I am a GINORMOUS fan of audiobooks!
Before joining Loyalty Bookstores as their Programs and Marketing Manager, I worked as a Quality Control Editor for audiobooks. Not sure what that means? Basically, I would read the book on my computer while listening to the audiobook at the same time, making note of any mistakes—mispronunciations, missing words or phrases, clicks, and background noises. I also have a background in theatre (musical theatre nerds unite!) which has helped me have a deep appreciation for the skills it takes to be an excellent audiobook narrator.
All of this is to say I’d like to think I have a pretty good understanding of audiobooks and narrators and after listening to more than TWO HUNDRED books in the last few years (personally and professionally) I’ve come to have very strong opinions about narrators, especially the ones I love.
Many book lovers have their “auto buy” authors, where they will automatically buy or preorder an author’s books. Well, in addition to my “auto buy” authors, I have developed my “auto listen” narrators—narrators who I know will make the experience of listening to a book extra special. If I see a favorite narrator in the credits, then I almost always decide to experience that book via audiobook rather than in print form.
If you’re looking for a fantastic narrator, check out some of my favorites in Science-Fiction & Fantasy, Romance, and Nonfiction (plus, some bonus recommendations because I couldn’t help myself!):
Science-Fiction & Fantasy
If I had to pick one favorite audiobook, I think Hollow Kingdom would have to be the one. Let it be known, that as an indecisive Libra, picking *just* one is more challenging than it really should be, so a definitive first place from me is kind of a big deal. First of all, Hollow Kingdom is a fantastic book, but Robert Petkoff’s characterization as S.T.—the snarky crow who also happens to be the narrator of the book—is pure perfection. His voices for all of the other characters and his performance overall had me legit crying, laughing, and oftentimes crying from laughing so hard.
In addition to Robin Miles, I’ve listened to Emily Woo Zeller the most out of all my favorite narrators. I love the quality and cadence of her voice, and always find myself stopping what I’m doing to pay extra attention to the acting choices she makes to bring the words to life. My first time listening to Emily Woo Zeller was with The Poppy War, and I remember sitting at the dining table, eyes closed, taking in the story with no distractions. Ugh…so good!
I worked as a Quality Control Editor for Well Met and let me tell you, I haven’t worked through a book so quickly because I *needed* to see how the main character and love interest would come together! Brittany Pressley does such a great job of bringing charm and lightness into her narration, especially with the Ren Faire romance series. Plus, I like how she narrates male characters, which is a major skill y’all!
This is the perfect marriage of an “auto buy” author and an “auto listen” narrator for me! I will absolutely read anything Alyssa Cole writes and I will always be sure to listen to the audiobooks, which to the best of my knowledge, Karen Chilton narrates all of Alyssa’s romance books. I especially love how Karen Chilton brings a silky sensual quality to Alyssa Cole’s romance books, and she is extremely accomplished with accents!
Okay, I’ve probably listened to the most books narrated by Robin Miles out of any other narrator, but she is an absolute queen of audiobooks! At 22 hours, 40 minutes, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is a long ass book™, but Miles’ narration keeps you completely engaged. Robin Miles is the perfect example of excellent narrating skills elevating an already phenomenal book for a memorable reading experience. PS: If you’re interested in hearing Robin chat with other talented narrators, check out this virtual panel celebrating Black voices, moderated by yours truly!
I really don’t think it’s possible to write something about audiobook narrators without mentioning the one and only Bahni Turpin! Throw a stone at any genre and you’d probably hit a fantastic book narrated by Bahni Turpin, but my first introduction to her as a narrator was listening to Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Bahni Turpin has this unique quality to her voice that makes you want to be friends with her and even though that might not be on the table, listening to her narrate audiobooks is a pretty darn good option.
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