As an audiobook aficionado, I have my favorite narrators. When I see their names on a book, it jumps to the top of my to-read choices. “Narrated by Robin Miles”—yes please. “Read by Kate Reading”—check out now. “Narrators: Steve West and Fiona Hardingham”—this book is for me. “Bahni Turpin”—that’s all I need to know, I’m in.
There’s something really personal about hearing someone talking to you for hours that builds a familiarity. Storytelling opens up our hearts to those telling us the story, whether they are authors, actors, or narrators. There are some narrators whose voices I’ve been listening to for so long that I am ready for a story as soon as I hear them start speaking. These are narrators whose voices make me settle in, my subconscious saying, ‘This is going to be good!’
I’m sure this is a common choice for younger Gen X and Millennial adults. There’s something about Burton’s warm voice that makes it so easy to fall into his smooth storytelling. Though he narrated very few of the actual books on Reading Rainbow, Burton’s voice is inextricably linked in my head to stories. I was delightfully surprised when I pushed play and found him reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. His podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, is exactly what you want if you have fond memories of Reading Rainbow, amazing short stories read by that voice full of stories.
My British spouse and I have agreed to disagree about who is the voice of the Harry Potter audio, him choosing the Stephan Fry versions and me a diehard for Jim Dale. I struggle with the soft r’s he gives Hermoine, but his voice has the loud authoritative confidence of a timeless storyteller and his manages the many voices of the Harry Potter series with tireless accuracy. I rediscovered him outside of the Wizarding World when I decided to listen to The Night Circus. When I heard him narrate the opening of the first episode of Pushing Daisies, I knew I was going to love the show. Something about his voice settles my brain into readiness for stories.
I first encountered Sterlin in The Hollow Kingdom when I was in high school, listening with my mom. Sterlin’s voice is amazingly versatile, able to easily do elderly woman and confident little girl in the same breath. Her voice is one that I have found in my favorite comfy fantasy stories. Howl’s Moving Castle and The House of Many Ways, and more recently, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen. Sterlin’s soft but direct voice drops me into the kind of worlds where magic is everywhere, and yet tea is just as magical as it is in this world.
What narrators have been with you for so long that their voices alone get you ready for a great story?