Top 5 Audio Books… according to Narrator Tavia Gilbert
I began narrating in the fall of 2007, so I’ve been a full-time narrator for almost seven years and have recorded close to 300 books. I have so many beloved projects, including Let Me Stand Alone — the journals of Rachel Corrie, many books of non-fiction by the brilliant Annie Dillard, several wonderful Carlotta Carlyle mysteries, Kate Christensen’s memoir, thrillers by Allison Leotta, science fiction by John Scalzi, young adult fiction by Katherine Paterson, children’s stories like The Wizard of Oz and the Velveteen Rabbit...and more. If you visit TaviaGilbert.com/full-audiography, you’ll see my complete audiobook listing, with my personal favorites highlighted in blue. I’m fortunate to have been given great books to voice throughout my career the years, and have some more fantastic book projects on the horizon.
Five amazing audiobooks? It’s very hard to choose just five, but here’s a list of a few favorite audiobooks!
The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd (young adult)
Kate inhabits this story, which has been such a smash hit in the last couple of years. I couldn’t stop listening to this book, and at the same time I couldn’t bear for it to end. I’ve never listened to an audiobook twice, but this might be the first multiple-listen experience. Kate was exceptional in her performance, fully bringing the characters to life, capturing every bit of wry humor, creating such a nuanced reading that I was absolutely captivated.
Rise & Shine, by Anna Quindlen, narrated by Carol Monda (contemporary fiction)
I love listening to Carol Monda’s narration, and this is a great performance of a compelling story. I’ve told Carol how I feel when she begins a story — I totally and completely trust her. I relax in her masterful presence, because I know that she will not make a wrong turn anywhere along the path. Her pacing is perfect, her characterizations spot on, her dialogue true to life, her heart completely open and her work completely in the moment. I’m a better narrator because I’ve listened to her work.
The Sunday Philosophy Club Series, by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Davina Porter (literary fiction/philosophy)
I adore Davina Porter’s narration of Isabel Dalhousie’s stories. Alexander McCall Smith is a captivating, charming, contemplative writer, and this series is just fantastic. Davina creates soulful, heart-felt, fiercely intelligent voice performances — she’s the perfect medium for the compassionate and thoughtful characters Smith writes. This team of writer and voice actor is unparalleled, and I luxuriate in the listening experience.
Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth, narrated by Nicola Barber (memoir)
I fell in love with the British television series, Call the Midwife, and later equally delighted in Nicola Barber’s narration of the memoir by Jennifer Worth. Nicola’s characterizations and accents are spot on, and I was riveted by the story. Call the Midwife fans will be pleased to hear story lines that they recognize from the TV show, but those unfamiliar with the series will quickly become devotees of the young British midwives and Catholic sisters whose lives make this a wonderful listen.
The Millennium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson, narrated by Simon Vance (thriller)
You cannot go wrong with a performance by Simon Vance, and the dark, terrifying, thrilling Swedish series is excellent. Simon is a master story-teller, and he was perfectly cast for this series. His characterizations are never over the top but always differentiated, the suspense horrifying with his subtlety and nuance, the timing and delivery impeccable. These books are not for the faint of heart, but they’re even better with Simon’s performance.
And a bonus question….
And this isn’t a funny narration story, but a sweet one:
Years ago, years after I graduated from Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, one of my most beloved college voice and speech teachers, Stephanie Kallos, left full-time acting and teaching to concentrate on her writing.Her first novel, Broken For You, was beautifully narrated by Anna Fields, one of the best narrators in the history of audiobooks.Anna died tragically when she was trapped in her Seattle recording studio during a flood; the loss to the audiobook community was enormous.When Stevie’s second novel, Sing Them Home, was published, I was very new to the narration art-form, but because it was the novel of a dear friend, I wanted the opportunity to do the project, and I campaigned for it.Being told that the novel was mine to voice came with a feeling of great responsibility, because I so wanted to make Stevie proud, I wanted to reach the bar that Anna Fields had set, and the story was long and complex and crazy challenging — multiple dialects, Welsh language, and singing, as well as several distinct main characters and about 100 characters in total, including a very young child, and a 100-year-old man — who sang in Welsh!It was a daunting project then, and it would be a daunting project now, six years and hundreds of books later.But I had a fantastic director, and we worked very slowly and carefully on the performance, and it won my first Earphones Award.Most importantly, Stevie loved the work, and I felt that I had, in fact, honored Anna Fields by taking everything I’d learned from listening to countless books she’d narrated, and doing the very best work I was capable of.Stevie is publishing her third novel next year, and we are both so hopeful that I will be invited to narrate the project. Her writing is extraordinary, and it’s so special voicing a story that someone I love carefully crafted, so I’d be thrilled to work with her again. Our fingers are crossed!