Five for Friday – Audiobook Narrators

The usual Reddit/Twitter debate of “Do audiobooks count as Reading” as raised its ugly head again and the answer is unequivocally YES! Yes Audiobooks count as reading. Lets ignore that discounting audiobooks is ableist to all hell, or that it ignores rich cultural heritages of oral traditional story telling, but instead look at the Science.

Science:

In September 2019 the Journal of Neuroscience published a scientific paper by Deniz et al ( you can find it here) that aimed to study how the human brain extracts meaning from both spoken and written words by studying functional MRI scans. I have read the paper and while it is highly complex in its undertaking and statistical analysis the take home message is very clear.

Each of the participants listened to excepts from The Moth Radio Hour twice and an average of their neurological responses were taken. A transcript of the same Radio hour was given to the participants when recording the neurological response to reading text, again this was repeated and an average taken.

There conclusions were as follows:

Humans can comprehend the meaning of words from both spoken and written language. It is therefore important to understand the relationship between the brain representations of spoken or written text. Here, we show that although the representation of semantic information in the human brain is quite complex, the semantic representations evoked by listening versus reading are almost identical. These results suggest that the representation of language semantics is independent of the sensory modality through which the semantic information is received.

Deniz et al., 2019 JNEUROSCI

They found that when listening to or reading the words the same areas of the brain were active. There was no difference in the language processing done by the brain wither that language was read by you or to you in the form of an audiobook. The brain treats the stimuli the same when it is breaking down the information.

So when the debate as to wither listening to audiobooks is the same as reading print on paper, in the terms of how your brain processes the words Yes they are the same.

Audiobooks are reading, Hardbacks are Reading, Paperbacks are Reading, ebooks are Reading, visual novels are reading, Graphic novels are reading, magazines are reading, back of cereal boxes are reading. It all counts!

OK Rant over now back to our schedules programming.

My Five Favourite Narrators

A lot goes into making a good Audiobook narrator, from the voices and accents they give to characters, to how they act out scenes, to the emotion they can evoke with their speech and the pacing they give to the reading. It all makes the Audiobook engaging and brings so much of it to life for the listener. To me all of these narrators possess all of these qualities. They enhance the listening experience and pull you into the story so you can just enjoy it completely.

I have therefore listed my top five a little bit about them and a few titles they have worked on so you can check them out for yourself.

Kobina Holdbrook Smith

Probably my favourite Narrator of all time Kobina Holdbrook Smith is the voice for the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovich. He just brings Peter Grant to life so perfectly. Listening to these in audiobook make you feel like you are listening to tall tales told by a mate down the pub and you can’t help but laugh with them and enjoy their company. Holdbrook Smith is extremely talented at accents and voices making each character unique. Kobina is also an accomplished TV, Screen and Stage actor, who can be spotted in movies such as Dr Strange, Justice League and Paddington 2 (he plays the prison warden) and received an MBE in 2020.

His narration/voice acting can also be heard on the audiobooks for the EarthSea Series by Ursala K Laguin and as part of the cast of The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Zara Ramm

Narrator of the Chronicles of St Mary’s, Time Police Series and Elizabeth Cage series by Jodi Taylor, Zara Ramm really has her work cut out for her narrative the almost constant stream of novels and short stories from these series alone. She is a fantastic voice for Max the main character of the Chronicles of St Mary6’s. Like Kobina Holdbrook Smith there is something so natrual to the tone she uses when narrating that you feel like you are just chatting with Max and she is just recounting all her crazy adventures to you. It makes the books come to life.

She has a very soothing voice that is just perfect for the matter of fact delivery of Max’s adventures. She also has narrated a number of phycological and crime thrillers.

Joe Jameson

Another King of voices Joe Jameson brings all kinds of characters to life. He has a huge repertoire but his voice is also distinctly his own. He also is very good at voicing female characters, as well as male characters. I know him best from his work on the works of Sebastian De Castell. Jameson has a huge range of voices and accents in the Spellslinger series alone portraying everything from the old west style card slinging Farius Parfax to 12 year old queens and sassy talking squirrel cats.

Jameson’s narrations can be found in many a novel from works by Mark Laurence, Brian Staveley, Megan E. O’Keefe, M A Bennett and RJ Barker as well as many children’s books, crime fictions and some contemporary Romance (most notably Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall). As a Narrator he is particularly good at capturing the emotional tone of the scenes he is acting and bringing great emotional resonance both light and dark to his performance.

Kirsten Atherton

continuing with the narration of Sebastian De Castell, taking up the mantel of Farius Parfax in the prequels that focus on her childhood (Way of the Argosi and Fall of the Argosi) is Kirsten Atherton. If you have listened to audiobooks you have probably came across Atherton without realising it. She is everything, from the re-recordings of The invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman, A Good girls guide to Murder (UK recordings) by Holly Jackson, The Works of Diana Wynne Jones, Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, The Silence of Girls by Pat Barker….. The list goes on and on and on in various genres, as part of casts or as soul narrator.

Again she has a mastery of timing and pace that really hits the impactful moments of each book she reads. It makes them a pleasant and engaging listening experience.

January LaVoy

Another Narrator that dominates my audiobook collection. Again he voice is extremely well knows, narrating for the likes of James Patterson and Nora Roberts. For me Its her Narration on The Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, As part of the Cast of Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid or The Diviners Series by Libba Brey that stand out for me. A Queen of accents but this time covering the US spectrum, she has a huge range of voices in the Deviners series alone, from your 1920’s starlets fresh of the train from Ohio, to young boys from Harlem and old storytellers from the deep south. She gives them all a voice of their own which I very much enjoy listening too.


So those are my Top 5 favourite Audiobook Narrators.

Are you familiar with any of them?
Do you pay attention to who narrates the audiobook you are listening too?
Have you ever picked up an audiobook because of the Narrator?

I would love to chat all things bookish with you! You can comment down below or find me on Twitter or Goodreads!

Happy Reading!

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