Literary Links: The Joy of Being Read To

A few years ago, we highlighted the world of audiobooks in a “Literary Links” article. It was the beginning of the pandemic; the library was actually closed to the public during this time, and we knew listening to downloadable and streaming audiobooks would become more popular. We are revisiting the world of audiobooks, as the pandemic continues to affect us, summer road trips have begun and audiobooks remain very popular. I personally began using digital services more frequently to combat my inability to stay awake for more than a few pages at bedtime.

As in our original article, I used the same team effort to gather recommendations from staff and quoting some of what they told me about the narrators. You can find these titles in our collection as audiobook CDs or on our downloadable audiobook platforms (Overdrive and Hoopla, at

Nothing to See Here book coverIf you like humorous fiction, Kevin Wilson’s quirky story about families, growing up, self-discovery and two kids who catch on fire (yet remain unharmed) when they are stressed might be appealing. In “Nothing to See Here” the narrator, Marin Wilson, “really elevates the book. Her timing and delivery bring out the wit and humor of the book in a way that I don’t think text on a page could convey.”

Need more humor? Try the Jeeves and Wooster series by P. G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse wrote a series of novels and short stories featuring a wealthy, young British elite and his stoic valet. The first book, “My Man Jeeves” begins the antics of Bertram “Bertie” Wooster, whose dabbles in life consistently end up in social embroilments that the stoic Jeeves has to manage. Our staff recommender particularly enjoyed the Wodehouse novels narrated by Frederick Davidson as he “captures the tones and inflections of the characters perfectly to bring out every bit of humor. Uproariously funny.”

We can’t forget to highlight the library’s One Read selection “The Big Door Prize” by M.O. Walsh, narrated by Sean Pratt. Walsh addresses serious topics with a light hand in this offbeat and charming novel about small-town life, relationships and the power of dreams. The book has several main characters and Pratt “did a good job keeping them distinctly different without overacting.”

For those interested in non-fiction, you may want to try the next few selections. “Born a Crime” born and read by Trevor Noah is a memoir aboutBorn a Crime book cover growing up as a mixed-race child in South Africa. Our staff member felt “Noah’s narration is witty and he draws the reader into his childhood stories. I also laughed out loud in many parts.”

Braiding Sweetgrass” written and read by Robin Wall Kimmerer, combines her knowledge of indigenous stories and the western science of ecology. Our staff recommender says “Not all authors are good readers, but Kimmerer’s reading really adds to the experience. It feels like she is hanging out with you and telling you these stories about her life, her observations and discoveries. It feels authentic and real.”

Moving back to fiction, Davina Porter is a prolific narrator. Our staff recommender’s favorite non-series read by Porter is “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” by Margot Livesey; a 1960’s retelling of Jane Eyre. “I picked this book up without realizing [Porter] read it, and it was like running into an old friend on the street after years of being apart.”

To finish, we end with a few fantasy novels recommendations. Jim Dale, the iconic narrator of the Harry Potter series, narrates “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. In this fantasy story about a dark and mysterious circus, Jim Dale’s “voice was soothing and gave a mystical quality to a story about a circus that appears out of nowhere.”

The Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher was recommended by a staff member who normally doesn’t listen to audiobooks. James Marsters narrates this series about Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s first and only Wizard Private Investigator. The staff recommends this narrator as “his grasp of the characters and Midnight Riot book covertheir distinct voices is perfect. He’s capable of just the right tone for humor, anger and tenderness.” Another staff member had this to say “Marsters IS Harry Dresden.“

Our last staff recommendation “Midnight Riot” is a fast-paced paranormal police procedural by Ben Aaronovitch, read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. Our staff’s description of the narrator is a great one to end with; “I think I would listen to anything that Holdbrook-Smith was reading. His London immigrant accent is like chocolate melting in your mouth with some salt and peanut butter added in, delicious and rich, sweet and savory.”

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