Why I love audiobooks…

In recent years, we've seen more and more people taking up their headphones to immerse themselves in the world of audiobooks – with 2018 being Penguin Random House Audio's biggest year so far. But what sits behind the recent boom? We asked some of those closest to the audiobook revolution about why they love the format so much...

Dolly Alderton recording her audio book

The editor

Sam Halstead, editor

Sam Halstead is Editorial Director for Penguin Random House Audio, commissioning audiobooks such as Michael Sheen's reading of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage and the 3D-audio reading of James and the Giant Peach.

There’s nothing as nostalgic as someone reading you a story, and that’s what I love the most about audiobooks. The fact that you can be anywhere; on the train, in the gym, doing your housework, and you can still be in your own little world, transported away into a story – what a luxury! Plus it means I can listen to Harry Potter on a loop without anyone knowing...

The narrator

Narrator Daniel Weyman

Daniel Weyman is is a prolific actor whose varied career spans film, television, theatre and audio work. He won Audio Narrator of the Year at the Audio Production Awards 2016 and has worked on audiobooks including Paula Hawkins' Into the Water, John Preston's A Very English Scandal and Christine Donlan's The Untapped Mind.

I get involved around the time a text is being finalised for publishing, normally at least a month before recording as it gives me time to properly prep the project. I read the book out loud making notes on the manuscript to help me find the dramatic arc of different sections, the pace changes, the character voices and when they speak to each other (so I can adopt their voice within the recording without stopping), any pronunciation issues (I recently recorded a book with over 600 Spanish pronunciations which I had to research!) and any words I don't know the meaning of (even though I've recorded nearly 100 books there is always a word or two I've never come across before!).

Creating an audiobook adds a layer onto traditional book publishing as the narrator can use the words to create vivid imagery and atmosphere right inside the listener's head. When I record a book I often get lost in the world that is being created; they begin to tell themselves through me. I normally start a session at around 10am and finish around 6pm. With only two small breaks and lunch, I'm concentrating for a huge part of the day, but this is what I love because it allows me to immerse myself in the book. If the book is an epic requiring 5, 6 or 7 days in the studio it often means that I come back to the real world at the end of it slightly unsure of where reality is and where fiction ends, and at that point I know the book has worked its magic.

"I come back to the real world at the end of it slightly unsure of where reality is and where fiction ends, and at that point I know the book has worked its magic."

The author

Cara Hunter, author

Cara Hunter is the author of the bestselling DI Adam Fawley trillers, including No Way Out and Close to Home. All three of her Adam Fawley novels have been turned into audiobook versions, read by Lee Ingleby and Emma Cunniffe.

What I love about audio is that it's 'reading plus'. Not just the words the writer chose but the extra dimension of the human voice - all those subtle nuances of sound and breathing and tone that a professional actor can pull from the page to make the story sing.

The producer

Roy McMillan, producer

Roy McMillan is Executive Producer at Penguin Random House Audio. As well as narrating and producing hundreds of audiobooks throughout his career, Roy also manages Penguin Random House's in-house studio.

I produce audiobooks for a living; so one of the reasons I love them is that it pays the bills. But the reason I do that is because all my life I have loved words and their performance. I studied English, trained as an actor and worked in radio. Audiobooks bring all the strands of my professional life together. But those professional delights are spurred by a deep love of the magic (and it really is magic. I don't mean unicorns and fairy dust; I really do mean magic) of words: how they combine to express immeasurably complex or fascinatingly simple ideas; how they can touch, inspire, affect, astound and change you. This is true when you read them, of course. But there is an additional weight, an extra potential, in the sounding of the syllables, in the other magic of a voice talking to you. The capacity of a good reader to make all the words sing in harmony, releasing the meaning but not restricting it, is thrilling. It's a visceral response to something profoundly rooted in our understanding of stories and sharing. Audiobooks are intimate and immersive, and the medium in which you are immersed is the voice, moving the story like a river carries a ship. 

The listener

Catherine Walsh, an audiobook listener from Hampshire

Catherine Walsh is an avid audiobook reader from Hampshire.

I work full-time with a long commute and I have three small children. From being a total bookworm in my late twenties - by my mid-thirties I was averaging four or five books a year! It sounds strange but I believe that the lack of books was actually making me unhappy! I took out an Audible subscription a couple of years ago and it changed my life. I can’t listen to audiobooks whilst doing anything that is very involved (at work for instance) but whilst doing tasks like driving to work and back - or walking - they really pass the time. I find that I tend to focus more on the prose when I am listening as opposed to reading where I often skim. I am actually currently listening to Little Fires Everywhere as I type this. I tend to go for recent - fairly lengthy novels as I feel I am getting my money’s worth! So over the past year I have listened to A Little Life, The Goldfinch, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, AmericanahThe Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Fact of A Body and so many more amazing books that I would never have been able to actually sit and read.

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