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)