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AudioFile's Golden Voices: The Golden 50

This year, we celebrate the golden number of 50 Golden Voices! How do we even begin to talk about the talent of these 50 exceptional narrators? Here’s my riff on some of the audiobooks—some new and some old—that resonate with me for each of the Golden Voice narrators.

From left: Barbara Rosenblat, Davina Porter, and Grover Gardner

From the earliest days of audiobooks, Barbara Rosenblat and George Guidall were behind the mic every day and are still recording—Craig Johnson’s 20th Longmire title for George, out this month, and Barbara’s HAROLD AND MAUDE was a 2024 Audie Award finalist. We also can listen to titles throughout their careers. Davina Porter’s Outlander series are among the most-requested audiobooks. A brilliant aspect of audiobooks is that recordings rarely go “out of print” and are available easily. Why do listeners revere Frank Muller? Try one of his audiobooks, Stephen King’s DIFFERENT SEASONS or Cormac McCarthy’s ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, and hear why. As we learned earlier this year, authors have favorite voices, too. Grover Gardner recently recorded titles by John McPhee at the author’s request.

Clockwise from top left: Rupert Degas, Nicholas Boulton, Simon Prebble, Juliet Stevenson, Stefan Rudnicki, Dion Graham

Dion Graham has recorded astonishing recent audiobooks—KING, HARLEM SHUFFLE, THE WAGER—yet his older recording of Miles Davis's memoir, MILES: The Autobiography, or one of my personal all-time children’s favorites, TROMBONE SHORTY, are excellent ways to appreciation Dion’s range of skills. Rupert Degas, featured on our recent podcast on Naxos AudioBooks’s 30th anniversary, was the memorable voice of Pantalaimon in Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Staying with the Brits for a moment, Adjoa Andoh’s recording of the new story collection LAKE OF SOULS adds to her brilliant recordings of titles by Ann Leckie. If you are a classics fan, Juliet Stevenson has a long list of favorites—Émile Zola’s THERESE RAQUIN is a recent one. Numerous recordings of classics often exist, but finding one by a Golden Voice narrator is often a smart clue to getting a brilliant performance—consider Simon Prebble’s version of Orwell’s 1984 or Dickens’s A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Also look for Wanda McCaddon’s name for classic works like VANITY FAIR or A ROOM WITH A VIEW. David Case will be a familiar name to listeners who remember vast boxes of cassettes. His distinctive arch style works well with Dickens’s OUR MUTUAL FRIEND. Try Nicholas Boulton’s DAVID COPPERFIELD—or one of his romances. Our reviewer praises Miriam Margolyes’s “gobsmacking” performance of BLEAK HOUSE. Johnny Heller's performance of THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN is almost like hearing Twain himself. And Stefan Rudnicki’s deep, resonant voice is a perfect match for Alexander Pushkin’s stories in EGYPTIAN NIGHTS AND OTHER TALES OF ROMANCE AND IMAGINATION.

From left: Arthur Morey, Suzanne Toren, Derek Jacobi

Derek Jacobi, whose films and television are so memorable to many, was also active with audiobooks in the early days, and we can still enjoy his cameo in Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Jay O. Sanders is a familiar face on stage and screen, and he gives an eminently entertaining reading of Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22. Edward Herrmann also has a voice that listeners might recall from The History Channel narrations and as the patriarch on The Gilmore Girls, but also from his audiobooks of David McCullough’s works. Barbara Caruso so inhabits Joan Didion’s memoir THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING that it’s a perfect marriage of writing and narration. Arthur Morey turns in expert performances of Bill Cunningham’s memoir, FASHION CLIMBING, and E.B. White’s ON DEMOCRACY. And Suzanne Toren has narrated two of Donna Leon’s memoirs to great effect, including MY VENICE AND OTHER ESSAYS.

From left: Ramón de Ocampo, Bahni Turpin, and Michael Crouch

One of the great skills of great narrators like our Golden Voices is their ability to turn in memorable performances across a wide variety of genres. We remember Katherine Kellgren’s wonderful performances for teens especially, and her narration of the BLOODY JACK series is an all-time great. Jim Dale is another favorite for younger listeners. Seek out one of his lesser-known (but no less amazing) performances like THE SHOE BIRD. Ramón de Ocampo is the voice of the hugely successful Wimpy Kid series, and we awarded Earphones to his performance of Erin Entrada Kelly’s middle-grade novel WE DREAM OF SPACE. Managing Editor Jenn Dowell loves Michael Crouch’s performance of the teen novel SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA (and may have listened to it more than once). And if you haven’t heard Bahni Turpin’s unforgettable voice for an alien in THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY, well, you’re in for a treat.

Kevin R. Free is the beloved voice of the Murderbot series—he gets fan mail about it! Once you listen, you’ll understand why. Emily Woo Zeller’s narration of the fairy-tale inspired fantasy SIX CRIMSON CRANES is not to be missed. Another can’t miss—Robin Miles’s otherworldly performance of THE CITY WE BECAME. Simon Vance delivers Alan Moore’s epic fantasy JERUSALEM mellifluously.

Clockwise from top left: Scott Brick, Robin Miles, Soneela Nankani, Simon Vance, Kevin R. Free

Mystery audiobook fans are lucky, as long-running series so often have epic author-narrator partnerships. Dick Hill was the longtime narrator for both Michael Connelly and Lee Child. Gerard Doyle understand the complex protagonist in Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series. Martin Jarvis is first out of the gate for Dick (and now son Felix) Francis’s horseracing mysteries—ICED is a recent Earphones winner. Simon Prebble is the voice for Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks series, a must on audio. Try CARELESS LOVE. Robert Harris and narrator Christian Rodska are a chilling combination in Harris’s THE FEAR INDEX. Scott Brick narrates for many of the mystery greats, including the late Michael Crichton—his performance of THE LOST WORLD will have listeners experiencing all of the dino thrills. We love Soneela Nankani’s vibrant performance of Harini Nagendra’s THE BANGALORE DETECTIVES CLUB. And you can get to know one of Agatha Christie’s lesser-known sleuths with Simon Jones’s narration of THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS.

Clockwise from top left: Marin Ireland; JD Jackson; Edoardo Ballerini; John Lee; Cassandra Campbell; Alyssa Bresnahan; January LaVoy

Literary fiction? AudioFile’s publisher Michele Cobb counts Marin Ireland’s performance of Kevin Wilson’s weird and funny novel NOTHING TO SEE HERE as one of her favorites. Assistant editor Emily Connelly loves January LaVoy’s turn in THE VASTER WILDS by Lauren Groff. Sanora Babb’s 1939 novel WHOSE NAMES ARE UNKNOWN is given a first-class performance by Alyssa Bresnahan. Cassandra Campbell keeps the many characters and time-shifts in focus in Ann Napolitano’s DEAR EDWARD. And John Lee is masterful with Ken Follett’s historical novels, including the recent THE ARMOR OF LIGHT.

Sometimes we’re even lucky enough to have Golden Voices team up. Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan share the narration of Jess Walter’s THE ANGEL OF ROME and Julia and JD Jackson co-narrate Rebecca Makkai’s I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU.

From left: Dominic Hoffman; Kate Reading; Robert Petkoff

We're celebrating the Golden Voice narrators all June, and we're thrilled to introduce the 2024 Golden Voices, though they will likely be familiar names—or voices—for many of you. Congratulations to Dominic Hoffman, Kate Reading, and Robert Petkoff, this year's new Golden Voices! We have bonus long-form podcast interviews with each new Golden Voice and our host, Jo Reed, coming out over the next weeks. Be sure to follow our Behind the Mic podcast to hear Dominic's interview this Friday, June 7. In the meantime, browse our playlist below highlighting interviews with many Golden Voices from throughout the years. Of course, we can write endlessly about their fine narration skills, but really—just listen! You'll understand what makes all the Golden Voice narrators stand out and give yourself the gift of memorable listening. 

Learn more about all of our Golden Voices on our spotlight page and discover more excellent audiobooks to love. 


Header image credits: Adjoa Andoh photo by Hugo Glendinning for Booker Prize Foundation, Emily Woo Zeller photo by William Callan; George Guidall photo by Jo Anna Perrin; Kate Reading photo by DJ Corey; Dominic Hoffman photo by Daniel Reichert; Julia Whelan photo by Kelly Puleio; Robert Petkoff photo courtesy of the narrator.

Davina Porter photo by Jo Anna Perrin; Nicholas Boulton photo by Dan Reid; Simon Prebble photo by Jo Anna Perrin; Dion Graham photo by Rob Latour; Ramón de Ocampo photo by Matt Kallish; Bahni Turpin photo by Rob Latour; Scott Brick photo by Max Flatow; Robin Miles photo by Ty Freiberg; Soneela Nankani photo by Jody Christopherson; Simon Vance photo by Rob Latour; Edoardo Ballerini photo by Jeff Vespa; January LaVoy photo by Daniel Parvis. 

Barbara Rosenblat, Grover Gardner, Rupert Degas, Juliet Stevenson, Stefan Rudnicki, Arthur Morey, Suzanne Toren, Derek Jacobi, Michael Crouch, Kevin R. Free, Marin Ireland, JD Jackson, John Lee, Cassandra Campbell, Alyssa Bresnahan photos courtesy of the narrators. 

AudioFile Magazine is your #1 source for audiobook reviews. 

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