I love audiobooks—or “books on tape” as we ’90s kids are still prone to call them.
There’s nothing better then finding a great story you can listen to over and over again (Lord of the Rings narrated by Rob Inglis, anyone?). They’re also a great way to make a dent in your reading goals.
But sometimes finding a great audiobook can feel like a Goldilocks pursuit.
They can’t be too this or too that. They need to be just right.
I’ll be the first to admit—I’m a little picky when it comes to choosing audiobooks.
My top audiobook pet peeves are things that distract me from focusing in on the story. Just like bumpy sentences and dry dialogue in print, certain narrator quirks often distract me to the point that I have to press “stop” and move on.
Here are a few things that make me DNF an audiobook:
Long pauses between words or sentences
I ran into this problem when I tried to listen to Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money. Between every sentence, I could literally hear the narrator take a breath.
No surprise—the book moved along at the speed of mud and I hit stop before I’d even gotten to chapter two.
The opposite is also true.
This may be my Alabama roots showing, but if a narrator is talking so fast I have to tilt my head toward the speaker to keep up, I’m out.
The narrator sounds like Siri
This should be a given, but pretty regularly I come across audiobooks where is seems like the narrator is actually trying to sound a robot-like as possible. What?!
Give me some Jim Dale narrating Harry Potter any day of the week over that.
Audiobook magic happens when the narrator starts to fade away and the story is front and center. It takes an enormous amount of talent for a narrator to give each character their own distinct voice and personality. I love it when narrators craft an immersive world with their voice.
The voice doesn’t match the book’s vibe
There’s something really disjointed about listening to an audiobook narrated by a voice that so clearly does not match the vibe of the book.
Sometimes I can get used to it (like in The Circle), but other times it just doesn’t work. One of weirdest book/narrator mashups I’ve heard was Francine River’s Bridge To Haven. This is a story about a young, impressionable actress in 1950’s Hollywood … narrated in an elderly, mature-sounding voice. I don’t think the narrator is actually old, but the style just didn’t work for me.
The accent is all wrong
Ok, I know this is really a minor pet peeve.
But come on, if I’m going to listen to a British novel, I want to hear a rich British voice dripping with tea and scones and crumpets telling me the story. Not an American.
When the volume ranges from yelling to a whisper … the entire book
This is probably my number one pet peeve.
I listen to audiobooks most frequently in the car, and there’s nothing more obnoxious than constantly having to adjust the volume because one minute the narrator’s practically yelling, and the next they’re whispering.
I ran into this problem with The Light Between Oceans. I loved the narrators voice, but every time I pulled into a parking lot I felt like people were staring at me because I had a loud Australian voice blasting from my car stereo.
BONUS: The editing is bizarre
So this just happened to me recently while I was listening to Scary Close by Donald Miller. Instead of normal pauses between sentences or chapters, every space seems to have been edited out.
This is how it would go: … you knowChapter5When you think about …
I’m wondering if they edited it down to fit within a certain time frame? Either way, I had to stop and borrow the book from a friend because the reading was so fast, my brain didn’t have time to stop and absorb what was just said. Super frustrating!
We all have our pet peeves, but the good new is, most audiobooks are great.
What are some of your audiobook pet peeves? Who are your favorite narrators?