Voice Acting Versus Reading

This afternoon I finished reading1 to the audio book version of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game. It was my second complete audio book, the first being Misery. Both books were read by Lindsay Crouse, and in both cases, I’d describe the reading much close to “voice acting” than a simple reading. Back in the day this might have been called a dramatic reading, or “reading with expression,” but actually, it was more than that. Lindsay Crouse acting all the parts. She became the characters while reading the book. I was more impressed than I ever expected to be by my initial audio book experiences.

Not one to linger after finishing a book, audio or otherwise, I started right in on the next book, this time Stephen King’s Hearts in Atlantis. This book is narrated by both William Hurt and Stephen King. I haven’t gotten to a Stephen King portion yet, but listening to William Hurt read is a completely different experience from listening to Lindsay Crouse. Not a bad experience, just different. Hurt is a reader, as opposed to a voice actor, and although he establishes a cadence and rhythm to his reading, it is a far cry from the voice acting that Lindsay Crouse did.

Until I started with the audio books, my main experience with dramatic readings had been those readings that I’d seen Harlan Ellison give–or those recording of his that I’d listened to (“Paladin of the Lost Hour,” for instance). This experience with audio books, both the standard readings like that William Hurt gives, and the full-fledged voice acting have been a truly eye- ear-opening experience.

  1. Listening


  1. Jamie,

    I’ve had the two credit/month subscription to audible for years. Up until November I commuted from York, PA to Baltimore every day and would listed to the free New York Times subscription that comes with it in the morning and my current audio book in the afternoon on the way home. Now I have a different job and still spend a lot of time in the car. I cancelled my Serius/XM subscription because I never used it anymore.

    My first experience at realizing how much the Reader/Actor makes a difference was when I was listening to Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturing series and I mistakenly picked an edition at book 7 that had a different narrator. It was so disappointing. You come to identify the characters with the voices the narrator uses.

    I’m in the middle of Steven Brust’s Vlad series now and thoroughly enjoy Bernard Clark’s reading.

    When will we be able to listen to a JTR audio book?

  2. We love to borrow audio books from the library for our long trips. It really makes the trips feel shorter and it’s great to get more book time. (I, unfortunately can’t read in the car without getting ill.) What I really love, though, is that it feels so nurturing. I just loved being read to as a child — some of my best memories!

  3. Jamie:

    No need, in my opinion, to qualify your use of audiobooks as listening rather than reading. You can just straight out say you read the book, or read the audiobook. When all is said and done (no pun intended) you’re in the same position as someone who has read the print book, which is to say you’ve enjoyed the authors words in all their glory, you possess all the knowledge contained in the book, and you could discuss it with anyone the same as if you’ve read it in print, though you couldn’t quite get the page number references right.

    True, your experience of the book is colored by the narrator’s rendition of it (which should ideally be a bit more neutral than those you’ve described). And, true, audiobooks won’t help you become a better speller. So there are some differences.

    But in the end this long and often religious argument usually comes down to what you think reading is. I think for your purposes there’s no need to differentiate, or even to hedge your bets with a footnote!


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