I’ve only started listening to audiobooks in mid-2009 but now I can’t imagine my literary life without them. I listen to them during my daily commuting, showering, cooking, cleaning and often a bit before going to sleep.

Over two years and 100 audiobooks later, I’m ready to make my first list of favorite narrators. I’d love to know about your own choices, so let me know if I’ve missed any good ones.

(if you click the links you’ll be able to listen to samples of the books)

Stephen Fry

I know that for most Americans Jim Dale in unbeatable, but for me Fry is the voice of the Harry Potter books. They’re still my favorite audiobooks of all time. His voice is so rich and you can tell he’s also in love with the books. Also, if you’ve listen to his podcasts (I particularly recommend the one called “Language”), you know he’s passionate about his native-tongue and its nuances.

I never get as emotionally involved with audio as I do with a paper version (I suspect it’s because there’s an intermediate between me and the story), but to this day these are the only audiobooks that made me cry.  I’ve also listen to Fry read Stories of Anton Chekhov and Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman and he never disappointed.

Other audiobooks in the wish-list: The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry, Stephen Fry Presents a Selection of Oscar Wilde’s Short StoriesThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (for a re-read).

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Alan Cumming

My favorite actor-cum-narrator. He’s funny, great with accents and has a wonderful voice. I listened to him read Scott Westefeld’s Leviathan trilogy and loved it so much that, although I was dying to read the last book, I waited until the audiobook version was available.

Audiobook wish-list: Macbeth: A Novel by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson, Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham.

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Jeremy Irons

Would I’ve liked Lolita (sample *goosebumps*) as much as I did without Irons’ deliciously-creepy narration? Probably not. Also heard to him read Brideshead Revisited and James and the Giant Peach and again got the feeling I appreciated the books much more because of him.

Audiobook wish-list: The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.

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Robert Whitfield (aka Simon Vance)

He’s a heavy-weight audiobook narrator, who read about 800 audiobooks and received awards I didn’t even know existed like the Audie® Awards. I first listed to him read Scaramouche and immediately downloaded Captain Blood, also by Rafael Sabatini. Whitfield will forever be associated in my mind with a good sword-buckling adventure, but I’ve recently listen to him read A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks and he was once again flawless.

Audiobook wish-list: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

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Steven Crossley

First listened to Steven Crossley in Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (one of Stephen King’s top 10 audiobooks) and more recently in To Say Nothing fo the Dog by Connie Willis.

Both books have quirky and eccentric characters which I think Crossley nailed perfectly.

Audiobook wish-list: A Room with a View by E. M. Forester (re-read), Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Nadia May

There’s only one woman in this list. I don’t really have an explanation for it, it’s just my honest experience with audiobooks so far, which might change as I get to know more narrators. Still, Nadia May is one of the best and a pleasure to listen every single time (her voice makes me think “She must be a good person, I want her over for tea”). I’ve heard her read Agnes GreyElizabeth and Her German GardenThe Scarlet Letter and The Sultan’s Seal by Jenny White.

Audiobook wish-list: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century by Barbara W. Tuchman, The Wings of the Dove by Henry James, Emma by Jane Austen (re-read), Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin, Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley, Howards End by E. M. Foster (re-read)

(Note: I’ve only heard the following two narrators read one book each, but it was such a great experience that they have to be in the list.)

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Matthew MacFadyen

Matthew MacFadyen could read the phonebook and it would sound like Shakespeare. And you know what’s even better? Matthew MacFadyen actually reading Shakespeare.

I’ve no doubt it was because of him that I gave five starts toThe Coma by Alex Garland.  The only reason why I haven’t listen to more of his audiobooks it’s because he hasn’t any (sniff), unless you count the one single but glorious chapter of Pride and Prejudice.

Someone please give the man a book and a microphone!

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Michael Page

My best audiobook of 2011 was read by Michael Page: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. His voice is extremely versatile, not only in giving a distinct personally to each character, but also in being able to jump from comedy to drama without loosing a beat. Also think this is a case of the perfect match between narrator and book. Just like Robert Whitfield, Michael Page is probably at its best with an old-fashioned adventure book.

Audiobook wish-list: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, The Three Musketeers by  Alexandre Dumas (Page or Whitfield? Decisions, decisions…)

Honorable mentions:

  • John Castle (Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier)
  • Jonathan Cecil (all P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels)
  • Anton Lesser (Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman, but I like the samples of him reading Shakespeare)
  • Cassandra Campbell (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Faniie Flagg)
  • Dave John (Starter for Ten by David Nicholls)
  • Ian Carmichael (Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome and I’d like to try his narration of Lord Peter Wimsey’s novels)
  • Juliet Stevenson (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)
  • Jim Dale (Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, have Peter and the Starcatchers series in the audio TBL and heard he did a great job with The Night Circusas well)
  • Nigel Graham (Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott)
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