WSIRN Ep 182: Matching the right (audio)book to the right listener

3 audiobooks I loved this month

A request I hear a LOT from WSIRN listeners is “can we have another episode about audiobooks??” I couldn’t agree more, because audiobooks are an important part of my life too. So today I brought in Michele Cobb, publisher at Audiofile magazine, to not only help me recommend audiobooks for YOU, but to match me with MY next great audiobook read.

We’re chatting today about the marriage of a great book with a great narrator, visual and auditory learning styles, jumping off points if you’re still on the fence about reading with your ears, and the key to some truly fantastic and FREE audiobooks you can get your hands on this Summer.

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #182: Matching the right (audio)book to the right listener with Michele Cobb

Discover free audiobooks all Summer long with Audiofile’s SYNC program. Connect with the magic on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here. If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library!

• Swing, by Kwame Alexander
Blink and Caution, by Tim Wynne-Jones
• The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
The Golden Day, by Ursula Dubosarsky
Gulp, by Mary Roach
Spill, by Leigh Fondakowski
• Becoming, by Michelle Obama
Blindness, by Jose Saramago
The Huntress, by Kate Quinn
The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
Circe, by Madeline Miller
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courages to Lead, by Cecile Richards and Lauren Peterson
• The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker
March, by Geraldine Brooks
Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, by M. T. Andersen
• Calypso, by David Sedaris
A Wolf at the Table, by Augusten Burroughs
Dry, by Augusten Burroughs
My Southern Journey,: True Stories from the Heart of the South, by Rick Bragg
Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
• Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer
Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah
Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay
Hum if You Don’t Know the Words, by Bianca Marais
Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield
Roots, by Alex Haley
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
The Master and Commander series, by Patrick O’Brien
• Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

Also mentioned:
• The Audiobook SYNC program from Audiofile magazine
WSIRN Ep 179, with guest Shannan Malone
WSIRN Ep 54, with guest Melody Skiles
WSIRN Ep 31, with guest Adam Verner
The Daisy Jones & the Six episode of Behind the Mic podcast
The Odyssey Award for outstanding children’s and YA audiobooks
• Song Exploder podcast

What’s your can’t-miss-it audiobook experience? Let us know in the comments below!


Leave A Comment
  1. Emily C says:

    Thanks for an audiobook focused episode! I absolutely agree with Michele about celebrity memoirs, and in addition to Tina Fey’s Bossypants I would recommend Yes Please by Amy Poehler and The Princess Diarist by Carrier Fisher in audiobook. Listening to Carrier Fisher read her own work was very poignant in the wake of her death. She’s incredibly witty and funny and wry. Her daughter reads her personal journal entries from her time working on Star Wars, and I think the book was a more fulfilling experience reading with my ears.
    I would also recommend As You Wish, by Cary Elwes about the making of The Princess Bride. Many of the people who worked on the film wrote sections for the book and they read their entries for the audiobook. Carol Kane, Robin Wright, Rob Reiner and others contribute and its so much fun if you’re a fan of that movie!
    One more if you like multiple narrators and casts – The Beastie Boys Book. Unlike The Princess Bride, I am not generally a Beastie Boys fan but the presentation of this makes it worth a listen. Most of the sections are written by the two surviving Beasties, but the narrators are remarkably diverse (Wanda Sykes, Ben Stiller, Bette Midler, Bobby Cannavale, Rosie Perez to name a few).

    • Joye Johnson says:

      What great recommendations from Emily, thank you for posting! I’m a fan of the William Monk and Thomas Pitt mysteries by Anne Perry, and they are wonderful on audio. I especially like audio for books set outside the US, because I can’t do the accents in my head.

      I would recommend just about ANYTHING narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, who is known as the Meryl Streep of audiobooks. She can make the phone book compelling. Also one of my favorite books of all time is The Greater Journey by David McCullough, about Americans who traveled to Paris throughout the 19th century. It’s narrated by Edward Herrmann, who played Lorelai’s dad on Gilmore Girls (it’s one of my 3 faves). I love audiobooks because they make a subject I wouldn’t normally be interested in more palatable. They are great for mysteries because you can’t skip to the end so easily, and you are being told the story in ‘real time’. I actually prefer audiobooks, and that’s coming from a writer. I recorded an audio version of one of my books and it was a blast. A lot of hard work, but so much fun. Some of my characters didn’t truly come to life until I gave them audible voices. I’m so excited about this episode and I haven’t even listened to it yet!

  2. Teri HYrkas says:

    Wow! Jackpot! A marvelous podcast. I compare it to coming upon Aladdin’s cave strewn with treasure and a sign at the opening of the cave which reads: Take Your Pick!
    Many thanks to Michele Cobb for her suggestion of “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card as a choice for the next audiobook series obsession. Thanks also for information about SYNC — Audiofiles summer reading program with free downloads. Will definitley be passing that information on to friends and family.
    Thanks again!

  3. great podcast i own a lot of books and their no way i can get to all them. So i started borrowing audiobooks from my local library of books i own. It helped me in two ways one it helps me decide if really going to want to read the book and usually i listen to the whole book and then that another off my shelf. Two sometimes it helps me to enjoy the print book more as i get the narrator in my head so i can go between the audio and print.

    A few times it also has helped me realize nope that book is gonna bore me to death no matter what format i read it in. I recently borrowed Redwall from the library as i own quite a few in the series and that one for sure will be a print read as i got to lost listening to the narrator. Either that or it was just not the right time to try out that series.

    One other thing sometimes it the narrator that really gets you to read the story, an example that comes to mind for me on that one is the Chronicles of Nick series by sherrilyn kenyon. I would not of made it through that series as a print but the narrator totally got me hooked into reading the series.

    My most recent read that i starting this week is the looking glass wars i had the books on my lshelf for years but just had not time to pick them up and pretty sure an Alice in wonderland retelling sort of story will be quite good.

    Thanks for having such a great variety of topics and people to listen to about books my list grows I swear each week. It so great to be among people who are reading or listening to books.

    • Sue says:

      Jan, my mother is 81 and she’s doing the same thing you are—it’s not that she can’t see to read, but she finds the act of holding a book and bending her head over it hurts her neck, so she loves to listen to audio while she lies flat out on the couch. Recently she thought, Hey why not take the whole stack of books next to my bed that I’m never going to read (with my eyes) into the library and see if they have, or can order, the matching audiobooks?? So she did, and amazingly, they were able to get all of them. Now, she’s zipping through these books she’s been wanting to read for ages.
      For myself, I can think of one book especially that was changed by hearing the audio. I read The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and just didn’t get it. Not a real mystery, what WAS this? Then I heard it on audio, read by Lisette Licat, and oh my goodness, what a different book it was!! Now I understand! Now I can pronounce the names. Now I FEEL the pace of the country, and what the author was trying to convey. Huge. Big fan of the series now.

  4. Sarah says:

    I love audiobooks! The right narrator makes all the difference. I’ve started listening and had to stop and change narrators on the same book to get a voice I like. I love the Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse read by Jonathan Cecil. He has me crying with laughter! I also enjoyed entire Anne of Green Gables series read by Barbara Barnes. I’ve listened to all Jane Austen books on audio and am currently listening to Middlemarch thanks to Anne’s recommendations.

  5. Rach says:

    The Power of One is in my top 5 favorites books of all time. I’ve only ever read it though, no audio. I think it’s time to do so!

  6. Michelle says:

    I love audiobooks in all genres. I have great memories of the books shared during milong road trips as a child, in college and on work trips. I almost always “read” nonfiction on Audiobook. Right now I’m loving Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series read by Ralph Cosham. I’m sure I’d love the series anyway, but his delivery adds to the feeling that I’ve come home again at the beginning of each book.

  7. Melanie says:

    I’m not sure how I would have felt about Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk in print, but I LOVED it on audio.

    I’m usually not a huge re-reader but just a couple of months after reading the print version of Everyone Brave is Forgiven I went back and listened to it when Anne mentioned how good it was on audio. I actually recently finished listening to it for the second time.

    Also, I love the Flavia de Luce series on audio. The narrator is fantastic!

  8. Jacelyn says:


    You started talking about the Odyssey retelling narrated by Claire Danes. You mentioned this right after the book/genre you do not enjoy. I could not tell if you were lost or not enjoying the audio retelling. I have been thinking of giving this version a try. Would you expand a little on your thoughts on the Claire Danes narration of The Odyssey retelling please?
    Thank you!

  9. Helen says:

    I wonder how much being read to in childhood contributes to a love of audiobooks. My husband and I love being “read to” via audiobook. It’s soothing, pleasant and joyful. My father read to me constantly when I was little and my husband was raised listening to his grandmother’s tales of Indian myths. We read to our sons from a very early age and they love audiobooks as well. Just wondering how much that early imprinting has to do with feeling it is “real reading” and enjoyment as well.

  10. David Krohse says:

    Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King is my top recommendation for audiobook. The entire book is the main character telling her story to the police and it is awesome and intense!

  11. Kacie says:

    Fun episode and thank you for the transcript! I agree with wanting an audio book that will be even better than eyeballs on a page.

    I also think Bahni Turpin is an outstanding narrator — if anyone wants to read The Hate U Give or On the Come Up, go for it in audio!

    For my kids, they’ve enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie series on audio. Cherry Jones narrates far better than I could.

  12. TracyB says:

    I like opposite print and audio books. For print I like dialogue, too much description feels like blah blah blah. For audio the dialogue is confusing and I get lost. I like memoirs/biographies or books with not too much dialogue.

  13. Susan says:

    I really enjoyed this episode! Some of my favorite audio books have been Anne of Green Gables read by Rachel McAdams, The Handmaid’s Tale by Claire Danes, The Harry Potter books by Jim Dale, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books by Cherry Jones!

    Any recommendations for audio books as we (my family and I) drive along the coast of California this summer? I was thinking about a Steinbeck novel but have not listened to any of his on audiobook.

  14. Terry says:

    I love any audio book narrated by Cassandra Campbell. She can convey so many voices. It must be an arduous task to narrate well.

  15. Rachel says:

    I was driving while listening to this great podcast. I wish you could list the narrators that you mentioned that are especially good to listen to.

  16. Suzann Cohen says:

    New listener – first comment. Love this podcast. Working my way back through all the episodes. I specifically searched out this one because I was looking for audio recommendations.

    Inspired I went to my audible library to see what I had downloaded And found The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. It was a school read for my ninth grader last year.
    Highly recommend as audio – the protagonist’s voice is magically lyrical. I can’t imagine getting the same from this book in black and white. Also very appropriate for adults, I don’t imagine getting the depth of the content at 15. That said I’m listening / reading it again with my 12 year old. Its an Important perspective for a white child growing up with fortunate economic lifestyle.

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