Lord of the Rings and Off to Be the Wizard: An Audiobook Trilogy Showdown

I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks in my life. In those hours spent entering data, cooking, running, driving, or desperately trying to fall asleep, I’ve learned that not all narrators should read books aloud and not all books should be read aloud. Recently I purchased the audiobook version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The performance was pretty good, I’ve read the books before and loved them, but these audiobooks? Oh good grief, I struggled. When reading silently, I must have skimmed through the redundant announcements, superfluous speeches, and ridiculous monologues. How many times does Aragon have to announce his title, his sword, and his full name? When will people stop asking Legolas what his “elf-eyes” see? And STOP COMPLAINING, GANDALF THE WHITE.

I have known for a while that people pay attention to a spoken-word book differently than a written book. But I was surprised to suffer through a book whose paperbacks I had read until they fell apart. The narrator, through no fault of his own, focused a spotlight on shortcomings of the books that I must have glossed over. I don’t think the performance is at fault. Unlike The Hobbit, LotR is simply TOO MUCH to read aloud. To maintain listener interest while still reading all of the text is an impossible task.

Mellie only listens to audiobooks on vinyl. Photo by Norah Woodsey

Mellie only listens to audiobooks on vinyl. Photo by Norah Woodsey

On the complete other end of the spectrum, I absolutely love the audiobooks of the Magic 2.0 series by Scott Meyer (the first book of the series is Off to be The Wizard). I haven’t read the written books for one simple reason; the audiobook performances by Luke Daniels are perfection. If I read them silently, I’d do so with Daniels’ fantastic voices in my head and at that point I might as well just listen to the audiobook.

While pausing the first book until our laughter abated, my husband and I wondered how much the narrator contributed to our enjoyment of the story. Without access to The File, it’s impossible to travel back in time and find out. There are certainly problems with the books. We have both worked in tech, which means some of the programming logic in the books is confusing verging on irritating. But then Daniels’ hilarious voices come back and the problems are temporarily forgiven and forgotten.  

It’s safe to assume that while I would like the text versions of the Magic 2.0 series very much, I wouldn’t love them as I love the audiobooks. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t have given the audiobooks a chance had I read the text version first. I would live my life never knowing the true sound of Agent Miller’s negotiating voice, or that Martin is properly pronounced MAH-TIN.

Some books are to be read with your eyeballs only. Others are better off performed. Hopefully I’ll figure out which one of the two categories Lifeless falls into before it is released.