At AudioFile we mark several special occasions every June. Since I started the magazine in June 1992, the completion of another published volume marks the end of one year of audiobook recommendations and the beginning of a new one. June is also a milestone for our mission to find and celebrate the best voices of the audiobook world. This year we celebrate three new Golden Voice narrators—Kevin R. Free, Marin Ireland, and Nicholas Boulton. We feature each of these brilliant narrators here at our website, and our social platforms. Each new Golden Voice is highlighted on our Behind the Mic podcast, and in the episodes airing this week, we announce their achievements. Later in the month, tune in for extended bonus episode interviews with the three new Golden Voices and host Jo Reed. With articles and fan pages for each Golden Voice narrator—our class of 2023 and all of the 47 narrators who hold the Golden Voice status—you can check in with favorite narrators like Julia Whelan, George Guidall, JD Jackson, Bahni Turpin, and Dion Graham, and explore narrators who might be less familiar to you.
For many listeners, any audiobook by a Golden Voice narrator assures exceptional listening. These narrators simply have superb performance skills, they are keenly attuned to each author, and they are practiced in many genres and styles. Also, I often hear a certain je ne sais quoi—a nuance, an understanding of their materials, and a finesse in the delivery. But enough of my words—just listen! You’ll hear it, too.
Kevin R. Free has narrated more than 450 audiobooks since 2001, as well as being a busy stage actor, playwright, and artistic director at our own Portland Stage in Portland, Maine, and in regional theaters across the country. He narrates with an infectious energy, and his sense of timing is attuned to the author and their work—he prepares deeply and understands the author's intent. His narrations have earned him numerous Earphones Awards, and he has titles on AudioFile's Best Audiobooks lists year after year. Kevin's range is so broad—we love his many children's titles like the classic THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, but he also gets the humor and dramatics in the beloved sci-fi MURDERBOT series. He brings great energy and precision to his narration of nonfiction audiobooks, including RHYME'S ROOMS. Listen in to our conversation about Kevin's audiobooks on our Behind the Mic podcast, and stay tuned for our interview with Kevin coming in July.
Marin Ireland won the Best Female Narrator Audie Award in 2020 for NOTHING TO SEE HERE, and she has won numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards and earned mentions on our Best Audiobooks lists. Marin loves to disappear into a story as she narrates, and that's just what we experience as listeners when we get to hear her audiobooks. She moves seamlessly among the characters, making each distinct, and she has an intuitive gift with her characters and voices. In the memorable LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam, she narrates with pitch-perfect nuances for the two different families stuck together in a blackout, while she gives an adroit and heartfelt performance of Emma Straub's THIS TIME TOMORROW, which our reviewer called "addictive listening." Our interview with Marin on the Behind the Mic podcast will air later this month.
Nicholas Boulton has narrated more than 100 audiobooks, ranging from 19th-century classics to science fiction, history, and romance, and he has turned in many Earphones Award-winning performances. He meets the challenges of narrating classics like DAVID COPPERFIELD, making each character memorable for the listener, while also helping keep the listener from getting lost in the story. And he gives swoon-worthy narrations in romance novels, from the captivating contemporary GLITTERLAND by Alexis Hall to fearsome medieval tales like DESIRE LINES. More recently his velvety baritone has been praised in contemporary fiction and fantasy audiobooks as well. Listen in to Jo Reed's interview with Nicholas next week on the Behind the Mic podcast.
Photo of Kevin R. Free by Max Flatow; photo of Marin Ireland by Corey Nickols; photo of Nicholas Bouton by Dan Reid