The History Book Club discussion


Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
When it comes to audio books, there's other talent involved in the making of a well received title beyond that of the author.

Audio book narration is an art form in and of itself. Narrators are the ones who actually bring the author's words to life.

Here is the place where we will discuss what makes a good narrator, how does a narrator prepare for his/her craft, what input does the author have in terms of who will be the selected narrator for their book?

What constitutes a good narration and are some narrations harder than others? How does a narrator prepare for his role; how long does he tape, who and what are involved in the process? What is the process itself. How long does it take from start to finish?

Are their retakes as in a movie? Who are the most sought after narrators and why?

message 2: by Michael (last edited Oct 03, 2010 07:06AM) (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) One of my all time favourite narrators is Baldrick from Blackadder fame, Tony Robinson. Me and my son love listening to him tell the stories of Terry Pratchett Terry Pratchett in the car.

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I have never listened to the stories of Terry Pratchett. My loss I know.

Terry Pratchett Terry Pratchett

message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Bentley wrote: "I have never listened to the stories of Terry Pratchett. My loss I know.

Terry PratchettTerry Pratchett"

Your going to have to do yourself a favour Bentlet ang get on board the discworld bus or is that elephant or turtle.

message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Another favourite narrator of mine is:

Michael Prichard
Michael Prichard has played several thousand characters during his career. While he has been seen performing over one hundred of them in theater and film, Michael is primarily heard, having recorded well over five hundred full-length books. During his career as a one-man repertory company, he has recorded many series with running characters---including the complete Travis McGee adventures by John D. MacDonald and the complete Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout---as well as series by such masters as Mark Twain, John Cheever, and John Updike. His numerous awards and accolades include an Audie Award for Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman and several AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for At All Costs by Sam Moses and In Nixon's Web by L. Patrick Gray III. Named a Top Ten Golden Voice by SmartMoney magazine, he holds an M.F.A. in theater from the University of Southern California. Michael appears regularly on the professional stage, including as a member of Ray Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company, performing such great roles as Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451, which became the second-longest-running production in the Los Angeles area.

message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Here's a question to ponder, what do you enjoy more a straight read narrative or a dramatised narrative.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
That is an interesting question to ponder so I hope others join in. If it were a serious non fiction book - maybe a straight read narrative - but even then - some very talented narrators can make a wonderful subtle distinction between the conversations of different people which somehow remains consistent throughout the reading of the book.

I think for fiction and novels I prefer the dramatized narrative; it almost makes it another art form and a dramatic production which can be quite enjoyable (I imagine like the old radio productions must have been for our grandparents, etc.)

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Michael wrote: "Here's a question to ponder, what do you enjoy more a straight read narrative or a dramatised narrative."

When you say "straight read narrative" do you mean a neutral interpretation of the text or, a single voice for the whole audiobook (or in the case wherein a book has multiple points of view, a different narrator for each POV)?

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
That is an curious wrinkle you raised Tanya. From my viewpoint, I guess I meant a single voice for the whole audiobook (although possibly some subtle nuances if there was a conversation cited).

That would be quite interesting I imagine to have a different narrator for every point of view. I guess it would be easier to keep the differences in opinion straight.

I am not sure what Michael thought however.

message 10: by Michael (last edited Dec 02, 2010 10:14AM) (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Bentley wrote: "That is an curious wrinkle you raised Tanya. From my viewpoint, I guess I meant a single voice for the whole audiobook (although possibly some subtle nuances if there was a conversation cited).

Sorry I should have been more direct with the question; I meant read by a single narrator with no other dramatization other than what they can supply with their voice. I hope this has clarified the question.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Ultimately, it comes down to, "How is the book best served?" Some material was clearly meant for audio dramatizations (i.e. plays) and others lend themselves to adaptations fairly easily (e.g. pulp fiction or noir fiction.) Otherwise, the book is usually best served by having a single narrator or non-FX cast of narrators. What drives me insane is non-audio drama that sneaks in SFX or other voice enhancements. I find the SFX distracting.

message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I guess I am learning new terms here. What is SFX? What does that stand for? And what do you mean by non-FX cast of narrators?

Also, what do you consider non-audio drama?

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Sorry, now it's my turn to be obtuse :-(
A "non-FX cast of narrators" would mean multiple narrators without any effects. For instance, the book could be a series of short stories, or a book told from alternating or different points of view. In this case, a different narrators would read different sections or chapters, but they wouldn't necessarily be talking to each other.

"SFX" means sound effects and "non-audio drama" is basically a straight narrative without role playing like in audio drama. Perhaps instead of saying "non-audio drama" I should have said audiobooks that aren't dramas or full cast productions. In the example I was giving above, I was referring to a pet peeve of mine which is when I've started listening to an audiobook and the producers have slipped in whale songs or the sound of elevator music or whatever or even enhanced a voice to make it sound younger or like it's in a cavernous space.

message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) I agree with Tanya I much prefer my readings without sound effects

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thinking about it...sometimes sound effects are well done...when music is used which seems appropriate for the scene or action. Oh well, I guess this is really an individual preference like everything else.

I really have not come across any full cast productions in audio for books although obviously there must be some out there and I haven't been faced with non-FX cast of narrators either.

Thank you Tanya for making all of this terminology palatable.

message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Here is a link to Audiofiles Best Voices of 2010

message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Michael.

message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Here another question do you prefer the abridged or unabridged reading of books.

For me personally I prefer unabridged as I don't like to think I'm missing out on anything. This does has its drawback as for some books this means a big commitment to listening with some books running up to 60 hours.

message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Unabridged - with no hesitation.

message 20: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I go for unabridged for the same reasons Michael. What am I missing??

message 21: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Bryan wrote: "I go for unabridged for the same reasons Michael. What am I missing??"

You missing not a word with unabridged my friend

message 22: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Here is a link to a good overview on some top narrators

message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Yet another link with info on some popular narrators:

message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) I am finding the narrator in Equal Rites (Discworld, #3) by Terry Pratchett by Terry Pratchett Terry Pratchett quite enjoyabe and easy to listen to. Her name isCelia Imrie, her voice takes me back to primary school days as she had that quintessential teacher's voice.

message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I am still listening to Wolf Hall (it is a terrific historical fiction book about Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, Anne Boleyn and her clan, Catherine of Aragon, etc. - what a delight - but it is a long listen - smile):

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Hilary Mantel Hilary Mantel

message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jun 03, 2011 06:12AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Right now I am listening to What is the What by Dave Eggers

What is the What by Dave Eggers Dave Eggers Dave Eggers

Dion Graham is the narrator and I think he does a great job. He really gets the Sudanese dialects down.

Here is an excerpt from Audiofile:

Recently he took listeners into the story of Dave Eggers’s WHAT IS THE WHAT. The novel, based on actual experiences of Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng, was drawn from long conversations with Valentino. Dion also worked closely with Valentino, initially to assure pronunciation, but through the association, he had the unusual opportunity to learn even more than Eggers had committed to the page. “I always try to not just bring the characters to life but to communicate the whole story.” Dion takes a special interest in African dialects and has had occasion to use some Xhosa, the tonal “click” dialect. WHAT IS THE WHAT demonstrates this understanding and allowed him to expand his repertoire and was recently celebrated among the Best Audiobooks of 2007. He was invited to read from the book when Eggers was celebrated at the PEN World Voices event in April 2006.


Dion Graham

message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod

Here is a list of the finalists for the Audies and who won:

message 28: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Thanks for the post Bentley. The Audies clear slip my mind.

message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
You are welcome Michael.

message 30: by Kristjan (new)

Kristjan | 45 comments I too, have enjoyed listening to Michael Prichard's performance of Collapse How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond by Jared Diamond Jared Diamond and Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson by Robert Kurson.

The worst I have encountered was George K. Wilson's performance of Sea of Thunder Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945 by Evan Thomas by Evan Thomas Evan Thomas. It was so monotonous, it was like watching a documentary without the pictures. I gave up on the audiobook and read the book myself.

However, the very best I've heard is Jayne Entwistle's performance of the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley Alan Bradley. The voice and the inflections she uses are perfect for this precocious 11-year-old girl who tells the story.

message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
If you are trying to decide between one audiobook recording versus another and you are not sure of the quality of the narrator; this list should help you out.

This list is the Audiofile Golden Voices Profiles and gives you a list of the very best narrators in the business:

They are called the Golden Voices -

message 32: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) It's missing my all time 2 favourites Nigel Planer Nigel Planer and Tony Robinson of Black Adder fame.

message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 04, 2013 09:08PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
About Grover Gardner:

Grover Gardner is one of America’s most popular and versatile audiobook narrators. He began his career in 1981 when he joined the staff of the “Talking Book” program at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Since then he has recorded (under his own name and as “Alexander Adams” and “Tom Parker”) over 650 commercial audiobook titles for such companies as Books On Tape, Recorded Books, Blackstone Audio, Random House Audio, Time Warner, Harper Audio, Listen & Live, Audio Renaissance, Audio Partners, McGraw-Hill Audio, Hovel Audio, and numerous others. In 1999 AudioFile, America’s leading journal of audiobook news and reviews, named Grover one of the “Best Voices of the Century,” and now includes him in their annual “Golden Voices” roundup of top narration talent. Winner of over twenty AudioFile Earphones Awards, he is also the recipient of an Audio Publishers Association Audie Award, as well as a three-time finalist. Publishers Weekly named him "Audiobook Narrator of the Year" for 2005. His notable recordings include John Irving’s The Cider House Rules, Shelby Foote’s three-volume The Civil War, all eleven volumes of Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization, and Terry Brook’s novelization of George Lucas’ Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

In addition to his audiobook work, Grover has at various times been a professional actor, director and teacher. Since 1985 he has been a member of Washington, D.C.’s nationally-renowned Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. He served as Resident Director at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, Md. from 1995 to 2003. He is active in educational theater, directing student productions for local colleges and universities and teaching graduate-level courses in acting and voice-over work. He also conducted professional audiobook narration workshops through Edge Studio in New York City from 2002 to 2006. Currently he is Studio Director for Blackstone Audio in Ashland, Oregon.

Grover grew up in Sewickley, Pa. and attended high school in Brussels, Belgium. He studied Theater and Art History at Rollins College in Florida and received a Master’s degree in Acting from George Washington University. He currently lives in Medford, Oregon with his “significant other,” Tanya Perez, who runs her own audiobook proofing and research service. They have a daughter, Alicia Beth Gardner, born April 15th, 2003 and lovingly referred to as “our little tax deduction.”

2011 Best Voice in BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY: The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

2010 Best Voice in Mystery & Suspense: THE WYCHERLY WOMAN, THE GALTON CASE


One of the most celebrated and accomplished narrators of audiobooks, Grover Gardner has recorded in a voice of “sandpaper and velvet” for nearly three decades. After first working in Washington, D.C., for the Library of Congress, Grover established his own independent recording studio in Maryland, where he recorded hundreds of audiobooks that garnered awards throughout the industry. Grover is one of AudioFile’s Golden Voices and has received dozens of Earphones Awards for exceptional performances. In 2007, Grover moved to Ashland, Oregon; he continues to record as well as manage Blackstone Audiobooks productions as Studio Director.

Grover has always been interested in theology, spirituality, and Christian literature. His audiography of recordings includes works by Dallas Willard, A.W. Tozier, Will Durant, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Eugene Peterson, and Francis Beckwith. Grover notes that these works pose an interesting challenge. “You have to put yourself in the author’s shoes, because the author has a specific plan or methodology that will be of tremendous benefit to their specific audience. Then, as the narrator, you have to create that specific audience, and I imagine an audience hungry for spiritual information. I commit to each point of view during the recording to make it interesting and instructive.”

What most listeners might not know about Grover is that he has narrated hundreds of audiobooks for a variety of publishers under two additional names: Tom Parker and Alexander Adams. Working alone in the small basement studio of his home in Maryland, delivering stories in a voice of sandpaper and velvet, Gardner narrates mostly for Books on Tape and Blackstone, among other publishers. His most high-profile book to date, a career breakthrough, is the special-effects-spiced, unabridged novelization of STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE, recently recorded in a joint effort by BOT and Random House under the Adams moniker. Here Grover got a rare opportunity to show off his flair for mimicry.

Getting into character is key to Gardner's work. He began using pseudonyms to do just that and found the practice a help in the studio. "When I step into the booth at 10 a.m., I have to step into my narrator persona, which, as neutral as it may be, is still a persona, an attitude, an approach I take to the work. I'm not Grover Gardner, I'm the narrator; this view helps me stay consistent and keeps the work interesting." Gardner still jealously guards his flexibility as a generalist, narrating a remarkable variety of books--"from Elmore Leonard to Will Durant"--while pursuing his love of theater by directing two or three professional stage productions a year in the Washington, D.C., area.--December 1999

message 34: by Michael (last edited Apr 14, 2015 08:10PM) (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Time to breath some life back into this folder. I am going to start doing profiles on some of the top Narrators around.

Lets start of with Jim Dale the man that holds the Guinness record for creating the most character voices in an Audio Production coming in at 134.


Jim Dale has had a wide and varied career that includes, Comic, Film and Stage actor & Soldier. As a Actor he is most famous for his roles in the British "Carry On" movies. He has won both Tony and Academy awards during his long acting career

As a narrator he has been the recipient for ten Audie Awards and four Audiobook of the year awards. He was won numerous other Audiobook related awards that are too numerous to mention. All up he has received 26 awards during his varied career.

Despite these accolades, Jim says the best reward by far has been the appreciation of his fans. One of the best compliments he ever heard came from a child after one of his readings: "He was about 8 or 9, wide-eyed, and he said, 'You sound just like the characters!' and I thought, that's it, I wouldn't want anything more. That's what it's about."

Why Jim Dale is best know for his narration of Harry Potter by J.K Rowling.
Harry Potter Boxset (Harry Potter, #1-7) by J.K. Rowling by J.K. Rowling J.K. Rowling

He has narrated over 30 books including:

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie by J.M. Barrie J.M. Barrie

Around the World in Eighty Days & Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne by Jules Verne Jules Verne

Bikeman An Epic Poem by Thomas F. Flynn by Thomas F. Flynn (no photo)

Stoneheart (Stoneheart Trilogy, #1) by Charlie Fletcher by Charlie Fletcher Charlie Fletcher

message 35: by Michael (last edited Sep 30, 2015 08:24PM) (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Next in our look at great narrators is Bronson Pinchot. Many of you would best remember him as Balki from the 90's sit comedy Perfect Strangers.

Bronson Pinchot Bronson Pinchot

Bronson Pinchot—Bronson Pinchot brings versatility and a talent for delving into the truth of an author's vision to his audiobook performances, garnering rave reviews for everything from classic works by Flannery O'Connor and Mark Twain to contemporary fiction such as Daniel Woodrell's BAYOU TRILOGY and David Vann's CARIBOU ISLAND. We've characterized his narrations as deft and dignified, subtle and compelling, animated and mesmerizing--and always in marvelous synchrony with the author's words.--2011 Best Voice in FICTION & CLASSICS

Screen and stage actor Bronson Pinchot earned a 2009 Audie Award for Humor for his narration of Chip Kidd's THE LEARNERS. AudioFile's review raves, "Pinchot assumes the personality of Happy, the story's protagonist, with such vigor that he seems the only possible choice to narrate the novel." Since then, he's narrated everything from Flannery O'Connor to Stephen King.

Though he'd narrated a few titles for children, it wasn't until Pinchot's friend and fellow narrator Ray Porter introduced him to Grover Gardner at Blackstone Audio that he began working on more adult fare, and he's grateful for the change. He calls Karl Marlantes's MATTERHORN, one of AudioFile's Best Audiobooks of 2010, "an astounding book. Some of the sessions were 14 hours long. I was so engrossed in the book, it didn't matter. Quite often, when the characters were crying, so was I."

Pinchot's recent work has included such diverse fare as a collection of Patricia Highsmith stories and Tim Powers's fantastical novel, LAST CALL. Highsmith is "a god of writing," Pinchot says. "'Strangers on a Train' is an astounding evocation of a stalking, from both the stalker's and stalkee's perspectives. And she actually finds the pathos in the stalker. It's just filet mignon writing--no fat, no bacon wrap."

What's it like to translate such different writing styles into audio performances? "Tim Powers writes in sentences that are a full paragraph long, and after a few chapters, you get into the habit of sucking in quite a bit of air. Patricia Highsmith writes in small sentences. If you go from Powers to Highsmith, you over-breathe on Highsmith and burp a lot. If you go from Highsmith to Powers, you gag for air."

TV viewers may have spotted Pinchot in a guest role on "Hawaii Five-0" last fall, in which he played a drug dealer who finds himself tied to the hood of a moving car--a stunt he performed himself. "After a few takes, the coordinator said, 'YELL, BUDDY!' and I said, 'GIVE ME SOMETHING TO YELL ABOUT!' because they were taking it way too easy on me. My argument was, if I'm cabled to a car hood at four in the morning in downtown Honolulu, with the engine burning griddle marks in my ribs, at least let's have some fun."

Things might not usually get quite so dicey in the recording booth, but Pinchot insists that narrating is by far the greater acting challenge. "It's easily 10 times the work. Make that 20. In audio, nothing at all can be communicated by facial nuance or gesture. Audio narrating is the Everest of performing. When I first started, I was drained and had to have cake and coffee every eight pages."

Caribou Island by David Vann by David Vann David Vann

The Bayou Trilogy Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell by Daniel Woodrell Daniel Woodrell

The Learners  by Chip Kidd by Chip Kidd Chip Kidd

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes by Karl Marlantes Karl Marlantes

Last Call by Tim Powers by Tim Powers Tim Powers

message 36: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Michael please add the proper citations for all of the above. Everything you have in caps needs a full citation at the bottom of the comment box

back to top