[Three paragraphs of backstory you may or may not need, followed by:]I can barely remember how I used to feel about them -- I do know I was one of those people who felt like it was "cheating" to listen rather than do your own reading (why?? idk), and because there was nothing appealing to me about the big, bulky plastic cases that constituted books on tape, or even CDs, at the library, I just didn't investigate further. I'd heard good things about Jim Dale narrating Harry Potter, and it sounded nice, but I always put that on my "maybe someday" list of experience ideas.
Fast forward to now, where I finally realize their incredible potential to maximize the 20-minute commute to my seasonal job that I would otherwise just spend frantically cycling between 4-6 radio stations to avoid terrible songs, or at best, a CD that I could just as easily listen to while working, unlike an audiobook. They are also great to put on to lull me to sleep (a win/win scenario where I either get to hear more story, or quickly fall asleep in a dark room with my eyes shut), to have on as motivation for cleaning, and theoretically -- if I ever get a working MP3 player again -- while on walks.
Their only drawback is that I am Very Bad at waiting 8-12 hours to finish a story that I can just read in roughly 1/4 of that time, and I often end up getting the print version from the library so I can keep the story going when I don't have access to my computer or I'm in public/otherwise around other people where I can read a book, but can't put on headphones and shut out the world.
THE LIST PROPER
1. Doctor Who: The Stone Rose - Jacqueline Raynor: an old story on this blog, but LET'S TELL AGAIN how I bought this on eBay from a UK seller, and how it shipped in a package with cool British postage and customs stamps, and how for years this was something I'd listen to in order to feel better, because how great was it to have The Doctor himself (David Tennant) narrate a story that is basically a cross between a regular new episode and shippy fanfic? This might actually be why it took me so long to come around on audiobooks in general. How can you downgrade to Some Rando after you've had David Tennant's lovely Scottish brogue reading you your dream bedtime story?
2. The Bro Code - "Barney Stinson" (narr. Neil Patrick Harris): got this as a free download through some capitalist data-mining promotion or another, because he might not be David Tennant level, but at least he's another celebrity reading in-character. I had already read the actual book, so I never finished this version, but I did listen to a few chapters here and there and enjoyed them.
3. The Fate of Mercy Alban - Wendy Webb (narr. Kristen Potter): Once I decided to really try them out, it took a surprisingly long time to find a book that a) the library had on CD, b) looked good, and c) I hadn't already read, but this did the trick, and it was absolutely magical for me. I truly didn't know a narrator could be so good at doing so many voices. Tennant did, obviously, but he was an actor recreating a quasi-episode of a TV show. For some reason I had never actually thought about a regular person reading the book like a voice actor.
(Also, the book was swell. 5 stars)
4. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories -- B.J. Novak (mostly-self-narration): This one didn't pan out. I got it mostly because I wanted a known-to-me voice and there weren't any memoirs from celebrities I liked left, but his boring, overly literary style made the stories nigh unreadable -- and very unlistenable with the amount of cursing. I located the stories read in part or full by other people (namely Mindy Kaling -- whose memoirs I dearly wish the library had in audio, because I have read them both but would love to hear her tell them to me personally! -- and Jenna Fischer) and chucked the rest.
5. Beware That Girl - Teresa Toten (narr. Jorjeana Marie): The first of this year's selections, after falling out of audiobooks for a bit when I lost my library card, stubbornly refused to replace it because I LOVE MY 14-DIGIT NUMBER OKAY, got behind on my reading challenge and then had to go quick like a bunny...I selected it from the library's YA offerings (for length reasons) because of the mystery/thriller aspect, and I think the narrator did a solid job. I never cheated and resorted to the book, although that may have been because it wasn't exciting enough. Not bad by any means, just a standard YA mystery / thriller.
6. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver (narr. Sarah Drew): I checked this one out because a) it's a very popular novel that I have not read, and b) SARAH DREW, as in the lovely and hardworking staple TV actress! Unfortunately: I don't know if it was her attempt at a teen voice or awful writing on the page, but the main character was so whiny and annoying I could not last more than half an hour, and if I recall correctly, it's something like a 12-hour read.
7. Escape - Barbara Delinsky (narr. Cassandra Campbell): Now this was a wonderful listening experience. I listened to it mostly in the car, both on the commute and just driving around, and I felt like I was the main character. I was so invested in this story that I didn't even check the book out. I wanted the fully immersive, audio-only experience.
8. California - Edan Lepucki (narr. Emma Galvin): This was also a magical listening experience. I read the last quarter on paper, but only because the story was so good that after five or six nights I could not manage the suspense any longer. I was totally drawn into this near-future dystopia. And I really liked the narrator's voice; she didn't "try too hard" on the male voices to make them sound deep / differentiate them from women and it was a better experience for it.
9. Hope Was Here - Joan Bauer (narr. Jenna Lamia): Speaking of that phenomenon..to quote my review, "the narrator sounded like a 12-year-old, so not only did I have trouble keeping the MC's age (16) in mind, all of her increasingly annoying character voices for men just sounded like a kid puffing up their cheeks and trying to sound like an adult." If it hadn't been so short -- under 5 hours -- and I hadn't been listening to it exclusively while driving, I would have bailed.
Oops, I guess I have only ever tried nine audiobooks. So let's go with...
Honorary Number Ten
Chris Colfer, The Land of Stories (self-narration): This book was released at the height of my Glee / Klaine mania, which meant that I decided I wanted to read a copy I owned instead of the library's, so I could experience it with the kind of breathless anticipation previously reserved for Harry Potter. I subsequently agonized about whether to experience it as the audiobook that I signed up for a free trial of audible.com specifically to get, or if I should save that experience for a special treat after reading the book, as with The Stone Rose, and buy the (expensive) hardcover instead. And then I just...did that forever, even after paperback release, to the point where I feel like I'll never actually choose either, because how could it live up to my anticipation at this point.
NEVERTHELESS, THE AUDIOBOOK REMAINS ON MY COMPUTER, patiently biding its time.