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Should Authors Narrate Their Audiobooks?

What if every audiobook you listened to was narrated by the author who wrote it? Most audiobooks are read by voice actors who specialize in bringing out the essence of the text. Some argue that authors should be the only ones to verbalize their work. In an article for The New York Times, Wyatt Mason claims that no other person, besides the author, can truly emphasize important moments in the story.

I agree with Mason’s claim that using American voice actors for foreign characters takes away from the text. A sense of authenticity is lost when foreign characters sound not so foreign when listening to the audiobook.He makes a crucial error here however. Having the original author read their own text does not mean that they will be able to portray all the characters correctly. Do we really want George R.R. Martin narrating every character in the Game of Thrones audiobook? Martin, after all, is a writer. He’s not an actor, trained in portraying various voices, personalities, and all thespian related things. 

Audiobooks do not pretend to be the original creative source of an author’s work. Mason’s claim that having actors’ narrate a book is “trashing a writer’s work, and treats the listener like a total moron in the bargain,” could not be further from the truth. Audiobooks are meant to make the literature more accessible to people who simply don’t want to read the text for one reason or another.

There is nothing wrong with listening to audiobooks, as long as you are getting the information into your brain you can safely said you “read” the book. Certainly some books are nice to hear through the author’s voice like Malcom Gladwell’s Blink or Tina Fey’s Bossypants. But to suggest that anything less than the authors own voice is “trash” is simply absurd. If you would rather listen to the audiobook, by all means go for it, but do not expect the same aesthetic reward you would get from reading the text itself. 

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