Audiobook All-Stars

A mike and voice recorder

Gone are the days when audiobooks were an afterthought in the publishing cycle. And gone are the days when they were seen simply as an option for the visually impaired. In fact, gone are the days when it was a novelty to secure the services of a celebrity to narrate the text. In the battle for the limelight between audio and print, audiobooks are definitely stealing the show. And to prove this, a range of respected actors are waiting in the wings to voice audio versions.

You Don’t Look Your Age and Other Fairy Tales, is a collection of short stories and essays about the challenges of being a woman by Sheila Nevins and published by Macmillan. The audio version’s impressive list of contributory voices include: multi-Academy, Golden Globe and Oscar winner Meryl Streep, multi-Emmy and Tony award winner  (and everyone’s favorite bunny boiler) Glenn Close, Golden Globe winner Lena Dunham, and Golden Globe and Grammy winner (for Best Spoken Word Album, no less) Lily Tomlin. Their distinguished vocal contributions join other talents such as leading feminist light, Gloria Steinem.

Steinem, though particularly well-suited to the subject matter, is no less of a surprise to be offering her services for audiobook narration.  And therein lies the point. The thinking on audio books has shifted entirely. As more readers without visual impairments are actively choosing to listen to the audio version rather than read a book themselves, the more the audio versions are seen as an art form in their own right. As audiobooks become the equivalent of watching a movie or TV series, it’s little wonder that actors and public speakers are being sought out to enrich the experience.

It stands to reason then that an autobiography, which is a pretty intimate assessment of someone’s life, should be narrated by the person who it covers. That’s exactly what’s happening with Kathleen Turner’s Send Yourself Roses and Alec Baldwin’s Nevertheless. Turner’s was prompted by a cameo in Amy Poehler’s audiobook Yes, Please after which Poehler asked her why her autobiography wasn’t available on audio (!) Having the personality read their own life story imbues the text with more emotion than is possible from print, doubly so if the personality also happens to be a trained actor. Many will no doubt be tempted to buy Send Yourself Roses for Turner’s distinctive, breathy delivery alone.

A final footnote in the audiobooks rise to fame is the hotly anticipated return of cult classic Twin Peaks to TV screens. Set 30 years after the original series and with many of the surviving cast and crew on board (including director David Lynch) the fans couldn’t be more excited. To capitalize on the buzz, an audiobook recording of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is being released narrated by, you’ve guessed it, the fantastically complicated, cryptic and evasive woman who started it all, Laura Palmer (actor Sheryl Lee). Though how successful this will be remains to be seen, after all it’s been 30 years since we found out who killed her; what might be a better spin-off is something from Dale Cooper’s perspective (voiced by Kyle Maclachlan) entitled: My Life with Bob

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