Those familiar with my other Guides understand that I use two criteria for my audiobook recommendations. First, I usually like to choose a book that is outstanding in its field - such as a groundbreaking book of history or classic of the canon of literature. Examples - who doesn't like "Gulliver's Travels" or "The Hobbit"? Second, I insist on the very best narrators of the English language such as Boris Karloff, Sir Alec Guinness, Alfred Molina, Stacy Keach, Bill Nighy, Philip Madoc, Ian Richardson, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judith Anderson, and the like. One of my favorite books in this list is a combination of music and poetry read by Ben Kingsley of the great poem of Samuel Taylor Coleridge titled "Kubla Khan." Another poem I have included is read by the incomparable Sir Donald Sinden of Oscar Wilde's reflection of his prison stay. There are the African adventures that make up the stories of the discovery of the source of "The Blue Nile" read by one of my favorite narrators - Patrick Tull. Last but not least is the heroic tale of the "The Iliad" narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi and that's possibly the best audiobook I have ever listened to. In this collection, I have included books over the entire range of narrative literature: Poetry, Law, History, Erotica, Music, Fantasy, Novels, Medieval & Gothic Romance, Espionage, Science, Ancient and Religious Philosophy, Film Studies, Personal Memoir, Culture and Food, Short Stories, Satire, Adventure, Science Fiction, Urban Studies, Biography, Drama, Biblical Critical Study, Natural History, Political Science, Mystery, and Children's Classics.
The version I chose of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen is faithful to his writing - beware some of these tales are quite dark. [For very young children I would recommend the lighter version delightfully narrated by Danny Kaye. Look for it in the music section of Amazon.com]. I have also expanded the definition of an audiobook by including "Woody at 100" which is a collection of this dust-bowl philosopher's work ballads and folk songs which could be described as a loose biography of America in the 1930's as well as an autobiography of his own life.
On biographies, Richard Dawkins communicates the excitement and interests of his youth in beautiful prose. A treasure
Many of my audiobook selections are in CD format - although a considerable number are today only available as an audio download. Of course, there are thousands and thousands of outstanding books that have been put into print. But what I am looking for is that "something extra" that enhances a writing when it is voiced superbly. The diaries of Admiral Lord Nelson are a good example. The words sing off the page when they are dramatized by an outstanding orator like Charles Dance but don't have the same effect when reading the lines silently. In summary, I am looking for books that provoke us to think, revive the ancient art of storytelling, and help redefine what is the meaning of being human.