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In Praise of Audiobooks

01/12/2011

It’s been a while since my first four books were available in print, so I was especially pleased last fall to discover that audiobook versions of THE MOSCOW CLUB, EXTRAORDINARY POWERS, THE ZERO HOUR and HIGH CRIMES are now available through Audible.com.

I’m a fan of audiobooks, especially on long drives. A good audiobook is something between a book and a movie, bringing the action to life and giving you a completely different perspective on a story. Even though I know my own stories — after all, I wrote them — listening to them on audiobook feels like discovering them all over again. As Holter Graham and I discussed in this short interview. I have my own ideas about what my characters sound like. The narrator brings his or her own interpretation to the story; the result is a new work of art based on the printed novel.

Audiobook readers are artists in their own right. I’ve been lucky to have some great readers matched up with my book — including the legendary Scott Brick, whom I discovered is a rock star in the world of audiobooks. He moderated a panel I was on at BookExpo America a few years ago, with George Pelecanos and the great nonfiction author Mark Bowden. It was a standing-room only crowd, but they hadn’t come to see us; they had come to hear Scott Brick’s voice in person.

Scott’s the reader for the audiobook version of Gregg Hurwitz’s THE CRIME WRITER, a terrific thriller that is even more exciting read aloud. THE CRIME WRITER is one of the audiobooks I recommended for Audible last year, as part of its “Breakout Thrillers” promotion. While I’m recommending, here are a few more of my favorites, which I put together for Audible a couple of years ago:

– ANGELA’S ASHES by Frank McCourt, read by the author. Hilarious, heartbreaking, and what better narrator than McCourt himself?

– THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas, read by David Case. One of the all-time great stories, and a wonderful rendition.

– THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain, read by Stanley Tucci. Short, sharp, classic.

– THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS by John Buchan. Orson Welles does a radio version of this that’s available on Audible. It’s a classic thriller, brooding and paranoid, suitable for all ages.

– THE INVISIBLE MAN by H.G. Wells, read by Scott Brick. This story enthralled me as a kid, and Scott Brick’s reading of it still does.

– A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens, read by Jim Dale. A story meant to be read aloud, and Dale’s one of the greatest British narrators.

– FREAKONOMICS by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Kept my family totally entranced on a long car ride, and talking about it for miles afterward.

– CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl, read by Eric Idle. I love Roald Dahl’s stories and have always loved this one, which is allegedly for kids but really for adults, and the reading is wonderful.

– ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by David Sedaris. Hard to go wrong with David Sedaris reading David Sedaris, although some of this is suitable for adults only. Even comes as part of a boxed set along with NAKED and DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM.