2011 has been an especially satisfying year for my audiobook listening experience. I believe there is an art to teaming the best narrator with each story. And that art is further enhanced when the narrator is on the same wave as the book's author. Then add in the magicians who do the editing. To create a great listening experience from a great book, there is a considerable amount of time, consideration and effort.
There have been many wonderful matches between great narrators and exceptional stories this year. I've listened to 47 audios and hope to add at least one more. Coming up with my favorite list was quite challenging. However, I do have to say that since I haven't had a chance to listen to HELL'S EMPTY on audiobook yet, that helped a teensy bit!
After much hemming and hawing and re-reading my reviews, I've come up with my favorite audiobooks of 2011:
10. FALLEN (written by Karin Slaughter; narrated by Shannon Cochran) - if I am completely honest, and when you get through my list you'll see I really have no choice but to be honest, I have a harder time listening to female narrators than I do male. Very rarely do I find a female narrator who does male characters justice in crime fiction, at least for my ear. Cochran is one of the best I've heard. And not only did she exhibit a wonderful range for the gender of the characters, she gave each character a distinct sound within the Southern dialect, which was not over-the-top ridiculous like many can be. It had been a little while since my last dance through Slaughter's fictional world and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy her characters. This audiobook was a delightful treat for me. Kudos to the AudioGo team that made FALLEN happen.
9. PORTRAIT OF A SPY (written by Daniel Silva; narrated by Simon Vance) - I haven't had a chance to review this one, yet, but last year I finally discovered Silva's Gabriel Allon series and I jumped at the chance to listen to the newest on audio this year. Vance achieved a great feat in delivering a convincing Gabriel for me. It's hard to do when I've read the character first and developed an image and sound in my brain. But I have to say, I prefered Vance's to my own. Harper Audio gets the nod for this great audibook.
8. THE ALIENIST (written by Caleb Carr; narrated by George Guidall) - I know everyone on the planet but me had read this book prior to 2011, but have you listened to George Guidall read it to you? Guidall is a master at picking up subtle nuances and humor, which were vital in THE ALIENIST. And while I've listened to him bring Walt Longmire to life book after book, Guidall still manages to completely recreate himself for each character in each book, so there were no echos of Walt only the sounds of the world Carr depicted through his words. The masterminds at Recorded Books get an enthusiastic round of applause on THE ALIENIST.
6. CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER (written by Tom Franklin; narrated by Kevin Kenerly) - Books like CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER can present special challenges that result in the audio being either a phenomenal performance or a dreadful bomb. The sense of time and place, the depth of character, the range and intensity of theme. Kevin Kenerly nailed ALL of it. A tip of the hat to the Blackstone Audio folks for this exceptional production.
4. THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE (written by Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis; narrated by Katherine Kellgren) Kellgren does a such a superb job of setting the book's tone in this narration. Kaaberbøl & Friis have created female characters who are determined, yet struggling. They are simultaneously fearful and persistent. Kellgren motivates the audience to feel that internal conflict, which I feel is essential to comprehending the full extent of this novel. This is another one from those AudioGo pros!
3. FUN & GAMES/HELL & GONE (written by Duane Swierczynski; narrated by Pete Larkin) I paired these two books up because they share the same author, the same narrator and the same trilogy. Pete Larkin not only understood Swierczynski and his humor, he appreciated the work at every level. Larkin IS Charlie Hardie: the gruffness of Hardie's life experiences, the submission to fate, as well as Hardie's intuition, intelligence and curiosity. As I've mentioned before I think these audios are the perfect storm of audiobooks and Hachette Audio is the team responsible for making that storm happen.
2. SHIBUMI (written by Travanian; narrated by Joe Barrett) I was so pleasantly surprised with SHIBUMI. Too often a books I love are ravaged by over-eager narrators who makes the writing sound like a daytime drama. SHIBUMI has the content to possibly encourage that, but I should have had faith in one of my favorite narrators, Joe Barrett, who just does not ever over dramatize. Nicholai Hel would have no place in his world for drama. He's calm; he's in control; and he's at peace. Barrett exemplified both that and Trevanian's beautifully sensual, rich novel. He also nailed the esoteric essence of the novel. Thanks to Blackstone for making this one happen.
1. GOOD GRACES (written by Lesley Kagen; narrated by Lesley Kagen) I battled with the order of these last three as I think they are all spectacular, but I decided on GOOD GRACES for the top spot because Lesley Kagen pulled every emotion possible from me in the course of this audiobook. I laughed at things I remembered during my childhood; I cried for honest mistakes that change your world; I raged at intolerance; and I melted from the innocence of youth. It was a perfect audiobook experience for me. Nice job AudioGo!
So that rounds out my favorite audiobooks for 2011. What was on YOUR list of favorites that you listened to this year?
Check back tomorrow for my final post - my favorite overall reads of 2011.