Listen…

#20(Audio)BooksOfSummer Round-Up

I did it! I did it!! 20 audiobooks, all listened to, all reviewed!!! I succeeded at a challenge!!!! I’m running out of exclamation marks!!!!!

So before we get to the books, what have I learned from this harrowing wonderful experience?

1. I prefer male narrators to female on the whole. This is not actually sexism. There is no doubt that my hearing isn’t as sharp as it once was, and I find the lower voices of male narrators easier to hear clearly. Why this should be I don’t know, but ‘tis so. More mature female voices that have deepened work fine too – Jilly Bond, Joan Hickson, Diana Bishop are some of the ones I’ve hugely enjoyed during the challenge. High-voiced young actresses irritate my ears – sorry, ladies!

2. I prefer proper old-school actors as narrators, who have been trained to enunciate clearly. Authentic dialects, authentic drunken mumbling, authentic whispering – all fine, so long as the actor remembers that the listener needs to be able to make out what is being said!

3 . Fast-paced books with simple plots work fine as audiobooks, as do slow-paced books with intricate plots. But slow-paced books with simple plots send me to sleep, while fast-paced books with intricate plots require far better levels of concentration than I have!

4. Listening to a much loved book read by a great narrator is one of the finest pleasures this life can afford! Take a bow, Ian Carmichael, Timothy West, Hugh Fraser, Steven Crossley, Jonathan Cecil!

5. The final takeaway – listening to audiobooks for a minimum of two hours a day basically does my head in. I think that’s the technical term. I never want to repeat the experience as long as I live, or even in Paradise or… anywhere else I might end up after I’m dead. Never. I remember the wonderful comedian Dara O’Briain doing a monologue on the use of the word “Listen” and how it often portends no good. To his list, I’d add that the word “Listen” has now taken on horror aspects for me – as if I am submitting myself and my poor innocent ears to self-inflicted and unnecessary torture. Half an hour – enjoyable. An hour – bearable. Two hours – cruel and unusual punishment!

Warning: Dara uses some strong language…

* * * * *

I made a couple of changes to the list along the way, so here’s the final version, in ascending order:

Disappointing

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene read by Andrew Sachs

The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier read by Edward de Souza

Cover Her Face by PD James read by Daniel Weyman

* * * * *

Okay

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute read by David Rintoul

* * * * *

Good

Rumpole’s Return by John Mortimer read by Robert Hardy

Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller read by Jilly Bond

* * * * *

Very Good

The Flemish House by Georges Simenon read by Gareth Armstrong

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy read by Samuel West

The Misty Harbour by Georges Simenon read by Gareth Armstrong

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie read by Hugh Fraser

* * * * *

Excellent

Heartstone by CJ Sansom read by Steven Crossley

N or M? by Agatha Christie read by Hugh Fraser

The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse read by Jonathan Cecil

Silas Marner by George Eliot read by Andrew Sachs

Rain and Other Stories by W Somerset Maugham read by Steven Crossley

Latter End by Patricia Wentworth read by Diana Bishop

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome read by Ian Carmichael

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie read by Joan Hickson

The Quiet American by Graham Greene read by Simon Cadell

* * * * *

Book of the Summer!

The Warden by Anthony Trollope read by Timothy West

* * * * *

A great summer of listening – have I tempted you?

64 thoughts on “Listen…

  1. Congratulations on meeting this challenge, FictionFan! That’s fabulous! And you did have some good listens, which is great. You make an interesting point about who does the narration. Old-school, trained actors who can really use expression can make excellent narrators, I think. I also love it when people like Hugh Fraser, who really know the stories, narrate them. There’s a special – is connection the word? – when they do. Now, go treat yourself to a chocolate for finishing this challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – I’m stunned by my own success! 😉 I feel as if you can really tell when a narrator loves the books and when they’re just doing a job. I’m always drawn to the narrators who seem to specialise in certain authors, like Fraser with Christie, or like Timothy West who seems to have specialised in Trollope. When a series chops and changes with narrators, like the Dalziel and Pascoe books, it’s never so satisfying.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing, well done! I’m nowhere near on my challenge – partly because I lost my headphones while travelling so I couldn’t listen to any audiobooks. During my commute I normally listen to audiobooks – about forty minutes each way – and that’s about right for me. Two hours would be too much for me unless I was very, very engrossed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – I’m still reeling over my own success! It’s not a sensation I’m used to… 😉 Yes, half an hour to forty minutes is about my comfort level too – any more than that and I begin to feel it’s a duty rather than a pleasure!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t imagine listening to entire books. For me, reading is done with the eyeballs. Although I might enjoy listening to a pleasant voice reading a book I know well. But that’s a totally different experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely find it an entirely different experience to reading – more akin to watching a TV or film adaptation. It could never take the place of “proper” reading for me, but revisiting favourite books in the hands of great narrators can be very pleasurable!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t imagine listening to so many audiobooks in such short a time! That’s truly something. And for so many of them to rate “excellent” is definitely a win. You really do seem to have narrowed down what makes a good listen for you, too. Great job, FF!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, neither can I! And I honestly wouldn’t recommend it… 😉 But I was pleased that so many of them were excellent – I’m sure that’s why I succeeded. I definitely prefer listening to books I’ve already read and loved than trying to follow the plot of an unfamiliar book!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great way to wrap up the challenge! (again, congratulations!)

    I’m glad I decided to give audio another chance in recent years. I can’t say why, for sure, but I find it easier to listen than I use to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – I’m wallowing in my own success! It’s a rare experience… 😉

      I do too, and I also find the more I listen the better I get at maintaining concentration. It’s a totally different experience to “proper” reading for me, though, and will never replace real books.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well done 👏🏻 *round of applause* Generally speaking I much prefer male narrators too, although there are some female ones I enjoy who have easy to listen too voices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m still stunned by my own success! It’s not a sensation I’m used to… 😉 I think deeper female voices work okay, but overall all my favourites are men, except Joan Hickson, and I think my love for her is as much to do with the TV adaptations as the audiobooks.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you deserve a trophy … and maybe a monetary prize! No, I’m not handing them out, but after attaining your goal (all in the time allotted!), you should get a reward (other than merely the satisfaction of saying you did it!!) Well done, FF … and just look at how many on your list were “excellent”!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you! A trophy would be great – perhaps I’ll make one! 😉 Yes, I was pleased at the number of “excellents” and I’m sure that’s why I succeeded. I’ve definitely found that listening to favourite books helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve tried listening to audiobooks a few times in the past and that format just never seems to work for me, but maybe I need to give them another try. It’s good to see that not only have you completed your list, most of them were ‘excellent’ too! Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must admit I’ve really had to work at listening to audiobooks. It’s an entirely different experience to actual reading for me, more akin to watching a TV or film adaptation. And definitely what I enjoy most is listening to books I’ve already read and loved – hence the number of “excellents”!

      Like

  9. I often think it would be nice if I liked audiobooks, but I have a problem with just listening to something. I get distracted. I once listened to the entirety of a really good one, done more like a radio play, when I was doing long driving commutes, but the next one I tried, my attention was out the window. I can sometimes handle a podcast, but when it is longer than a half hour, I start wandering again. I used to have the same problem with language lab during foreign language classes. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying listening, though. I might try looking for a Christie narrated by Hugh Fraser for when I drive to visit my brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really struggle not to get distracted too, although the more I listen the better I get at it. But it’s been quite hard work training myself, and I still find I have to rewind quite often when I realise I’ve missed something vital! I’ve found that what works best for me is listening to a book I’ve already read and loved – then it feels more like watching a TV or film adaptation than actually reading, and it doesn’t matter so much if I miss a bit here or there. Most of my “excellents” in the challenge were re-reads, including my Book of the Summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That was a pretty funny video, thanks for that!

    For me the narrator is also terribly important. I haven‘t paid attention to the gender of my narrators, will have to check. However, well done characters, good pronounciation, emotions, timing — all part and parcel of the experience.

    Every day for two hours—I couldn‘t do that. Too much! Although I have the odd Saturday or Sunday, when it can become more—doing chores, doing a jigsaw, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m glad you enjoyed it – I think Dara’s great!

      I’ve abandoned loads of good books because the narrator hasn’t sounded “right” – they don’t make the characters sound like the voices in my head. And I can’t stand when they “act” so much that it’s hard to make out what they’re saying! But a great narrator reading a great book is pleasure indeed!

      No, the two hours was way too much for me. Like you, sometimes it works depending on what I’m doing, but generally anything over about forty minutes begins to feel like duty rather than pleasure.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – I’m stunned by my own success! It’s an unusual sensation… 😉 Yes, two hours is definitely too much, but listening for short snatches at a time is fun… 😀

      Like

  11. I’ve never listened to an audio book, and I don’t think I could. I’d want to focus on what’s being said, but I don’t think I could just sit down somewhere and listen for hours either. However, I like the idea of audiobooks as a whole, and when my life circumstances change (as they no doubt will) I’ll likely listen to some to get my bookish fix. It’s just comforting knowing I have the option, ya know? In case something happens to my eyesight, etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve really had to train my concentration but I still miss bits and have to rewind too often. For me it’s a different experience to reading – it’s more like watching a TV or film adaptation. They must be a real boon to people with sight difficulties, though. My mother couldn’t read for years because she had cataracts and audiobooks weren’t a thing back then. I think they’d have been a real pleasure for her.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Timothy West is one of my favourite narrators too – alongside Martin Jarvis. Old school enunciation!!!
    Two hours is a lot of listening every day – were you doing anything else at the same time (gardening, gym etc)? i don’t think I’d have the ability to just sit and listen

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well done!!!!!!! (Exclamation marks are great, aren’t they????)
    I haven’t listened to many audio books, but on those that I have I couldn’t hear those that were narrated by women either. Listening in the car probably didn’t help. I blame my deafness on too-loud music in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are!!!!!!!
      I don’t know what causes my deafness – wax probably! But I’m pleased to know I’m not weird for being able to hear male voices better than female. Though older women are better, so all these young actresses will probably be my favourites in fifty years or so… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Congrats on completing that Challenge, FF! (add some exclamation points for me). You realize I’m smothering my envy, as I’ve YET to complete ANY bookish challenge I’ve undertaken.
    I’ve never tried audio books, although I intend to. I’m skeptical that the format will work for me, but I really need to give it a chance.
    Thanks for the Dara O. video — very funny!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Haha, I usually wear my Badge of Failure with pride, so I’m not quite sure how to deal with successfully completing a challenge! 😉 My advice with audiobooks is to make it easy on yourself by making your first listen a book you already know well read by an actor you enjoy. I found it took me a long time to be able to listen to a new plot without missing bits due to dips in concentration. In fact, I still struggle with that. However, well-narrated re-reads are truly a pleasure – hence why my list is full of Christie, Wodehouse and classics!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Well done! Two hours a day would be a lot! The only time I listen to audio books right now is on long car trips with the kids when we’ve listened to things like The Secret Garden or the Narnia books. But I’ve already noticed I like more of an actor narrative too than someone simply reading the page.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to listen in the car when I had a long commute and I actually find it easier than listening at home – they have a tendency to send me to sleep when I’m just sitting and listening. I’m sure it’s a throwback reaction to being read to sleep as a child!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve just started to listen to an audio book. I’m trying it when I’m walking back from dropping the kids off at school or when I’m doing mundane tasks around the house now that I’m on my own more often!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Funnily enough, I don’t find it very easy to listen to audio books while walking outside. I find my mind gets distracted and I’m looking at things that I’m passing and missing chunks of the book! I’m better at concentrating when doing something utterly boring like washing the dishes…

          Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, well done on listening to so many books! While many of these titles tempt me, what I really taking from this post is I need to get back into audiobooks. I loved them as a child before bed, but lost the love/habit once I grew up. However, having struggled with Hilary Mantel’s style but loved the characterisation in Wolf Hall, I was recommended trying the next two books on audio. I have got them on loan now from my library’s app, just got to get listening! 🤞😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find listening to be a very different experience to reading books, and still struggle to keep my concentration. But a good narrator can really add something to a great story. Mostly I like to “re-read” books I already know well, since then it doesn’t matter so much if my attention drifts away for a bit every now and then. Hope you enjoy the Wolf Hall books!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Late, late congratulations! I admire your commitment and perseverance! It’s good too that you’ve learnt more about your audiobook preferences for future enjoyment. I’ve read or listened to a number of your best audiobook experiences but have added The Woodlanders, Silas Marner and the Quiet American audiobooks to my list based on your recommendations. I agree, especially for classics, I do enjoy the trained voice narrators who can consistently and interestingly convey a range of voices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Three great choices! Haha, ever since I finished the challenge I’ve found it almost impossible to listen to any audio book. I’ve abandoned tons of them! I’ve reverted to a vintage crime in the hopes of getting over my allergy… 😂

      Liked by 1 person

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