I listen to a lot of audio books. Partly this is because the time I happen to be in my car is usually peak advertising time for regular radio stations (and that annoys me) and partly it’s because I have limited time to read and I get in a lot more stories this way. Some people insist that this isn’t “reading” (my husband is one of these). Some people insist it’s the same as reading. For me, it’s very much not the same as reading. As a writer, I notice completely different things when I read a book as opposed to listening to one. I process things entirely differently.
But one debate that I’ve heard out there about audiobooks is whether the readers of those books–the narrators–ought to act. Should they put on accents, change voices depending on which character is speaking? Some listeners argue no because they’re interpreting the books in their own way and that somehow interferes with the listeners’ enjoyment. I’m on the fence about this. I’ve listened to many audiobooks where the readers did actually act and change voices for characters. When it’s done well, it’s a real pleasure. I love listening to Barbara Rosenblatt, particularly all the Elizabeth Peters books she’s narrated. I feel like having someone who does this well can be a real asset to an audiobook because it holds attention better and makes it almost like listening to a radio program or something rather than zoning out at a monotone reader who sounds like somebody from a high school lit class.
On the flipside, when it’s done poorly it can ruin a book. There have been books I’ve been incapable of listening to all the way through because of a voice or accent the reader adopted for one of the characters. The guy that narrated Nora’s Blood Brothers adopted a weird, supposedly Philadelphia accent for Layla that set my teeth on edge. Beyond that it made no sense to me, as Quinn is also supposed to be from Pennsylvania and SHE didn’t have a funky accent. Thankfully someone different narrated The Hollow. I’m presently listening to Karen Marie Moning’s Bloodfever and having a hard time getting through it. The narrator has adopted a sugary, surupy southern accent for Mac (who’s from small town Georgia) that’s also annoyingme. Now I do actually know some folks from small town Georgia who talk in a similar manner, but the drawl is so exaggerated it makes it almost hard to read. I’ve noticed it’s accents that tend to get me rather than how they “act”. If the accent is annoying or wrong or overexaggerated, it’s a real turnoff. There are some books I have to read in print rather than listening to because I can’t tolerate the narrator.
So what about you, ladies and gents? What’s your take on audiobooks? Do you prefer them to be just “read” or do you appreciated when they’re acted? Or do you simply not like them at all?