Audio books seem to cause some controversy. I once mentioned casually to a colleague that I had been listening to some PG Wodehouse audio books whilst I did the ironing and she was shocked. How, as a “proper reader”, could I lower myself to such depths? I did feel rather put out by this. It had never occurred to me that audio books didn’t count, but apparently, in some spheres admitting to listening to half an hour of PG Wodehouse of an evening is only slight less terrible than admitting to being unkind to puppies.
I agree that audio books offer a different experience, but authors mean for their stories to be heard, so does the format really matter?
Having said that, I am quite picky about audio books. They have to be unabridged, I like to hear the whole text, and the narrator is hugely important. I have listened to some recordings where the author has read their own book, and they were terrible! They could have been reading out the telephone directory for all the feeling they gave the story. Actors tend to do an excellent job. Nigel Planer’s reading of the Terry Pratchett novels are perfect, taking me straight to the Discworld, and Martin Jarvis reading the Jeeve’s stories also pitches it just right. For me though, the King of the Spoken Word has to me the delightful Mr Stephen Fry. His interpretation of the Harry Potter stories is perfect, and I have spent many a happy hour listening to the glee with which he gives voice to Peeves. When he reads the Paddington stories however, he surpasses himself, capturing Paddington’s determination to solve whatever problem is troubling him with a long hard stare, is priceless.
So, audio books… evil or wonderful? Discuss.