Audiobooks: 6 listening tips, 7 recommendations


We offer six tips to know about audiobooks and seven recommendations. Clockwise from top left: Joe Namath, Tina Fey, and Jenny Slate have all read their own works. Jim Dale, bottom left, is a prolific narrator who is the voice behind the Harry Potter series.

Audiobooks have grown in popularity in recent years. We offer tips, recommendations, and a recent library top-reads list:

Posted Apr 20, 2020

By Marc Bona,


Time: Audiobooks can vary widely in time, so pay attention to listed hours based on your habits. Some can be as short as 60 minutes. Others – like tomes on Ernest Hemingway and Ted Williams, for instance – can run 35-plus hours each. Many are in the eight-hour range.

In their words: A writer who narrates his or her own memoir could offer a phenomenal rendition, or it could fall flat because they are entering a field outside their area of expertise. “That is the whole thing, the genuineness of it,” Whitten said. “You are listening to that person, and they are distinguished in their own way in their life, but not necessary as a formal presenter or as a fluent reader. What I often hear in their voices is an emotional content that they can’t keep out of their voice because it’s their own life.” An example of a writer whose narration was lauded universally is Tina Fey, who won an Audie Award for her book, “Bossypants.” Last year, Joe Namath read his memoir, “All The Way,” and while he is far from a polished narrator, he lent authenticity to his work that draws in the listener.

Be open-minded: Don’t avoid a particular audiobook just because the narrator is an actor or celebrity you don’t care for. They might surprise you with their vocal intonations and voices.

Be nice: If you rent CDs, be considerate. Don’t throw them around. Keep them clean, dusted, dry, out of light, away from extreme temperatures and in their proper sleeves.

Where to buy: To peruse available titles for purchase, check out if you’re buying or renting, note whether it is abridged or unabridged if that matters to you. Most are unabridged.

Re-purposing: If you have audiobooks on CDs that you are done with, consider donating them to hospices and other places that accept them.


Marc Bona, Robin Whitten, and’s Anne Nickoloff – a recent convert to audiobooks – offer seven audiobooks worth considering:

County: Life, Death, and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital

Author: David A. Ansell

Narrator: Bronson Pinchot

If your sole impression of Pinchot is Balki from “Perfect Strangers,” you’re in for a treat. He brings dignity and very creative voices for every character in this book, a deep dive at the serious challenges a city hospital faces. – M.B.

Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

Narrator: Jon Lindstrom

The plot is a wild ride from the first page until the ending, and Lindstrom keeps up with the pace set in the intense sci-fi thriller, injecting urgency into each character’s next move. This is an audiobook I’ve recommended to friends who love fictional podcasts – short chapters can be consumed quickly, and nonstop twists and turns keep things moving. – A.N.


Author: Matthew Desmond

Narrator: Dion Graham

This tactful, engaging book humanizes the issue of eviction that plagues many cities – including Cleveland. Hearing individual stories and accounts of various peoples’ evictions was occasionally brutal, but always illuminating, and well-supported by data and research. – A.N.

The Golden Compass

Author: Philip Pullman

Narrator: Multiple

A brilliant production has stood up over time. I can listen to it now and still think ‘Wow, what they all did with the voices.’ Holds up beautifully. – R.W.

The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

Narrator: Neil Gaiman

It’s a children’s title, but he did it himself. He is amazing. That’s the magic of a narrator. – R.W.

Jack & Harry

Authors: Tony McKenna and Mervyn Davis

Narrator: David Tredinnick

This coming-of-age story is set in Australia, about the adventures of a couple of young runaway boys. Tredinnick crafts amazingly creative, consistent, and distinct voices in a wonderful tale. I’ve heard hundreds of audiobooks; this might be the best narration of the bunch. – M.B.

Little Weirds

Author: Jenny Slate

Narrator: Jenny Slate

I’m a huge fan of the author, so I knew I had to listen to her strange, lovely autobiographical book when it came out last fall. The actress weaves together her wholly unique worldview with her own life experiences and – through her own narration – makes the book a colorful ride. – A.N.

Top books

Top e-books and audiobooks from OverDrive, according to Lorain Public Library in mid-April (OverDrive, founded in Cleveland, is a distributor of audiobooks and other titles):

1. “Where the Crawdads Sing”

2. “Blue Moon: Jack Reacher Series, Book 24”

3. “The 19th Christmas: Women’s Murder Club Series, Book 19”

4. “Emma”

5. “The Guardians: A Novel”

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