(All books downloaded on subscription from Audible UK.)
According to Audible UK I have listened to 32,787 minutes of books in 2016, bought 64 downloads, listened to 44 of them, my favourite category is fiction and my favourite day for listening is Sunday. There are 10 on my tblt (to be listened o) list. Don’t you love statistics?
2016 was a delightfully busy year for me and I resolved only to listen to books that I would take seriously (not the same as serious books), so, using Audible’s excellent return policy, I was ruthless about returning books I didn’t like.
As I have said before, listening to a book is very different from reading the printed page. In fact, I’m not sure that calling audio books ‘books’ is the right word. For purposes of simplicity I shall continue to do so.
There are two main advantages to listening once you get used to it… it is difficult to skip so you can concentrate on every word and, particularly in the case of autobiography, the narrator can uncover nuances you might miss on the written page. The downside, of course, is that it is difficult to skip (pray for a good editor) and you have to train yourself to listen and be strict about turning the sound off when you start to drift.
One huge bonus listening to books familiar to you from the printed page is that you get a different perspective. My favourite of 2016 was Juliet Stevenson reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read it in print but this time I was on the edge of my seat and I noticed more of the naval details and how much emphasis was placed on money. Terrific. If you haven’t liked audio books I strongly recommend working at it, to start with in short bursts, and I promise you will be well rewarded.
New Year Resolution (the only one): keep notes on the books I have listened to. And maybe to read less fiction and more history and biography.
Listed below are some of my favourites, in no particular order and with painfully poor notes but I hope my readers will choose some of them. If any authors read this I apologise for my vagueness and inaccuracy.
Jennie Churchill: Winston’s American Mother by Anne Sebba, narrated by Joanna David. Interesting and colourful biography of American heiress who married Randolph Churchill and was the ambitious mother of Winston and Jack Churchill.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Slater. Wonderful account of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, born into poverty and who became secretary to Henry VIII. Mantel’s brilliant writing and superb research bring the King and the Tudor court to life.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Vance. The next instalment of the life of Thomas Cromwell and machinations of Henry VIII. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom, narrated by Steven Crossley. Very enjoyable historical mystery featuring Thomas Cromwell and lawyer/detective Matthew Shardlake investigating a murder in a monastery.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, narrated by Caroline Lee. Fun page turner from a page turning Australian writer about a woman who has a fall and wakes up having lost her memory about the last few years of her life. The reactions of her family, friends and acquaintances surprise and puzzle her. What was she like before the accident? Intelligent and perceptive. Very good read.
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty, narrated by Caroline Lee. Another page turner from this intelligent and readable author. Set on an Australian island made famous by the mystery of a baby found in a recently abandoned house… no parents or family traced, the stove still warm. Loved it.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Fascinating story starting at Kew Gardens, moving to America, set in 18th and 19th centuries. A story of evolution, naturalism, botany, history and feminism requiring, at times ‘a willing suspension of disbelief’ but worth reading.
The Burgess Boys: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout, narrated by Cassandra Campbell. Interesting contemporary novel, beautifully observed story of two very different brothers who escape small town Maine for New York City.
Persuasion by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson. Perfectly written and read. Nothing better!
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, narrated by Bruce Springsteen. This autobiography is everything you would expect. A bit too long but well written and well read.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, narrated by Trevor Noah. I know nothing about the mixed race South African comedian and talk show host so had no preconceived ideas while listening to this account of his family life in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. Powerful, funny and wonderful tribute to his speedy mother.
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant, narrated by Daniel Coonan. The story of two adult Jewish East Ender siblings who find themselves in a tuberculosis sanatorium in the 1940s just before the universal use of streptomycin. Witty, sad and thought provoking. Well worth reading.
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan, narrated by Amy Tan. This is a fascinating series of essays read by the author. Interesting insights into the writing process and another account of a formidable mother.
Have you listened to any of these? If you listen to audio books, where and when do you listen? Do you have any recommendations of audio books you have enjoyed? I would be really interested to hear from you.
Meanwhile all best wishes for an interesting and peaceful 2017.
Happy New Year to you, too. I love audio books & always have one on the go. I usually listen on the drive to work, when I’m walking, ironing or cooking & often before I go to sleep at night. I’m currently listening to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier read by Anna Massey. I also have an Audible subscription but my library has three eAudio platforms so I download from there as well. Juliet Stevenson is one of my favourite narrators, along with David Timson, Harriet Walter, Carole Boyd, Ian Carmichael (for the Dorothy L Sayers books, sadly now only available with a different narrator), Jeremy Sinden & Hilary Neville. I enjoyed Anne Sebba’s biography of Wallis Simpson, That Woman, read by Samantha Bond & I listened to the first few Shardlake books but I think it was a different narrator. That was back in CD days. So many of my favourite audio books from the cassette & CD days are no longer available but Audible does have a great selection of the old Chivers classics & the Whispersync deal means I can buy them very cheaply. My favourite audio books last year were The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carre read by the author, Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift read by Eve Webster, The Moon & Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham read by Robert Hardy & the first 2 parts (of 6) of Gibbon’s Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire read by David Timson.
Many thanks for your comments. We clearly share an interest in a diverse selection of books and readers. In fact, I think the narrator makes a huge difference. So far I haven’t been successful in finding any downloads from the library and I’m not very good at managing cds…. the RNIB do have a subscription librsry but I find it disappointing. A WW2 series I enjoyed but forgot to include was Olivia Manning’s Balkan trilogy. I have listened to several of the books you mention and shall enjoy following up some of the others. Thanks for sharing.
The Balkan trilogy read by Harriet Walter was one of my favourite audio experiences. I love her voice & even now I can hear her pronunciation of the places in Bulgaria etc. It was so long ago I think I listened to it on cassette. If you can get hold of HW’s narration of Barbara Vine’s Asta’s Book or William Boyd’s Brazzaville Beach, they’re also excellent. Actually, she could probably read the phone book & I’d be enthralled!
Thanks. i did hear the Harriet Walter version of the Balkan trilogy, like William Boyd so will put that on my wish list but don’t like the English detective genre so probably not!
Thanks for the recommendations! I don’t listen to audio books, but I’ll be putting a couple of these on my wishlist.
The thing is all audio books come in print but, understably, not the other way round! Which ones are you putting on your wish list?
I’ve read the Amy Tan and greatly enjoyed it. I’m in awe of the amount of reading you’ve done on audio and the range of books you can find now is impressive.
Thanks, Liz. Like you, books are oxygen to me so I’m immensely impressed by Audible and their narrators. Still disappointed that some publishers don’t transcribe books onto audio. But thank goodness new technology assists accessibility for those of us who can’t manage the printed page. As you point out there is a remarkable diversity available.