Reading is often hailed as a great pastime for intellectuals and for developing your imagination. But let’s face it, not everyone has the time for it. Flipping through a paperback is all well and good if you can carve the time out for it. According to one study, as many as 67 percent of adults want to be able to read more, but 48 percent say their schedules are too busy.
Thankfully, technology has progressed that you can enjoy fiction in a variety of ways. Aside from digital publishing, you can listen to fiction books instead. But what are the shared characteristics of the best fantasy audiobooks?
Take a look at these features as well as a list of some of the best audiobooks you can listen to.
What Makes a Great Fantasy Audiobook?
Industry experts report that audiobooks are the fastest growing part of the publishing business. Audiobook sales in the United States alone generated over $1.6 billion worth of revenue. But some audiobooks are better produced than others.
Some features separate mediocre productions from the best fantasy audiobooks out there. If you’re looking for a great new audiobook to pass the time and explore new worlds, here are some of the factors you should keep in mind.
An audiobook’s greatest asset is the narrator. But what makes a great audiobook narrator?
First, they must be able to pronounce the words correctly and clearly. This can be especially daunting in fantasy novels, with their strange names and terms. Second, they should be able to convey the emotions of a particular scene, not just through their dialogue but through the narration. If a scene is tense, they must be able to make you feel it as well.
All of the best fantasy audiobooks have great narrators such as Kate Reading and Bahni Turpin who imbue their words with emotion and nuance.
Excellent Sound Design
Some audiobooks feature more than just the narrator’s voice. The recent audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” graphic novels feature ambient sounds and a full cast. The quality of these audiobooks depends on the sound design.
Do the voices remain clear and audible despite background noise? Are these background noises convincing? Are they appropriate for the given scene? Do they add to the experience or distract you instead? Only the best audiobooks can pull this off properly and only with the help of great sound technicians.
Audiobooks should be accessible across multiple platforms or at least available for offline enjoyment. For example, some audiobooks are available as downloads, although because of digital piracy this practice is falling out favor.
Today, most audiobooks are accessible through the publisher’s platform. Some can be accessed through music apps like iTunes. But they must be easy to get to and compatible with a wide range of devices, so you can enjoy them whether you’re running, in the car or working on your laptop.
The Best Fantasy Audiobooks for Everyone
If you want to expand your horizons and enjoy superb storytelling, here are a handful of the best fantasy audiobooks you can find online. They range from the epic, such as “The Wheel of Time” audiobooks to standalone novels like “Uprooted”. Give them each a try and you may be surprised at what new worlds you’ll be visiting.
“The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan
This is one of the longest written works in the English language and it’s a daunting commitment to read as physical books. Luckily for you, you can enjoy the entire 14-book series through “The Wheel of Time” audiobooks.
Featuring a sprawling cast of characters, complex magic systems and exciting plot developments, these audiobooks are superbly narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. You’ll spend hours captivated by their calm narration and the immersive world of the “The Wheel of Time.”
“The Sandman” by Neil Gaiman
This is one of the best fantasy audiobooks to come out recently, featuring a full cast of voice actors. Based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy portrays Morpheus, the lord of dreams, as he reclaims his powers and navigates the world after decades of imprisonment. He’s joined by Michael Sheen, Kat Dennings and Taron Edgerton as important characters throughout the story.
If you want to fall in love with “The Sandman” all over again, or for the first time, you shouldn’t miss this epic audiobook series.
“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik is best known for her alternate history novels featuring dragons but her standalone novel, “Uprooted,” showcases her talents. Based in Eastern European folklore, “Uprooted” explores the relationship between a reclusive sorcerer and a young woman selected to be his companion for a year. They also battle the sinister forces of a nearby forest.
The audiobook version is narrated by Julia Emelin, who’s smooth Eastern European accent provides the story with a measure of authenticity.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket
Few people can portray a slew of characters with wildly different personalities like legendary screen actor Tim Curry. Based on the series of absurdist mystery children’s books of the same name, Curry gives life to the words and characters of Lemony Snicket’s twisted tale of residential arson, carnivorous leeches and parsley soda. The audiobooks are wildly entertaining as Curry projects the series’ peculiar combination of ridiculousness and menace with his performance.
The next time you’re in for a long drive or if you want something entertaining while you work, consider listening to some of the best fantasy audiobooks out there. You won’t regret the hours you will spend engrossed in a new world without having to hold a book in your hands.