Weekly Spotlight On…Audiobooks for the Whole Family

The end of summer often inevitably means one last road trip with the family before school starts.  After several people coming up to the desk and asking me for some suggestions on good audiobooks that the entire family can listen to, I have decided to compile a suggestion list of great audiobooks with universal appeal.  When it comes to audiobooks, it is not just the story and writing that matter–it is the narrator and the way that the story is told.  This list takes this idea into consideration, and also includes books that would appeal to younger children, teens, and adults.  The next time you and your family take a trip, don’t get stuck listening to the radio–bring along an audiobook that everyone can enjoy!

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, Narrated by Jim Dale

Here is a rave review of this audiobook from Audiofile: “Jim Dale, with his fully voiced reading, brings the world of wizards to life in ways unimagined even by those who have read and re-read the book. The accents are sure, the inflections perfectly suit the characters, and some of Rowling’s particularly inventive bits, like the game of Quidditch, become clearer. Sometimes poignant, often funny, Dale’s interpretation of this enchanted other world is the consummate family-listening experience.”

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman, Narrated by a Full Cast

Here is a partial review of The Golden Compass, the first book in this trilogy, from Audiofile: “Philip Pullman has created a stunning alternate universe peopled by those who seem familiarly human and by miraculous creatures…Into this complex scenario marches Pullman and a remarkable group of readers, expanding the book in a way one might have thought impossible. This is an example of a full-cast recording at its zenith…This is an incomparable treat for lovers of fantasy literature”.

Lemony Snicket Series by Lemony Snicket, narrated by Tim Curry

Here is a partial review of the audiobook of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the first book in this series, from Audiofile: “Tension-producing orchestral music, scene-setting sound effects, and most of all, Tim Curry’s chocolate-voiced narration captivate the listener in this multicast production of the Lemony Snicket that started it all…The cast of seven at first sound self-consciously formal until one realizes that the acting is supposed to be as mannered as the clever writing. It’s all good fun for listening children and their parents.”

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, narrated by Khristine Hvam

Here is a partial review from Audiofile: “Khristine Hvam portrays a confident, inquisitive, and grounded young woman who lives an ordinary life by day but a far from ordinary life at night. What does Karou, a 17-year-old girl with naturally blue hair and tattooed palms, do when she’s not in art school in Prague? She travels through portals, running errands for the chimaera (half-human, half not) she calls family. As Karou confronts her heritage, Hvam presents the story’s adventure, romance, and humor with a smooth grace.”

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, narrated by Hope Davis

Here is a partial review of the audiobook from Audiofile: “Hope Davis is wonderful narrating Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s classic. The 1963 Newbery Award winner is the first in L’Engle’s Time Quintet, featuring Murry siblings Meg and Charles Wallace, and their friend, Calvin. Through Davis’s appealing performance, listeners share the youngsters’ extraordinary adventures through space and time.”

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, narrated by Alex Jennings

Here is a partial review of this audiobook from Audiofile: “The opulent voice of Alex Jennings is the perfect match for Susan Cooper’s stylish, magical prose. The steady, measured tones of the Old Ones; the stern comfort of Merriman; the thready lilt of the Lady; the silky, evil overtones of the Rider–each nuance of character is skillfully brought to life in this unvoiced reading.”

The Roald Dahl Audio Collection, written and narrated by Roald Dahl

Here is a review of this collection from Audiofile: “Roald Dahl’s collection of stories for younger children includes classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. There are also lesser-known tales like Fantastic Mr. Fox, in which a loving papa fox outwits a farmer to feed his kits, and The Enormous Crocodile, in which a greedy reptile hunts for a young child to eat. In each story the underdog characters triumph, and evil is punished in intriguing ways.The author reads all these magical tales in his elegant British tones, his pacing showing tenderness for his characters.”

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, narrated by Kate Harper

Here is a partial review of this audiobook from Audiofile: “Harper’s insightful narration shows the depth of her relationship with the story and enhances its beauty. With warmth and awareness, she reveals Sal’s deepest thoughts. Softly and tenderly, she shares Sal’s memories of her mother. With sagacity and humor, she gives us Gram and Gramps. Listeners 12 years old and up will recognize this as a story that should be heard, not just read.”

Looking for more audiobook ideas? Audible.com recently released “A-List Audiobooks”, which is a list of audiobooks performed by Hollywood’s finest, including actors like Nicole Kidman, Dustin Hoffman, and Colin Firth.  Click here to view this list.  Book Riot then put out a further list of audiobooks read by famous actors including Dowton Abbey’s Dan Stevens. Click here to view Book Riot’s list.

BookRiot also has a fantastic and extensive list of reader-recommended audiobooks.  This one features a few more adult-only books, but it is a great place to get started. Click here for this list.

If you’re interested in new books, RUSA has a list of outstanding audiobook narrators for 2012.  Check it out here.

Still haven’t found anything yet? Check out this list of audiobooks on NPR that will “Make the Family Roadtrip Fly By“.


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