Let’s Talk About Audio Baby! (W/ Giveaway!)

Leslie from Under my Apple Tree, and myself both enjoy audio books.  I love to look at her audio reviews and see what she is suggesting.  Yes, even us audio book lovers need go-to audio book lovers… much like us book people seek out other book people.  😀 

Through our chatting recently on audio books we though it would be fun to give you a little bit of our background with audio, and then open it up to you to ask questions on each of our blogs.  We will have a random drawing on each blog for those who do ask questions about audio books.  Feel free to ask the same question on each blog as we will probably answer it differently.  I have about  2 1/2 years of audio book experience but Leslie has about 4 years!

How long have you been listening to audiobooks and how long did it take you to be comfortable with the format?

For me, I didn’t start getting into audio book until after I had begun book blogging.  My opinion on audio books was something my aunt and uncle did when they drove their RV from California to Minnesota each spring.  In other words… old school.  Outdated.  I imagined them surrounded with a case of cassette tapes, choosing what to listen to next as they bounced along the highways…

Then, in late 2009 I was offered a few audio books through Hatchette audio for review.  I remember starting with James Patterson.  I liked some of Patterson’s books, so why not?  The series I started with was The Michael Bennett series and the first audio was Step On A Crack.  What I thought about audio books that day (monotone readers blah blah blah) went out the window. 

What I learned is that audio can be exciting!  The narrators show emotions, the different characters have voices you come to recognize, and in this audio books case and the others in this series that followed – they had sound effects!

So began my love of audio.  It was truly trial and error in the beginning.  I had no idea how to pick out good audio.  Many in the early listens were mediocre. But when I hit a good one – I knew they were out there.

Since audiobooks are an acquired skill, what should listeners look for when selecting a book? What should they avoid?

When selecting an audio book watch to see if the audio is abridged on unabridged.  I always go unabridged, I think most of us do.

If the narrator is new to you, many websites offer sample listening of the audio so you can see if it is too your liking.  I also like to watch from ratings on narrations and see what others are saying about the audio.

See how many hours the audio book you are thinking of is.  I personally prefer my audio books between 6 and 10 hours.  However, in the case of books that I really want to read, I will go longer.  11-22-63 was 30 hours and 40 minutes.  The Passage by Justin Cronin was 36 hours and 52 minutes.  Both were well worth it. 

Audio books can get pricey however many libraries have audio for rent as well as to download.  Sites like Amazon, half.com, Bargainbooks.com, Ebay all can have great deals on audio books.  I recently picked up 10 audio books of newer titles for $2.99 each at Bookbargains.com.  I am also a HUGE fan of audible.com where you can get an audio a month for $7.99 your choice!  Your first audio book with Audible.com is free, and there is no contract ever…. you can stop any time.  I have been using them for two years and just recently updated my account from one audio a month to two.  They also have awesome sales where many titles will be $5 or less.  See my audible.com link on the right sidebar for more information.

What audiobooks would you recommend to new listeners?

If you are dipping an ear into audio let me just say, YAY!!!  Now that first audio experience is important so here are a few I would suggest depending on your tastes…


  • Any of The Harry Potter books with either narrator Stephen Fry or Jim Dale.  Both are fantastic and you will sweat that is Hagrid in the room with you!
  • Ready Player One.  If you have reading the audio book week posts, then enough said.  We are all raving about this one.  🙂
  • The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks – f you like historical non fiction this one is incredible!
  • The Magicians King – a grown up Harry Potter.  Picture Potter if they could have done the college years and tossed him into Narnia… ok, now you are with me 😀


Now we open the discussion to you.  Feel free to add to what was discussed here.  Please ask questions!  Any comment that contributes to the discussion or relevant question will count towards a chance to win an audio book of choice from Amazon up to a $20 value.  Winner will be chosen randomly at the end of the Audio Book Week. 

Also, be sure to stop by and see Leslie at Under My Apple Tree to ask her questions and comment on her post as well.  Thank you to Jen at Devourer of Books for hosting Audio Book Week!

64 Comments on “Let’s Talk About Audio Baby! (W/ Giveaway!)

  1. One of my favorite audio book series is the Bloody Jack series- such fun!

  2. I’ve heard it said that it’s better, when one is unaccustomed to audio, to start with nonfiction. Do you agree with this?

    • Great question Hannah! I personally did not start out with non fiction, I had a fiction author I enjoyed and fell in love with audio. I can however see where non fiction could be beneficial to ease into audio. If you can find a good topic you enjoy and hold your attention I would think that would be a great starting point for audio book listening.

  3. i think my first audio book was by michael j fox…his story w/ parkinson’s disease…read by him…awesome.

  4. I’ve listened to audio on and off for years, but started again four years ago when my children go Magic Tree House books in their kids meals at Wendy’s. We listened, loved it, and went to the librayr to check out more. We started with that series and have gone so much further. When I started running last year I eventually got an ipod and our library started offering downloaded books, so I pick from there for my own listening and do children friendly books in the car. I pick something different each time and vary genres and lengths. I like memoirs and they usually only clock in at 4 to 6 hours, so it doesn’t feel like a huge commitment. Plus, I listend a 2X speed. Not everyone would like it, but then it is more like how I read!

  5. Other book bloggers got me hooked on audio too!! I’m glad you brought up unabridged because I made the mistake to pick up an abridged audio early in my listening days and it was a mistake!

    • I’m really curious why they even make abridged audio, or at least why it’s so widely available. If I want to invest in a story, I’d like to read/hear/watch/consume the whole thing! Years ago when I was giving audio a try and choices were more limited, I had trouble finding unabridged audio.

      • Really? I think here almost everything I see at stores or on line is unabridged (I just checked a few randomly on line to make sure that was right…) I don’t always remember to check before I buy or borrow. I don’t understand the point of abridged either.

  6. My boys were listening to audio before it was cool and that’s how my youngest “read” the Harry Potter series. I just found a few of them the other day in fact and think I will load them up on my iPod. I LOVE audible.com and will admit to going bit crazy there just lately! But overall, I think audio has really added to my reading experience! Loved your recommendations! This week is going to make my wishlist explode!!

    • LOL – love that Staci “Listening to audio before audio was cool”… I think I was reading before it was cool too….. quite the trendsetters we are! 😀
      Audible is fantastic! I recommend it to everyone!

  7. I have to give audiobooks a try again. I can see many advantages to them, but have had some trouble finding narrators that read quick enough. That slow speech drives me a little batty. audiobooks.com is pretty affordable.

    • Steph – try Bossypants, its fun and fairly quick. I think you can also speed up the way you listen to audio as well… not sure if that will work for what you are saying here but worth a try 😀

  8. I am and will always be a diehard audiobook fan! I have quite a few favorite narrators that I would listen to if all they read was the phone book. I wonder have either of you had a favorite narrator read a book that could not hold your interest?

    • I am fairly new to the “following narrators”… although I am getting there. 😀 The closest I can come to this is that everyone raves about Neil Gaiman’s narration, and I chose The Graveyard Book on audio for that reason. I wasn’t thrilled and didn’t see what all the fuss was about I am sorry to admit. I will try him again, he does have a pleasant voice and maybe I just need a different audio 😀

  9. These are great suggestions – I would second going to your library. Of course download didn’t exist when I started out, but I still like to go to the library with the kids and just take out a bunch of books and sample until we find something that we like. I highly recommend listening as a family – both in the car and around the house. It can lead to actual DISCUSSIONS with your kids!

    • I love that you can discuss audio books with your kids! I missed out on that! And the Library is a fantastic way to start – to dabble, in audio and see what you like and don’t like. 😀

  10. The only abridged audio I listened to was Rococo, because of Mario Cantone’s narration! Other than that, I stick to the unabridged. Great post!

  11. I’m glad you mentioned to look for unabridged, I wouldn’t have known it was better. I’ve really only listened to a few audio books and would like to know, do you prefer male or female narrators, or does it matter to you?

    • I think I have listened to more female narrators than male, not intentionally, just the nature of the books i pick out. I do not like it if a female can not pull off the male parts, or if a man can not read the female parts…. its nice if they are flawless. Currently I am listening to Ravens in my vehicle and I am thrilled with the narration. Robert Petkoff does an excellent job speaking the male parts and Maggi-Meg Reed (who I keep finding everywhere!) is incredible with a thick southern accent for the female roles.

  12. I forgot all about the dreaded “abridged” audiobooks. I don’t see too many of those anymore.

    I have a feeling I’m going to end up with a list of new audiobook recommendations at the end of this week!

  13. I think I will end up listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks – everyone raves about them. The Help is a very well done audiobook too for a first time listener.

  14. I enjoy hearing an audiobook read by the author him/herself; the voice intonations are read like the author intended the reader to “hear” the story. Recent favorites read by the the authors themselves are: BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey, THEN AGAIN by Diane Keaton and GABBY, written by Gabrielle Giffords, former Arizona Congressperson and Mark Kelly, her astronaut husband. THE HELP (not read by the author herself) was also well done; the various voices of the characters really enhanced a book I had already read in print. I have only been listening to audiobooks for about a year and decided to train myself to “read” in this way to become a better listener and pay attention to details of a story. I enjoy the different voices within a story and listening to a book makes a car trip go so much more quickly!

  15. I have heard so much about audio books and think they would be great, but I have never listened to one.

  16. I was comfortable from the very start, as I happened to almost always get great narrators!
    For readers who want to to try audiobooks, I would recommend they check for instance http://www.audiobookjukebox.com/, where there are great reviews, and where the reviewers really assess the level of the narrators.
    I would recommend Before I Go To Sleep, by the awesome narrator Orlagh Cassidy: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/21/83-before-i-go-to-sleep/.
    My main question to you would be: can we judge a book by its narrator?
    for more questions, AND a giveaway, see my post: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/06/26/so-you-want-to-review-audiobooks-audiobook-week-discussion-and-giveaway/

    • Fantastic – thanks for this comment. As far as your question- I would say yes and no – you can not judge a book by its narrator, the book may be wonderful – however – you can judge an audio book by its narrator…. or narration.

  17. My question: Do you think it’s an advantage for the author to read the book themselves or should they leave it to a “proffessional” narrator?

    • Good question… I was thinking today as I was listening to Ravens on the way home that the male narrator is fantastic…. I can picture quite well what is going on and when he switches who is talking etc… then I though about what I would sound like if I tried to read audio….
      Uhhh…. yeah. 😯

      That would be…. awkward. 😀

      I guess what I am saying is I think if they can do it, have the voice for it, and can do a good job (Yeah… my list of demands are LONG!) then go for it – I am always interested when I see the author has read the book themselves.

  18. This post is making me excited about audio books! Since I listen to audio in the car and my kids are sometimes with me, I’m wondering if audio books are rated, like music CDs for foul language for example? I’m going to check out the site suggested by Words and Peace and see if any of the reviews give the listener a clue as to content. Thanks for all the audio book suggestions!

    • YAY Laura!!! I think like books, they do not (unfortunately) come with ratings. If I review a book or audio that has foul language or anything that I think maybe be disturbing I put in at the end of my review as a “Caution” or “Warning”

      • Yes, I will review the audio books the same way I review my books: by adding a content note at the end.

        • I think this is important especially in audio Laura because it is not always “for our ears only.” I remember a friend recommended a book to me in audio a year ago. I was in my kitchen cooking when I started it with a 14 year old boy who was staying with us at the time in the next room. The book started out pretty graphic and I had to hurry to the cd player to turn the volume down… the book turned out to be very good- the point of the beginning was a big part of the story – but believe me – when I reviewed it I warned caution with the beginning. 😀

  19. Recently I have listened to two different audiobooks; one was a light paranormal tale that is a very good read, but in audio very disappointing. The narrator’s voice inflection for me made the main protagonist seem silly instead of snarky or clever. The other was in the J.P. Beaumont series (I have listened to several) by J.A. Jance – the narrator for this series is wonderful and almost hypnotizing in how immersed in the read you become. I think there should be some way to perhaps sample the narrator / book to see if it will fit, as the first book I spoke of got rave reviews on the audio while it certainly was not my cup of tea. When my son was younger, I spent a lot of time in the car taking him here and there and waiting and it was always so enjoyable to listen to a book instead of the same songs on the radio 🙂 Of course when lying in bed, it is definitely an instant sleep aid (especially Agatha Christie) just too soothing LOL

    • Excellent topic Denise – on audible.com you can sample the audio before purchasing… and I do… they give you a good 4 + minutes of the audio so you can get a feel for it. I also rely a lot on my fellow audio bloggers – they give great advice 😀

  20. I’m still trying to find exactly what I like. I think I prefer contemporary fiction with family drama, relations, etc., as opposed to just a story being told. I recently started two different books and needless to say have not finished either one or picked up another one. Still trying to find what it is I enjoy on audio.

    My husband just listened to Ready Player One and so I think I will give it a go, especially since seeing your recommendation.

    • Dalene, that is exactly the way to go – find your own taste in audio. I don’t always hit it right but I am getting better at it… I have had quite a few DNF (did not finish) in audio books inthe past… 😀

  21. Apart from children’s stories, which only go for a short time, I’ve never listed to an audio book. I know I will enjoy them.

  22. Sheila, do you keep two seperate book lists, one that you really want to read/listen on audio and one that you want a paper copy of? Or is it all just happenstance?

    • I keep one wish list that usually starts out as a book list, but if I hear good things about the audio I will add an “A” after it to remind me that this would be best to try in audio. 😀

  23. I havent listened to an audio book at all as I have not got any but I certainly would like to try! Family dramas, historical fiction are the fields I like.

  24. It is interesting how audio can change a reading experience. I have audio book listeners in both of my book discussion groups and last evening one of them was telling me about how she had listened to a book recently and wished she’d had it in print form instead because it is easier to go back and refer to different parts of the book if necessary. Another book group member said that listening to the audio of our book pick (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) was an excellent way to experience the book and really drew her into the story. I found that I preferred listening to the audio of Little Princes by Conor Grennan compared to reading the print version because I liked hearing the author’s story in his own voice.

    It is hard to figure out sometimes what book is better approached in audio or in print. One of my coworkers said she found The Night Circus to be a difficult audio book because it was too confusing to keep track of. I was disappointed to hear that as I love Jim Dale’s narration for Harry Potter. I remember when I was first reading Twilight I couldn’t get a copy of the print version from the library but they had the audio. As interested as I was in the story, I couldn’t get past the narrator’s voice for Edward so I ended up buying my own copy of the print book! I wish there was an easy way to listen to all the voices on an audio book especially in books with alternating narrators. Then if I didn’t like one narrator’s voice I’d know not to get the book. I do like listening to the samples on Audible.

    • This is so true Christina! It is hard to tell which will be better. I tend to take on harder reads in audio because something about that format helps the book to flow better for me. My favorite is when both book and audio compliment each other, like – The Harry Potter books, and like Little Princes. To me that is a bonus because you can go back and experience the read again in a different way. 😀

  25. Great advice. I always listen to the sample first and try to get a feel for the narrator. Awesome contest too. I really want to get Ready Player One. I’ve been hearing amazing things about it.

    • Ready Player One was sooooo fantastic! yes listening to the sample first is a good idea…. thats how I would up with 4 audio the last time I was on audible , they all sounded so GOOD!!!! 😀

  26. i always recommend any Agatha Christie audios! just love a story i can count on being interesting with great characterization and enough plot twists to keep me up at nite 🙂 and of course, the english accented narrators are BONUS !

    thx for this offer, Sheila ! excited to be part of what you’re doing on audio..

    Martha’s bookshelf reviews a lot of audio if you’d like more suggestions from another reviewer… she’s a doll and authentic as they come!

  27. I mostly like to listen to books that I have already read with the exception of the In Death series by JD Robb. My attention span is just to short to listen to any new books.

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