons that 33% of audiobook listeners choose to borrow.

When do readers choose audio over print or digital reading? According to the report, 45% percent listen to relax or unwind, followed by those who listen while working on mindless tasks, passing time, or when they can’t find time for another format. This, of course, fits with the findings noted earlier, that ease and convenience of a personal device allows for multitasking.

Other responses express a desire for seeking a more immersive experience, as well as a desire to better comprehend the text. Likewise, audiobooks are an opportunity for sharing a reading experience with another person.

“With the broad adoption of the smartphone, tablets and AI assistants – it’s clear why audiobooks have grown in popularity in recent years. Through the rise of audiobooks, consumers have been reconnected with reading because of one major factor – its ease of use,” the report stated.

5 YA Poetry Audiobooks Read By the Author

Poetry is meant to be read aloud. The words and rhythms come alive when they’re spoken, which is why we are so fortunate to be living in a time where audiobooks—and narrated by the author, no less!—are readily available. To celebrate National Poetry Month, we recommend these five YA poetry audiobooks—two novels-in-verse, one memoir, one collection of poetry, and one short story in verse—all read by the authors.

The Poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X has collected multiple accolades—the Printz Award, the National Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, to name a few—and for good reason. It’s the powerful story of teenage Xiomara, who dreams of partaking in slam poetry and is struggling to find her voice. The audiobook is a powerful performance by the author, who has a background in slam poetry as well.

Long Way DownLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds

It’s hard to say which is the best way to experience Long Way Down—print or audio. It’s such a short book, I recommend both. The performance Jason Reynolds puts in is heartrending, really capturing the emotion of Will, whose brother has just been murdered and now must decide if he’ll choose revenge or forge a different path.

ShoutShout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Twenty years after her groundbreaking novel Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson has given us her own memoir of sexual assault and survivorship. Half her own story of being a young person and half a story of reclaiming and finding your voice, Laurie’s story is searing and her voice commands your attention.

the princess saves herself in this one book coverThe Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

Amanda Lovelace’s first book of poetry became wildly popular due to the way she explores the realities of trauma and abuse through fairytale imagery, turning the classic stories into something empowering. The poet’s voice both lulls and unsettles the listener, making this book one that you’ll want to listen to multiple times.

Love at First BookLove at First Book by Sarah Tregay

This short story in verse is a romantic, uplifting read about finding love and hope after loss, without being too heavy. If you like books, cute coffee shops, and meet cutes, this story is for you. Sarah Tregay is one of the best author-narrators I’ve ever come across, and I could have listened to her read to me for hours on end.

What are some of your favorite YA poetry audiobooks?

7 Terrific Audiobooks with Theatrical Narrators

I love fiction audiobooks, but my background in theatre has made me super picky about which narrators I will tolerate. I have incredibly high standards, and it is not uncommon for me to bail when I feel the voice actor is not up to par. I have discovered that my favorite narrators are all actors with experience in theatre, film, and/or television work. This is especially crucial when the book requires multiple characters, accents, and voices.

The following audiobooks have exceptional narrators with superior acting skills. I absolutely adored each one of these performances and hope that my fellow audiobook lovers will find some new favorites on this list.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
Narrated by Chris Ciulla

This may be my favorite audiobook narration ever. Ciulla gives voice to an amazing relationship between Ona, a 104-year-old woman, and a very special and unusual 11-year-old boy. The youngster helps her around the house on Saturdays and she tells him stories of her long and fascinating life. The book is heartwarming without being overly sentimental, and Ciulla is the consummate actor to tell the story.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Narrated by Bahni Turpin

Whitehead’s alternate history of the pre–Civil War south involves actual trains on underground tracks. We follow Cora as she escapes from a brutal life on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Turpin inhabits each character so fully that I was hanging on every word, praying for Cora’s safety as she raced across the treacherous south with a slave tracker always one step behind.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Narrated by David Pittu

If the length of this Pulitzer Prize winner has kept you from tackling it, then I suggest that you try the audiobook. Pittu’s mesmerizing narration allows you to get sucked right into the coming-of-age tale of Theo, orphaned in his teens and struggling in his adulthood. Tartt’s atmospheric prose takes you through a harrowing explosion, a dusty antique shop, the dark underworld of art, and the lonely landscape of loss.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Narrated by Samantha Bond and Allan Corduner

This incredibly entertaining story is really a book within a book—one old-school whodunit couched within a larger contemporary mystery. Thus, two narrators, one for each part of the book. Each actor has a separate cast of townspeople, detectives, and suspects to portray within each story, and both Bond and Corduner rise to the challenge beautifully.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Narrated by Meera Syal

The book follows Nikki, a young woman who takes a job teaching creative writing to a group of older women in a Punjabi community in London. They definitely end up telling some steamy stories, but the real heart of the book is how this disparate group of ladies come to share their lives and support one another. Syal perfectly embodies all the different personalities as you hear the women bicker, gossip, and finally band together as they empower one another.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Narrated by Bahni Turpin

This imaginative young adult novel imagines what might have happened if the Civil War had been interrupted by a zombie uprising. Bahni Turpin gets two books on this list because she is my favorite audiobook narrator of all time. And she is absolute perfection as Jane, the sickle-wielding, funny, smart, salty, badass teenage heroine in Dread Nation. Turpin is equally fantastic as the mayor, Jane’s teacher, the sheriff, and a dozen other characters in the town.

The Nix by Nathan Hill
Narrated by Ari Fliakos

Samuel is a writer who is having trouble writing, spending his time gaming online and teaching at a local college. His mother deserted him as a child, but she suddenly resurfaces in the media after accosting a presidential candidate. Hoping to reignite his writing career, Samuel begins investigating his mother’s past in order to write a tell-all. As a narrator, Fliakos is a vocal chameleon, capturing the heart and voice of each character. It is a delight to hear him jump from flaky college student to strung out online gamer to mysterious absent mother.

Looking for more great audiobooks? Try these:

10 Mesmerizing Audiobooks Written and Narrated by Women

6 Fiction Audiobooks Narrated by the Authors

The 5 Best Audiobook Narrators