The Best Audiobooks Read By Famous Actors and Actresses
Having someone read to you is great. It’s part of what makes audiobooks so magical. A voice can really add to the story and sometimes it’s as though the reader is there in the room with you. What if a few of those voices were famous actors and actresses?
Whether you’re struggling to choose what book to listen to next, you don’t know here to start with the vast array of titles out there, or if you want to branch out from your usual genre, why not have some well-known voices influence your decision?
So, have a browse of this list, then sit back and have one of these celebrities read to you while you relax, wash up, or go for a walk – whatever takes your fancy!
1. Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry is a true legend of audiobook narration. Not only has he narrated the entire series of Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, he has also read all the Sherlock Holmes books (over 80 hours!). However, my favourite audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry is Mythos. It is an updated version of the Greek Myths, starting at the birth of the universe and running through to the creation of humankind. And, if you’re desperate for more after you’ve finished you’re in luck – Stephen Fry will writing two more books retelling Greek Myths!
2. Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch could probably narrate the phonebook and it’d be worth a listen. Thankfully for all of us, instead of that he reads the The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. This short book is all about time – it’s a mystery that we are only beginning to understand. It may take a few turns to take on some of the concepts in this audiobook, so relax and listen to Benedict Cumberbatch read it to you. It’s so good that it won the Specsavers Audiobook of the Year award in 2018!
3. Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep… Where do I start with her accolades?! She’s known for The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia!, The Iron Lady and more recently Suffragette to name a few. Her voice over career is not as extensive as some, but she does narrate Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Nora Ephron is screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, so you’re in for some good writing, and with Meryl at the reading reigns you’ve got yourself a great audiobook.
4. Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen reading the audiobook of The Book of Dust changed my life for the better. It’s difficult to describe just how great his narration is – he is capable of embodying any character the book requires, including a terrifying hyena daemon. It’s almost too easy to forget that this audiobook is only read by one person. This video of Michael Sheen recording the audiobook shows just how versatile his performance is:
5. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda has had a busy few years. He wrote the music and lyrics for the musical Hamilton, which won 11 Tony awards and a Grammy, as well as a Pulitzer award for the book. He also wrote the music for the Disney film Moana, which was nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award. If that wasn’t enough, he also reads the audiobook of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
The book is set in Texas in the eighties and follows two young boys, Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana, as they struggle with their racial and ethnic identity, sexuality, and relationships. The book is deeply emotional and involving, which is made all the better by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s narration. A must listen.
6. Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen is famous for so many of his roles – Gandalf and Magneto in particular – but he has also read the children’s book series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. The author, Michelle Paver, said she was ‘over the moon’ when she found out who would be reading her books, which isn’t surprising! Listen to the Listening Books interview with Michelle Paver or check out this video clip of Ian McKellen in the studio from her website:
7. Kate Winslet
You may remember Kate Winslet from her starring role in Titanic, or as Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. What you may not know is that Kate Winslet also narrates audiobooks! She has read several classic children’s books, including Enid Blyton books, and also The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read this short book before, it tells the story of a little girl who uses her magical powers to turn hunters into birds! Short, but sweet.
8. Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton, AKA Wesley Crusher in Star Trek The Next Generation (and many other roles!), is a great actor and a prolific audiobook narrator! Probably his most famous title is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which was recently turned into a film. It is set in a dystopian future, where Wade Watts escapes reality by living a virtual life in the utopian OASIS. However, Wade is desperate to solve the riddles left by the founder of OASIS, which will lead to inheriting a fortune. Who wouldn’t want Wil Wheaton to narrate them through this action-packed story?
9. Gemma Chan
Gemma Chan’s role in Channel 4’s Humans saw her playing a human-like synth who has consciousness. But if you’re more of a fan of murder mysteries, then you’ll enjoy the Murder Most Unladylike audiobooks! The first three in the series are narrated by Gemma Chan, and follow Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells and their detective society at Deepdean School for Girls. Their first case comes when Hazel finds a school teacher lying dead in the gym, which they realise must have been murder!
10. Reese Witherspoon
You might know Reese Witherspoon from her famous role as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde or June Carter in Walk the Line, but did you know she narrated the audiobook of Go Set a Watchman? Set after Harper Lee’s famous To Kill a Mockingbird, the book features many of the same characters. Scout has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. While there, she has to grapple with her own identity and the place where she was born. Reese Witherspoon has the perfect accent for this audiobook, and does a great job reading it.
11. David Attenborough
David Attenborough is the probably the most famous voices out there. He lends his passion and gravitas to countless documentaries. But if you have an Attenborough shaped hole in your life while you’re waiting for the next one, then try one of the audiobooks he has narrated. In Life Stories he answers questions like what was his first pet? And which animal would he most like to be? He also narrates his memoir, Life on Air, all about his experiences working on television and the background to some of the most epic documentaries he presented. Hours of perfect narration await you!
What accomplished company we find ourselves in, eh? We hope you find something, or someone, on this list that makes you think, “Yeah, I’d love to give that a listen”.
And we’d love to know who your favourite audiobook reader is, famous or not, so do let us know in the comments below!
All of the books listed in this article can be found in the Listening Books library catalogue for members to either borrow on MP3 CD or download and stream.
This post was written by Holly Newson and Abigail Jaggers.
Picture credit: Benedict Cumberbatch – Gage Skidmore – Flickr; Meryl Streep – Dick Thomas Johnson – Flickr; Lin-Manuel Miranda – U.S. Department of the Treasury; Kate Winslet – Andrea Raffin; Wil Wheaton – Gage Skidmore – Flickr; Gemma Chan – Collider Video; Reese Witherspoon – dtstuff9 – Flickr ;David Attenborough – jeaneem – Flickr