These Audiobooks Are Better Than The Actual Book
Books are great. They're really, really good. You can flip through them, they smell great when they're fresh off the shelf, and if a friend who borrowed one off you folds the corners of the pages over, then you're legally allowed to break one of their fingers.
But audiobooks are great too. For one thing, there aren't any pages to fold the corners of. For another, they're going through a revolution right now, with A-list names signing up to read both new releases and classics from the literary canon. Plus, you get all kinds of extra bits and pieces thrown in for good measure.
In fact—and please don't tell Martin Amis we said this—some audiobooks are even better than the actual books. Listen to these and tell us we're wrong.
I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge
Between the sitcoms, the radio shows and the one-off specials, this memoir telling the life story of North Norfolk's foremost disc jock might be the Partridge-Industrial Complex's zenith. The book, which is densely packed with petty score-settling, bullish attempts to rewrite history and asides about Eamonn Holmes, is endlessly re-readable. But it's even better when Steve Coogan reads it in character. It's worth listening to just for Alan reeling off his longlist of names for his house: "The Skirmishes, Apache, Tomahawk, Sceptre House, The Cinnamons—it's just a lovely ingredient—Classic House, The Classics, Manor House, Bentley House, Large Cottage."
Normal People by Sally Rooney
The runaway success of Sally Rooney's novels has landed her with the slightly cumbersome tag of 'voice of the millennials', and there's definitely a universality to the story of two teenagers who get together and break up, but whose lives weave around each other when they go to university. But Connell and Marianne are so much a product of the time and place they come of age in—County Sligo in Ireland, during the economic crash of the late 2000s—that hearing Clare-born actor Aoife McMahon's reading adds an extra layer of understanding about where they come from, and how that creates the people they become.
Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing by Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse
The joy of the TV series in which Mortimer and Whitehouse potter about, chat a bit and attempt to catch some fish is mostly down to the feeling that you're eavesdropping on two old friends mucking about. There's even more of that in the audio version of their book, which feels less like your usual voicing than a series of short readings, loosely lashed together with rambling, podcast-style interludes in which the pair chat about their friendship, their heart operations and their lives so far. Oh, and fish. Sometimes.
The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla
An array of voices from modern Britain are collected in this series of essays about race and identity. They're filtered through the lens of the 'good' and 'bad' migrant narratives with which we tend to be presented: that people who move to the UK, and their offspring, are either coming here to steal your job and scrounge on benefits, or they're superhuman athletes, doctors or parents of Great British Bake Off winners. The questions asked across these essays are huge but handled with humour, delicacy and bite. Read aloud, by the authors, actors, comedians and journalists who experienced each essay's subject firsthand, they become that much more urgent and affecting.
The Science Fiction Collection by HG Wells
Most audiobooks are read by their authors. Which is nice. But with classics, the presents a problem—they're generally dead. For canny audiobook producers, this is also an opportunity: instead of some mumbling author, why not get Hollywood's finest to breathe new life our greatest works of literature? This HG Wells collection is a great introduction to the form. Five of his most famous works are rendered by British acting's top brass, including David Tennant reading The War of the Worlds, Sophie Okenedo doing The Invisible Man and Hugh Bonneville reading The Time Machine. Plus, as little extra, there's a foreword from Hostel director Eli Roth.
Ghost Stories by MR James
Around the turn of the 20th century, Cambridge scholar Montague Rhodes James would invite students and friends to the Provost's Lodge at King's College on Christmas Eve. The chilling stories he read them, about malevolent spirits with terrible, ancient powers being accidentally unleashed to hound unwary mortals, became classics. His story collections are great, but for the full Jamesian experience, you need to experience the tales as they were written—to be performed. Sir Derek Jacobi is on hand to give it the necessary gravitas.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.