June is audio book month


In the June, 2014, issue of “Book Page” the extremely prolific author Alexander McCall Smith shares his thoughts on audio books in an article entitled “What Makes the Perfect Audio Reader?”

He begins by stating that all authors fear adaptations of their works.  Many movie directors completely change plot, characters, and settings when translating books to screen.  But he says “if movies present good reasons for an author to be afraid, the same cannot be said of audiobooks.”  In McCall Smith’s view, authors might fear movie directors, but they have nothing to fear from audiobook people who are “the unsung heroes and heroines of adaptation.”  Most authors, he believes, are very happy with the audiobook versions of their books.

He himself is a great fan of audiobooks.  He often listens to particular reading again and again.  He especially mentions a recording of a Somerset Maugham short story “The Outstation,” which he has listened to five or six times.  He credits the reader, an American actor who he does not name, as being the chief reason why he loves listening to this story.

Getting the right reader is the key to a good audiobook.  He believes he has been very lucky because his publisher has chosen the very best readers.  Lisette Lecat, a South African-born actress, is the voice of Mma Ramotswe, the chief character in McCall Smith’s series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.”  He believes she is perfect because for the role because she has that most important quality: intimacy in the voice.  The best audiobook readers sound as if they are reading to book to you personally.

Another important quality is the ability to do different voices for different characters.  He uses Hugh Laurie as an example of someone who has this talent.  Laurie is the reader of McCall Smith’s series “Portuguese Irregular Verbs.”  Laurie, an Englishman, manages “to be three totally credible different German professors.”  McCall Smith hopes Laurie will return to recording audiobooks soon.  “Anybody can act on television–rather fewer can do a brilliant audiobook.”


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