Audiobook popularity has exploded over the last ten years. It’s become a way for busy folks to enjoy books while driving, doing chores, exercising, or all of the above! But not all audiobook narrators are created equal. Most do alright, but there are some serious gems out there that have a way of taking words and transforming them into vivid pictures in our minds. Below are a few of our favorite narrators who do just that.
If you ever listened to the Harry Potter series growing up, you’re already familiar with Jim Dale. Born in Rothwell, Northamptonshire, Dale had a storied career before he voiced the well-known Harry Potter series, including working as a songwriter with George Martin to create several film scores. Martin also acted in eleven Carry On Films, which were popular in Britain throughout the 1960s, and he starred in several other TV and movie roles.
With a magical voice known for whisking readers away, Dale has been awarded often for his audio work and was nominated for five Tony Awards for his performances on Broadway through the years. Dale also received two Grammy awards (and seven total nominations!) for his narration work on the Harry Potter series.
But his Grammy’s aren’t his most impressive accomplishment—Dale is one of only 21 narrators to have a place in the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame for his ability to bring the Harry Potter series to life for young readers.
Along with narrating the Harry Potter series, Dale has also narrated titles like The Night Circus.
Neil Gaiman is an author before a narrator and is best known for American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Stardust. Many of his works have been turned into TV Shows or movies that have all gone on to win awards of their own.
Born in Portchester, Hampshire, in 1960, Gaiman first got his start as a journalist before producing the Sandman, a comic series that attracted a cult following that still stands to this day. After the Sandman, Gaiman published Good Omens, Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, and dozens of other titles.
Not many authors will go on to narrate their own works. Not only does Gaiman do this, but he accomplishes it in a way that’s captivating, allowing him to win so many awards that his list of accolades takes up an entire page on Wikipedia.
Best known for her roles in Cold Case Files, Malcolm X, and a few episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, Bahni Turpin was an actress before she went on to narrate audiobooks.
Turpin has over 300 titles on Audible, including The Hate U Give, Children of Blood and Bone, and The Help, and listeners rave that Turpin has an incredible ability to bring emotion to all of her readings. Because she is of a BIPOC background, and much of her narration focuses on BIPOC empowered narratives, Turpin breathes life into a novel because she provides an insider perspective, shining the spotlight on works we might not otherwise explore on our own.
Through stories that tackle workplace sexism, cover Zora Neal Hurston’s biography, and detail the experience of the Black American teen, Turpin has earned her place in the Audible Hall of Fame.
Unlike the others on this list, Mara Wilson actually has a very small list of credits. In fact, she only has two because she is actually best- known for her role as Matilda in the film, Matilda. Born in 1987, Wilson also played Natalie Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire.
Wilson’s voiced work in The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home began on the podcast, Welcome to NightVale. The fiction podcast takes the form of a bi-monthly radio show for the fictional town of NightVale that’s told in a style that can be best described as humor meets H.P. Lovecraft.
The novel by the same name follows the life of The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, and how she came to live in Nightvale.
Though her voice works on the show, Wilson has an innate ability to get listeners to sympathize with a character who would otherwise make your skin crawl. Her unique way of storytelling gets listeners to simultaneously feel for the title character, while also understanding that what she’s doing is genuinely terrifying.
As audiobooks and book podcast series only continue to surge in popularity, so too will the need for captivating narrators. What do you think about our favorite narrators? Is there a personal favorite of yours that you would have included? Let us know by tweeting us @bookclubdotcom.