Audiobook Recommendations from Production Editor Lisa Baney
Pure Escapes: Audiobook Recommendations from Production Editor Lisa Baney

By Lisa Baney

As the contract audio production editor for the This Is the Author podcast, it’s pretty clear to me that I have the best day gig in the world.

This is because I love audiobooks. I love audiobooks like they’re a dog. I love them like they’re Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. I survived a fraught childhood by getting Nancy Drew books from the library and reading them perched in the buckeye tree behind our house. I’m surviving adulthood by listening to audiobooks.

Headshot of Audio Production Editor Lisa Baney

Audio Production Editor Lisa Baney

I listen to them on my little vintage iPod Shuffle, which holds more sound in its 1×1 x 1/4 inch body than the first hard drive I ever bought, which was 300 times bigger, cost $2,500, and weighed as much as the engine block of a 1963 Volkswagen Bug. This fact still gobsmacks me.

The authors whose interviews I edit get an automatic 100 out of 100 possible points from me. By the time they get to the podcast interview, which comes at the end of the audiobook recording, they’ve written a book, had it published, and then spent many long and often grueling days reading it into a microphone. Their interviews are brilliant and disarming and emotionally authentic in the way that only creative and completely wrung-out human beings can be.

“For me, it’s mostly about the narrator.”
I’ve gathered scores of fabulous audiobook recommendations from working on the podcast. One of the interview questions is, “What is the last audiobook you listened to that you loved?” I’ve added Michelle Obama (Becoming), Trevor Noah (Born a Crime), David Sedaris, Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic), Harry Potter, and fistfuls of others to my long list of favorite audiobooks and narrators in the world (more on those in a minute).

I confess to a prosaic love of pure escapist listening—science fiction, mystery, Gone Girl-like thrillers. But for me, it’s mostly about the narrator. The best ones are sitting in the comfortable chair over there in the corner, reading light encircling them like a blessing, a cup of tea, or espresso, or straight shot of unlabeled whiskey ready to hand. They glance up at me, smile, and crack open the book. “Chapter One,” they say, and I’m in.

Among my favorites are a few that stand out from sheer virtuosic uniqueness. Patricia Routledge and her rendition of Wuthering Heights is chills-inducing. Two more are narrators Mark Hammer and Ralph Cosham—both gone now, sadly—who delivered brilliant singular performances of whatever they read: Hammer of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux books and Cosham of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series, among many other titles. Recently I was delighted by George Guidall reading Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, and I’ve shamelessly binged on his narration of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp thriller series. A friend of mine has confided to me that she falls asleep at night to George Guidall reading to her. I completely get that.

Like a lot of Americans I get shivery hearing English spoken with an accent. All of the Tana French audiobooks (but one) are narrated by a different, delightfully Irish-accented reader. (Her most recent, The Searcher, was delivered in an American accent by the biaccentual Roger Clark). Another swoon-worthy Irish-accented narrator is Gerard Doyle reading Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy books. The late Robin Sachs narrated the Jo Nesbø Harry Hole series until his death in 2013, the combination of his smooth, accented, dark-chocolate voice with the Northern European sensibility of the novels utterly irresistible to me.

Great narrators make me feel like they’re speaking only to me with a high regard for my intelligence. Mark Bramhall does this in Kent Haruf’s Our Souls At Night as well as Lawrence Wright’s The End of October. In each of their myriad performances, Will Patton and Scott Brick do the same. I eagerly give my ears and attention to all of these guys.

Obviously I could go on and on.

The last question in the podcast interview is, “Where do you listen to audiobooks?” By far the most common answer is, “while driving.” Also popular are, “while working out,” “on my walk,” and “while doing chores.” In other words, people like to have an audiobook handy when they don’t want to be alone. “I listen to audiobooks,” one of the podcast authors said, “for companionship.” Same!

Like I said, the best day gig in the world.

Hear Lisa’s exceptional sound editing at work every time you tune in to an episode of This Is the Author. Subscribe to the This Is the Author podcast here, or wherever you listen to podcasts:
Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | Spotify | Soundcloud | or download the Volumes app