Over the past year I’ve come to listen to an average of four audiobooks per month. This year alone about a third of the books I’ve read were audiobooks. The more I listen, the more narrators I come across as well. I’ve reached a point where I can recognize a lot of the voices I’ve heard narrating. Once in a while, I notice the same voices. That’s where my problems begin:
1. Differentiating Protagonists
Listening to first-person narrations leads me to associate the voices to the various books and characters. What happened when I hear the same voice for protagonists from different books? I end up with difficulties telling them apart. This in turn makes it very confusing when trying to recall what happened in each book. See, my mind associates sounds with experiences. Hearing the same voice that supposedly belongs to two different people, even if fictional, just doesn’t compute.
2. Repeatedly Undermining Enjoyment
Ensuring the same narrator reads all the books in a series is important for continuity. However, if I don’t particularly care for the narrator, then the same voice becomes a hindrance. Even if I switch to a print or ebook edition, I can’t get that voice out of my head. My mind lapses into hearing the narrator’s voice. It’s very bothersome if I otherwise liked the first book in the series. Thus, I have to take an extended break before I can continue with the series.
3. Barrier to New Titles
Audiobook selections tend to be extremely limited compared to books containing the printed words or pixels. That’s mostly because not every book gets turned into an audiobook. To be sure that I might enjoy a new title I find, I listen to the preview before borrowing or buying it. When I hear a voice that sounds familiar, I check if the same voice has narrated a different audiobook I’ve listened to before. If yes, it becomes quite a deterrent for me.
Third-person narratives don’t affect me as much. If I adored a narrator, I will seek out more of their audiobooks. In fact, I love Jim Dale’s narrations so much, I’m sad that not all the books he narrated interest me in terms of content. However, if I disliked a narrator, I blacklist all the other audiobooks. Hearing the same voice again would likely doom those books for me, no matter how exciting the synopses sound.
In the case of first-person narrations, I’ve only found one narrator so far who can pull off speaking for different protagonists. Julia Whelan manages to vary her voice across the board so much that I’ve listened to several audiobooks without a problem. Sure, I noticed similarities but they were adequately different, that all these characters didn’t morph into one bland character that keeps reappearing in all the books. Here’s the thing — voice adds soul to characters and every character should have their own soul.
Miss Bookiverse says
I don’t mind listening to different books narrated by the same voice. Sometimes I even look for other books the narrator has recorded because I enjoy their voice so much. I get your problem though and I do try to avoid listening to the same narrator in a row or at the same time because that does confuse me or alters my mental image of the narrating character.
What I find a bit annoying in the German audiobook market is that they reuse a lot of the same narrators. There are some pretty famous voices (also due to synchronization) and they are famous for a reason. They have wonderful voices that are a joy to listen to but it gets realy annoying when every other new release/beststeller is read by the same people. I’d like some more variety sometimes.
Joséphine Simone says
I predominantly listen to English audiobooks, so I’ve not had to grapple with repeat narrators for German audiobooks yet. I would listen to more if I could actually download the audiobooks I borrow via Onleihe. But with a Mac it’s a no-go ad I can only stream. Not too keen on killing my data plan that way.
I agree with everything you’ve said in this post. I don’t listen to a lot of audiobooks, but I’m really picky, and I don’t think I can stand it if I had to listen to a book whose narrator kept reminding me of another book. I would be so bothered all the time while listening to it!
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Joséphine Simone says
Precisely! I don’t want to keep wondering how a character from one book ended up in another. That’s what the same voices do to me.
Kay @ It's a Book Life says
I am just now getting into audiobooks and having a good narrator makes a huge difference. I don’t yet have the problem of hearing the same narrators over and over since I am new to this type of book, but the difference between me paying attention and finishing a book, or just giving up is a good narrator. I am currently listening to The Diviners and that is read by January LaVoy. She is fantastic at the different voices! I will have to listen to some books that Julia Whelan narrates.
Kay @ It’s a Book Life recently posted TTT #47: Ten Books That You May Have Missed
Joséphine Simone says
Yes, good audiobook narrators are so important! I’ve even listened to audiobooks of titles I had initially written off simply because I liked the sound of the narrator. Some books I even enjoyed a whole lot more than I had imagined beforehand.
Audiobook narrators definitely affect my enjoyment of a book, but I’m not sure how many repeat narrators I’ve heard. I can only think of a couple off the top of my head. Even though I listen to 50+ audiobooks a year, I either don’t recognize the narrators’ voices or am listening to mostly different ones.
Jim Dale’s voice is of course the most distinct, and I also wish he narrated more books I want to read. I’ve only heard HP, The Night Circus, and a MG fantasy series that was boring. I’ve listened to The Girl at Midnight read by Julia Whelan, and I liked it more than I might have because of her narration (which still wasn’t much), but I think that’s it. Do you have any suggestions.
Joséphine Simone says
Somehow I have a very acute memory when it comes to sound. And when it comes to audiobooks, it’s not just a fleeting interaction with the narrator but one that spans at least a few hours.
I first heard Jim Dale’s voice on Pushing Daisies and when I realized he was the same person narrating The Night Circus, I was absolutely delighted. Haha.
Do I have any suggestions of what? Julia Whelan titles? Or audiobook titles in general?
Joséphine Simone recently posted Quarter Century Constant
Oh, I haven’t seen that, but it’s on my list of recommendations. I didn’t realize he was in it! Is he the narrator?
Julia Whelan titles is what I meant, but if you have a different suggestion, that works, too. :)