A guide to Spotify’s audiobooks
February 16, 2021
Spotify, known for its music and the end-of-the-year exposé that is Spotify Wrapped, is also the host of a hidden gem: audiobooks. I consider myself an audiobook connoisseur, as they’re my favorite thing to listen to as I do chores and write boring essays. Spotify has an official playlist of the first chapter of every audiobook, and I scrolled past the non-fiction books and other undesirables to find books that I’ve deemed worthy. I collected seven of them and listened to the first chapter of each to review for you here, taking into account both the plot and the voice actor’s narration.
Note: this is not an official review of these books, as I’ve only read two of them all the way through. If they end up not living up to your standards, then I am sorry.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
I’m not typically into contemporary books, as fantasy and dystopian plays much more into the escapism I crave, but I like the concept for this book. Teen Liz Lightly has her future all planned out, but when the scholarship she was counting on fell-through, quickly, she must begin to run for Prom Queen to try and win the scholarship that comes with the crown, as she slowly but surely falls in love with her competition.
The voice actor they cast for this book is perfect. Her voice is dry enough that it matches the tone of the narrator, yet impassioned when she needs to be. It was a little too filled with pop culture references for my taste though the (I don’t need the Hamilton allusions) as well as the fact that the introduction sounded like it came straight from a Disney Channel Original Movie. Still, it’s promising, and I’ll probably find my way through the whole book sooner or later.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
This is one of the books I have in-fact read, and it’s actually what got me out of a rather-long reading slump back in 2019. Fair warning, when I first read it, I didn’t get the hype surrounding it until half-way through. Then I consumed all four books in this series over the span of one weekend. The Raven Boys is hard to describe, but you’ll learn more about dead Welsh kings through this paranormal romance than you’ll expect.
I was surprised at first by the male voice actor as the initial narrator of the book is female, but I got over it quickly. His voice set the perfect tone of casual mystery and southern gothic, reminding me that all the characters are from rural Virginia. The pacing draws you in, and Stiefvater’s unique descriptions combined with the voice actor’s drawl quickly set an otherworldly atmosphere. The first chapter ended on a cliffhanger, making me want to discard the first chapter rule for this article and listen to the rest despite the fact that I’ve already finished the series.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
If you are a fan of David Dobrik, then I am sorry and you might not want to read this. For some odd reason, he is narrating an audiobook of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, instead of an actual voice actor. I like Frankenstein, and I think the original concept is so much better than what pop culture has twisted it into. But for a book about giving life to the inanimate, Dobrik’s voice is doing the opposite; his narration is as flat and dead as the Frankenstein’s monster pre-reanimation. If you’re curious about getting into this classic, I’d stick with a physical book or an audiobook narrated by practically anyone else.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My first impression of this audiobook is that it played heavily into the antiquity of Little Women, although that quickly faded once the actual narration started. The book follows the lives of four sisters in 1860s America from childhood to womanhood, as depicted in the popular 2019 adaptation. This voice actor has a slightly different inflection for each sister, which helps in following along. Classic books are often overlooked because the language is too flowery or the characters are too ancient, but I think the reputation is often undeserved. A good voice actor can give real life to fictional characters, making them feel relatable and modern, and can uplift any book.
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
I had never heard of this book before listening to this chapter, and so I was going in blind. City of Ghosts centers around a main character who, after a freak drowning accident, can now reach into the veil and communicate with ghosts. While it was interesting, it’s more of a light-read that I would get accidentally emotionally invested in than something I would read to analyze and enjoy the themes. On the downside, the main character has a severe case of I’m-not-like-other-girls syndrome, and the voice actor’s voice for one of the main characters is nasally and grating. I could see myself reading this to make fun of it, but nothing deeper.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Hiring Tatiana Maslany to voice Katniss Everdeen is not something I knew I needed until I listened to this chapter. Her voice captures the tone of the book perfectly, showing the heartbreaking reality of Panem while keeping Katniss’ tired and determined narration. The Hunger Games book series is one of my favorite series, holding up long-past the YA dystopian craze that boomed when the movies were first coming out. If you haven’t read this book yet, I’m practically begging you to; it both entertains as a light-read and as a subject of critical analysis.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
My first impression of this voice actor is that she sounds like she’s in on a joke that you aren’t, and wants to make sure you know it. Beauty Queens is a satire, following 50 competitors whose plane to a beauty pageant is interrupted by them crashing onto a desert island, leaving them stranded and struggling to survive. The voice actor’s narration style is perfect, and the book itself is witty and interesting, reminding me almost of Lemony Snicket and his Series of Unfortunate Events.
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