Let’s be honest, nobody has ever really paid attention to audiobooks as a legitimate form of entertainment for a while. Listening to one requires tons of imagination and focus (arguably more than reading a physical book), because there are absolutely no visuals. The story is all in your head. However, audiobooks are super convenient. You can do anything while listening to an audiobook, from grocery shopping to exercising. It’s easier to multitask while listening to an audiobook than it is to multitask while watching anything – let alone reading.
Audiobooks just got a whole lot better, though. There are so many actors who have taken their talents off screen and narrated classic stories from The Handmaid’s Tale to Matilda. Actors like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Anne Hathaway have recorded these stories just to bless our ears with their wonderful voices and impeccable acting. If you haven’t given audiobooks a shot, now’s your chance. It’s time to enhance the listening experience.
21. Claire Danes, The Handmaid’s Tale
Claire Danes is best known for her recurring role on Homeland and her role as Juliet in the 1996 version of Romeo + Juliet (arguably the best version, because Leonardo DiCaprio). But she also narrated the original audiobook for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The book follows women in a dystopian world where most women exist to be servants and child-bearers for their masters. She brings the characters in this near-future set dystopian to life through her voice, and it’s easy to get sucked into the universe. Maybe she’ll pop up on the Hulu series adaptation of the book, too?!
20. Lin-Manuel Miranda (with Karen Olivo), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Everyone’s favorite Broadway star takes his talents to a new medium by narrating the audiobook for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. He may not be rapping about American history, but his narration of this other story is still worth listening to. The critically acclaimed novel follows a Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey and deals with the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Miranda is joined by Karen Olivo — who stars in the Chicago production of Hamilton — for the audiobook.
19. Meryl Streep, Heartburn
Meryl Streep (and her voice) is pretty iconic. She’s played the editor-in-chief of a world-renowned magazine, a British prime minister, and a famous chef… just to name a few. She’s also the narrator behind the book Heartburn by Nora Ephron, AND she starred in the movie adaptation. The book is about the breakdown of a marriage and the story of a woman trying to cope with her divorce. Since everything Streep does is fantastic, it’s safe to say her narration of this novel makes it that much more interesting to read.
18. Samuel L. Jackson, A Rage in Harlem
Whether you know it or not, Samuel L. Jackson’s voice is already famous. He’s the voice behind Frozone from The Incredibles (where’s his super suit?). So, basically, listening to A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes is like having Frozone (or maybe Nick Fury) read to you. The book is the first in the Harlem Detectives series, which follows Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones as they patrol the streets of Harlem. This installment is about a gangster trying to get his money back after a shootout. It sounds like a pretty suspenseful novel, making Jackson’s powerful voice perfect for it.
17. Rachel McAdams, Anne of Green Gables
Rachel McAdams is a romantic movie queen – think The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Vow. It’s pretty on-brand that she’d narrate Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, a children’s novel about the adventures of a 19th-century orphan who is mistakenly adopted by a family who intended to adopt a boy instead. McAdams’s voice is perfectly soft and gentle to narrate this beloved kids’ story, and she makes it easy for a listener of any age to enjoy it.
16. Nicole Kidman, To the Lighthouse
Nicole Kidman’s Australian accent (yes, she has an accent, we know you’re shocked!), is great to listen to in any capacity, but especially in To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. An iconic female author matched with an iconic female actress to narrate her novel? We can’t think of a more perfect duo. The novel follows the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the 1910s. There’s almost no dialogue or action in the story, which may seem a bit dull, but the story is told through children’s observations of the intricacies of adult relationships, which is actually quite interesting.
15. Anne Hathaway, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Who doesn’t love Anne Hathaway? She’s played a queen or a princess so many times in film, it’s hard to remember she’s not actually royalty (although she might as well be). She was one of the highest paid actors in 2015, and for good reason. So, a classic American actress narrating a classic American story? Count everyone in. Anne Hathaway tells the story of Dorothy as she navigates Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. You know how it goes!
14. Jake Gyllenhaal, The Great Gatsby
Usually the mysterious, brooding type in films, Jake Gyllenhaal just has one of those voices that was basically made for audiobook narration. It’s steady, soothing and perfectly paced. In just under five hours, he transports listeners to 1922 and embodies the character of Nick Carraway, telling the story of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan and their epic love story in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If only this were around when the book was assigned in our high school english class!
13. Colin Firth, The End of the Affair
Colin Firth just gives off an air of sophistication. Between his English accent and his roles in movies such as The King’s Speech (come on, he was literally the king), it’s not hard to take him seriously. That’s why he makes a perfect narrator for the book The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. The story is all about the drama and relationships between three central characters in the novel, and it’s set during World War II in London. Listening to Firth narrate this novel quickly makes you deeply invested in the characters and their world.
12. Kate Winslet, Therese Raquin and Matilda
Put Kate Winslet in a film and people will watch it. Put her voice on an audiobook and same thing. The Titanic actress has been tapped to narrate not one but two audiobooks. The first is Therese Raquin by Emile Zola, which is about a woman in an unhappy marriage who eventually starts an affair with her husband’s friend. We know – juicy. The second is a well-known and beloved children’s story, Matilda by Roald Dahl, about a young girl who’s mistreated by her parents – oh, and she has telekentic powers.
11. Meg Ryan, The Human Comedy
It’s no surprise that Meg Ryan narrated an audiobook. Her voice is part of the reason that her acting is so great. It rounds out that fiery personality that cut out a place for her in films like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail (which, honestly, seem like the exact same movie, but we love Meg in both of them). The Human Comedy by William Saroyan follows a teenager living in California during World War II and examines the impact that the war has on him and his family, as well as the community. It was also developed into a movie with Mickey Rooney in 1943.
10. Armie Hammer, Call My By Your Name
If you haven’t seen Call Me By Your Name yet, Armie Hammer stars in the film as the the American love interest, Oliver. He’s not only beautiful but a fine actor. Between him and Timothée Chalamet (who plays his lover, Elio), there’s so much to love about this film. The film is actually based off of a book of the same name written by André Aciman – and Armie provided his voice for the audiobook! We love it when you can just hear the intimate connection a narrator has to the story.
9. Scarlett Johansson, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Scarlett Johansson is one of those actresses in Hollywood who has played nearly every role imaginable. She’s been a superhero, a nanny, a Jersey girl, and even an artificial intelligence system. She’s also narrated a children’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. When you think of ScarJo, you probably think of her signature raspy voice, so it seems only logical that she’d lend her voice for a book. While you might think she’d choose something a bit sexier story, the fantastical Alice is a perfect match.
8. Reese Witherspoon, Go Set a Watchman
Is there anything that Reese Witherspoon doesn’t do flawlessly? We’re thinking no. Since films like Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde, the actress has been a staple in Hollywood film and television. She’s also a self-proclaimed book nerd, so this seems like the natural progression of her career. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is a companion novel to To Kill a Mockingbird, even though it was released 55 years after the original novel. It follows Scout Finch at 26 years old, returning to Maycomb, Alabama (where the events of the first book take place) and finding herself in the midst of the civil rights movement. Some have said that it’s actually a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, even though the events in each novel are totally different. Either way, count us in as long as Reese Witherspoon is reading it to us.
7. Jeremy Irons, Lolita
Jeremy Irons is one of those actors everyone knows, even if they don’t think they do. He was even the voice of Scar in the original animated Lion King, making his voice even more iconic. As terrifying as Scar was to all of us at five years old (and today still, TBH), we can’t say his voice wouldn’t make great audiobook narration, especially for a book like Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is actually pretty weird as it depicts an unknown pedophilic narrator falling in love with a 12-year-old girl who he calls Lolita. Looks like Jeremy Irons is drawn to darker characters.
6. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Metamorphoses
Ah, Benedict Cumberbatch. English LOML. From Dr. Strange to Sherlock, there is not a role that Benedict Cumberbatch can’t play (try to find one, it’s impossible). He’s wise; he’s funny; he’s just everything. We’ll take any excuse to get lost in his voice, too, so it’s great that he’s narrated an audiobook. The Metamorphoses is a Latin poem by the Roman poet Ovid. It’s a historical narrative that spans from the creation of the world to Julius Caesar. It was first published in 8 A.D., so it’s pretty old. But if anyone could read this and make it easy to consume in the 21st century, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch.
5. Johnny Depp, Life
Usually, authors narrate their own autobiographies, but not this one. Life by Keith Richards is an autobiography that follows Richards’s life as the lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones. The rocker’s life was pretty crazy (it makes sense – being in a world-renowned rock band would be somewhat of a rollercoaster). Johnny Depp may not be in a rock band, but he definitely sounds like he could be.
4. Dustin Hoffman, Being There
Being There by Jerzy Kosinski is about a gardener who suddenly becomes a sought-after political icon and commentator on the modern world. It’s meant to be a satire about the media culture in America, and how pretty much anyone can rise to international stature and become a figurehead. Dustin Hoffman, known for films such as Rain Man and Meet the Fockers, took on the satirical voice role.
3. Eddie Redmayne, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Another actor who narrates the book for which they star in the movie adaptation, Eddie Redmayne blesses us with his voice in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Let’s face it, he’s adorable as Newt Scamander, and he made us actually fall in love with a Harry Potter spin-off that didn’t have much source material to go off of. The original book is a Hogwarts textbook written by Newt himself – and hearing Redmayne go into the facts about these magical creatures makes it feel like a companion to the movie, rather than the other way around.
2. Nick Offerman, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Arguably best known for his role as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, Nick Offerman may not seem like the person who would narrate any audiobook, but if he were to do any, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain kind of makes perfect sense. The book is set in 1840 and follows Tom Sawyer and his friend Huck Finn growing up along the Mississippi River.
1. Chad Michael Murray, American Drifter
Not only did Chad Michael Murray narrate a book, he also wrote it. American Drifter by Chad Michael Murray and Heather Murray follows an Army veteran named River as he travels to Rio De Janeiro to distract himself and recover from his PTSD. He ends up falling in love and getting on the bad side of one of Rio’s infamous drug lords. Looks like CMM had a lot in common with his One Tree Hill character, Lucas Scott. Wonder if Lucas provided the voice for An Unkindness of Ravens, too..