There are a lot of really phenomenal books on tape that consist of wonderful stories read by some very interesting people. I love listening to books on – well, CDs or MP3s now, really, but the point is, they're ideal when you're taking a long trip, doing housework, or simply want to experience a good story when you don't have the time or the opportunity to read. There are a number of books on tape that are considered nothing less than brilliant, however, and those are the recordings I want to share with you!
1. Silence of the Lambs, Kathy Bates
Silence of the Lambs is widely considered one of the best books on tape ever, and it's certainly one of my favorites. Mind you, I love the book all on its own and I'm crazy about the movie as well. However, hearing Kathy Bates read about Clarice, Hannibal, and Buffalo Bill is absolutely incredible. It's chilling. I'd love to hear a recording from Anthony Hopkins himself, but this one is close to perfection.
2. The Harry Potter Series, Jim Dale
Jim Dale is one of the most amazing narrators to ever read a book aloud, and he does wonderfully with the Harry Potter series. There are nuances you don't even pick up when you're reading to yourself, and the characters receive depth, dimension, and even more personality – which is saying a lot, because J. K. Rowling is just such a phenomenal writer. I have to say, however, that Stephen Fry also did a really amazing job, but I've only heard tiny snippets of his recordings so far.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Sissy Spacek
I adore Sissy Spacek. I've always found her voice quite soothing, even when she played Carrie. Something about that slight, charming country accent worked so well with To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is already a timeless classic, the story rich and ripe with social commentary, but her reading took it to an entirely new level. I can't recommend this reading enough.
4. Lolita, Jeremy Irons
Here's the funny thing. I hate, hate, hate the film version of Lolita starring Jeremy Irons. That being said, I think he narrates the novel beautifully. I'm not sure how that even happened, but there's a vulnerability there that I simply didn't feel in the remake – but then, I'm such a huge fan of James Mason.
5. A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tim Curry
I actually didn't like A Series of Unfortunate Events that much on my own. I happened to hear the audio book when a friend was listening to it, however, and since I am quite in love with Tim Curry, I went absolutely crazy for it. It gave me a new appreciation for the story, and made me, strangely, want to hear Tim Curry read every Stephen King book ever.
6. Gates of Eden, Assorted
Some of my favorite actors ever lend their voices to this collection of stories from Ethan Coen. The stories are amazing on their own, but when you add narration from my beloved John Goodman, Liev Schreiber, John Turturro, and the inestimable Steve Buscemi, they take on a whole new dimension. If you ever get the chance to listen to any or all of these stories, please do – but definitely try to catch “It Is an Ancient Mariner,” “A Fever in the Blood,” “Gates of Eden,” and “The Boys.”
7. The Return of the Native, Alan Rickman
I very much like Thomas Hardy, but I very much love Alan Rickman. Man, that voice! He could narrate the ingredients list on a pack of rice cakes and I'd listen, enthralled. This man's voice should be bottled and sold in sex stores all over the world. Oh, and it's a really great story, too, just by the way.
Sometimes hearing a book read by a skilled actor or actress really heightens the experience – see Kathy Bates. You get more chills and thrills, especially when the performance is exceptionally well-done. Do you enjoy listening to books on tape? If so, let me know your favorites!