What’s in a Voice?

In Feburary, 2008, I fell in love with Hope Davis. I’d never met her, never seen her, but I was entranced, seduced by her voice. I was listening to the book Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje, and while I love Ondaatje’s writing, the book was much better for the narration by Davis.

These days I tend to listen to a lot of books rather than reading them. I download mp3 books from the library using the Overdrive mechanism, or I borrow CD sets from the library. Then I listen to the books on long car journeys and long hikes – and on long bike rides where one is allowed to ride with earbuds and I judge the situation to be safe 🙂

Having an iPod with room for many books, I’m very selective about what I listen to. I can’t count the number of books I’ve abandoned because I don’t like the narrator’s voice. Some voices just grate on me. I love a mellifluous voice and I love voices that change with the character. Perhaps the most amazing narrator I’ve heard is the Australian actor Humphrey Bower, who narrated the massive tome, Shantaram. I gave up on the book eventually because it didn’t seem to be leading anywhere, but I was in awe of Bower’s varied and perfect accents.

And I abandon books that don’t hold my attention. So my preference tends to be thrillers, although Young Adult books can be wonderful because they have to be good at holding the attention of the reader/listener.

I could name many books that I’ve enjoyed listening to, but instead I’m going to name just two that I’ve listened to this year which I loved and I’d recommend to anyone. I suspect they would also be great reads. Surprisingly, neither is a thriller.

The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee. As it says on Amazon, “The Husband’s Secret is a staggeringly brilliant novel.” Lee’s voice changes beautifully with each character, and makes the book a delight to listen to.

How to Talk to a Widower, by Jonathan Tropper, read by Eric Ruben. A wonderful book, funny, sad, witty, and very insightful into the human condition.

I have hundreds of other books I could recommend as great audio books, but I suspect most people are pretty busy and that even two books might be too many 🙂  If you want more suggestions, ask in the comments section. And if you have audio book recommendations, add them to the comments section. Please don’t add them to Facebook – they get lost too soon.

Links and Other Clicks

Overdrive is a wonderful digital library from which you can borrow audio books, e-books, and videos. It’s is associated with your local library, and not all books are available at all libraries. Here’s a link to the main Overdrive page, from where you can search for books or for libraries. And here’s a link to the page for my local library system, so you can see what it looks like.

Here are links to the Amazon CD version of the various books I’ve mentioned. But I’d treat this as a last resort – hopefully you can download the mp3 files from Overdrive or borrow a CD set from your local library.



The Husband’s Secret

How to Talk to a Widower

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6 Responses to What’s in a Voice?

  1. Chris Bidwell says:

    I never really considered a iBooks as a viable method of reading a book. I guess I always figured that it would be a readers digest condensed version of the book and not the entire book.I think I will try a couple iBooks and see how I like it .thanks for the tip


    • Alec Sharp says:

      Chris, iBooks are e-books that you can read on a computer, tablet, or phone. I’m talking about audio books in mp3 format that I can listen to.


  2. Tess says:

    I love the husbands secret and all of her books! Great stories and twists. I’ll have to check out how to talk to a widower. I’ve always been a big fan of audio books. I can be cleaning the house and listening to a great story. Never heard of overdrive though….. Another thing I’ll have to check out.


  3. Carol Park says:

    Hi Alec,

    While I still prefer to read books, I’ve come to enjoy listening to books in my car (around town and on road trips). I don’t feel like I’m wasting my life driving if I’m listening to a story. I was an e-book snob, preferring the old-fashioned tactile feel of a real book, until I realized that as I grow older, my time left to read them grows shorter. If you love to read, listening as well as reading, makes sense.

    I have noticed though that I pick up nuances more by reading than by listening. Pros/cons.

    One of the best audio books I’ve listened to is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The narrator is amazing with accents (mostly Russian) and propels the story along at a fast clip.

    I just stopped listening to Bridge of Sighs (Richard Russo) because the narrator was God-awful – monotone and didn’t change between characters. Quelle nightmare! Highly *don’t* recommend!


    • Alec Sharp says:

      Hi Carol, I have The Goldfinch and have started listening to it twice! It just moves at too slow a pace for me….. I like your Goatwoman site!


      • carol park says:

        Give it another chance. It picks up then moves quickly. I found it really funny in parts – and heartbreaking in others. I’m hoping they make a movie.

        Thanks (Goatwoman) – gads. I need to write more often. You inspire me, though!


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