Authors' Own Narrations: Our Opinions and Recommendations
By Cameron Phillips and Emily De Vogele
Authors narrating their own work isn’t as uncommon as you may think. Although self-narration is most common in autobiographies, it can be seen across other genres as well. A quick look on the bestseller page on Audible shows several titles where the author either partly narrates or fully narrates their own book.
A richly debated area of discourse, with some listeners preferring voice actors and some loving authors narrating their own work, we wanted to bring you our top picks so you can decide for yourself: authors own narration, yay or nay?
As an avid history lover, my recommendation is, of course, something to do with history. Greek mythology is always in the charts and I’ve even recommended a few books before (Mythos by Stephen Fry remains one of the best!) but for this issue, I’ve gone with another mythology recommendation: Norse Mythology, written and narrated by the one and only, Neil Gaiman.
I’m sure almost everyone recognises the cover. This book is often featured on Waterstones book tables and spent a good amount of time on several bestseller lists. And for good reason too; it was an absolute pleasure to listen to.
My only knowledge of Norse mythology came from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the Thor movies, so it’s fair to say my knowledge was very limited. I recognised a few names in the chapter headings, mainly Thor and Loki, and expected to find out more about these brothers. However, I was transported into a world of legends and titans, with such rich characters that I often found myself looking up the names of several prominent figures to find out more about them.
Gaiman explains everything incredibly well. His passion for this subject is clear in his narration, as is his knowledge. Despite being clearly well-educated on the topic, I never felt overwhelmed or confused while listening, even with the introduction of new characters or settings. Keeping the reader entertained and informed is key in novels like this, where there is the assumption that the reader is going in with little to no prior knowledge about what they are reading.
Not only are these stories retold, but they are brought to life. It’s easy to repeat and restructure something as old as myths, leaving them feeling overtold and worn out. But Gaiman does the opposite here; each myth is vivid with action and intense emotions. Again, this is highlighted by his way of narrating. Gaiman really has you on the edge of your seat listening to these fables.
Norse Mythology provides a perfect introduction to Norse history. It works well as a stepping stone into this area of history and myths that I knew very little about. After listening to this novel, I found myself gravitating towards others, wanting to know more about this hidden history. Coming in at a short 6 hours and 30 minutes, it’s the perfect audiobook to spend an afternoon listening to, or for breaking down and fitting into your daily routine.
Having recently released a new record with the iridescent John Frusciante, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have reentered my life. I’ve always loved the band and their work, especially how poetic and down-to-earth the members are, despite the funky, alternative sound of their music.
Flea’s Acid for the Children: A Memoir chronicles the young life of Flea, the band’s famous bassist. Fans will know the tragic history of the band and its members, and Flea’s honest and heartfelt account of his meeting with Anthony Keidis as a young child is engrossing. Famous people tend to have over-mythologised personal lives, especially the parts of their childhood, but the story of Flea meeting Anthony and the morphing of their crazy, innocent friendship into a platinum-selling, Grammy-award-winning, drug-fuelled, blazing partnership is brilliant. One moment you’ll be wheezing with laughter, the next you’ll be weeping with sadness, especially when Flea talks about the impact Hilal Slovak had on both him and Keidis as people and as musicians.
It’s hard to know how successful the band would have been critically and commercially had Slovak not passed, but it’s clear that he left an indelible mark on Flea in many ways. One of the best things about this audiobook is the jarring difference between his narrative voice as he reads and his stage persona. One might argue that many musicians have stage personas that differ to their private persona, but this reading is far away from the man who jumps around on stage in nothing but a sock covering his genitals, bouncing around on psychedelic substances. Flea is an incredibly well-read man; you just have to hear his speech when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Like many others, art saved Flea’s life, a theme that is apparent when you listen to him recount his tragic yet triumphant life.