Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Listen and Live Audio: 8 hours. (2008 Odyssey Honor, 2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Yound Adults)

Katherine Kellgren has narrated the series from the start.  Checkout this clip of her narrating one of the latest books in the series:

Crap Kingdom by D.C. Pierson, read by the author. Blackstone Audio: 7 hours and 41 minutes. (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten)

Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, read by Natalie Moore. Listening Library: 6 hours and 9 minutes. (2007 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, read by Cassandra Morris. Listening Library: 7 hours and 3 minutes. (2007 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Elsewhere sample


Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quirk. Hachette Audio: 8 hours and 56 minutes. (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Moira Quirk narrates this series.  Check out the sample from the second book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, to hear what a wonderful match she is for this steampunk series.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going, read by Matthew Lillard. Listening Library: 5 hours and 43 minutes. (2004 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Fat Kid Rules the World sample


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by the author. Recorded Books: 7 hours and 45 minutes. (2009 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman, read by Kirsten Potter. Listening Library: 4 hours and 48 minutes. (2010 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, read by Emily Bauer. Listening Library: 9 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Life As We Knew It sample


Monster by Walter Dean Myers, read by full cast. Listening Library: 2 hours and 34 minutes. (2001 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Monster sample


Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Macmillan Audio: 8 hours. (2013 Odyssey Honor, 2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham. Scholastic Audiobooks: 10 hours and 12 minutes. (2012 Odyssey Honor, 2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Scowler by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne. Listening Library: 11 hours and 15 minutes. (2014 Odyssey Winner, 2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman, read by Max Casella.  Listening Library: 4 hours and 36 minutes.  (2003 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Son of the Mob sample

son of the mob audio

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman. Listening Library: 6 hours and 15 minutes.  (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

White Cat by Holly Black, read by Jesse Eisenberg. Listening Library: 6 hours and 41 minutes. (2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

White Cat sample

White Cat audio

What are some of your favorite listens?

–Colleen Seisser, currently reading X-Men: the Dark Phoenix Saga

4 thoughts on “Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners”

  1. *Anything* narrated by Stefan Rudnicki – he is one of the very best, in my opinion!
    He has done most of Orson Scott Card’s audio books, and his voice immediately and completely immerses me in the story. Card writes wonderful, masterful stories, and they are truly elevated and enhanced by Rudnicki’s narration.

    1. Nice! I will have to check out the audio of Ender’s Game! I have just experienced the series in print, but it’s good to know the audios are excellent–I definitely wouldn’t mind revisiting that story!

  2. Great list! Thank you! I also appreciate the list of criteria. Good food for thought.

    I second the awesomeness of Katherine Kellgren. I’ll give anything she’s narrated a try, even if the book itself doesn’t interest me much. The AudioSYNC program introduced me to her last summer.

    I also love Rebecca Soler’s narration of the first three books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress.) Good character voice variation. I think I would love these books in print, too, and I will probably make time to read them in print simply because so many members of our Teen Library Council have raved about the print versions. But Rebecca Soler’s feisty-sweet performance of them makes them that much more engaging.

    I also love Will Patton’s narration of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, both by Maggie Stiefvater. His dreamy voice (yes, I admit: I’m smitten!) is a perfect fit for the simulataneously dreamlike and down-to-earth qualities of these stories and their characters. AudioSYNC introduced me to Will Patton, too. I think I’ve listened to that free Raven Boys download from last summer a dozen times(!) so now I can enter that story anywhere and feel at home. I set my iPhone to play for 15 minutes before I go to sleep.

    1. Great to read your feedback Hope! Thanks for sharing your favorites :)

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