Authors who narrate their own books produce audiobooks of mixed quality, in my experience. Often authors who read their own memoirs or autobiographies have more success than authors who read their novels (presumably because they lived the words and therefore feel them more authentically), but even then, I’ve run across some real duds. Some authors just aren’t meant to be narrators.
During Cybils season last year, I listened to a lot of audiobooks as part of my strategy to read as many nominees as possible. One such book was Night Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann (who narrated). The book itself was just OK, but it could have been elevated by some truly excellent narration. Unfortunately, Melanie Brockmann isn’t really up to the task. Her narration isn’t terrible, but it has enough negatives to impinge on the listening experience – she sounds like she runs out of air a lot (probably not helped by the really long sentences), and she doesn’t voice any of the characters at all. Sometimes voicing can negatively impact an audiobook when it’s done poorly, but here it was just confusing and pretty dull.
There are a few novels read by their authors that I’ve really enjoyed, though. Sherman Alexie’s narration of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is so good that I didn’t even miss the illustrations, and Neil Gaiman has a voice made for narration. I also really love Philip Pullman’s treatment of The Golden Compass and its sequels for Full Cast Audio. He provides the general narration while a full cast of other readers provide the dialogue. His calm, even voice is a perfect backdrop for the more energetic characters performed by others.
When it comes to nonfiction, I’ve really enjoyed David Sedaris’ works, though it took me a while to warm up to his style of narration. He’s quite dry and it doesn’t always seem like he’s telling a joke – though of course he is. Now I can’t imagine listening to his books read by anyone else. Stephen King’s On Writing is also an exceptional example of nonfiction read by the author (though Stephen King’s writing is so good, I’m not sure even a bad narrator could ruin the experience completely).
Audiobook lovers – what has been your experience with books read by their authors? Are you a fan?