You enjoy the idea of audible, but the actual experience has been hit or miss in your estimation.
In many cases, it all comes down to the narration x-factor. Bluntly stated: The aural stylings of a meh voice actor can taint the best of books.
So to help you cut through the muck, we’ve curated a list of the top audiobook narrators.
Let’s jump right in.
- How Do I Choose An Audiobook Narrator?
- 15 of the Best Audiobook Narrators
How Do I Choose An Audiobook Narrator?
What makes for the best audiobook readers?
At the beginning and end of the read, it’s about preference. Some people enjoy a British accent, others a surly southern twang or commanding New York dialect. That said, here are a few tips for finding narrators that work for you.
- Always listen to the sample file first. If the voice hits you like a flaming heap of hot garbage, consider reading the book instead.
- Consider the speed. While you can change the pace on your device, think about how the natural pacing will sound sped up or slowed down. Typically, it’s better to find narrators who read a little too slowly instead of fast.
- Read the reviews. Pay close attention to the mid-range reviews. They’re usually the most objective.
- Trust your instincts! You know what you like and what you don’t.
15 of the Best Audiobook Narrators
So who are the best narrators? We’ve made a list of 15 stars in the field.
A graduate of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Richard Morant was a British actor who began his career in the 1969 film Battle of Britain.
In addition to scores of theater and film roles, Morant also starred in several television favorites, including Tom Brown’s Schooldays and the 1975 television version of Poldark.
In the twilight of his career, the talented actor narrated two of Julian Fellowes’s (of Gosford Park, Downton Abbey, and The Gilded Age fame) novels: Snobs and Past Imperfect. Both books open the portcullis to the world of upper-class Brits, and Morant’s cut-glass-but-clear narration elevates the stories.
Listening to him tell a story feels like sitting in a Belgravian cafe, gossiping with a fun friend in hushed tones.
Morant no longer narrates among us, but his oeuvre is worth revisiting, and the audiobooks he did for Fellowes provide hours of “posh” fun.
Deep Cut Rec: If you’re a fan of true crime and British sensibilities, check out Julian Fellowes Investigates on YouTube. The one about Lord Erol is especially juicy.
2. Leah Remini
Some people love the posh clip of an upper-class British accent. Others prefer the proud and distinguishable patois native to four of the Big Apple’s five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
If you fall into the second group and enjoy a juicy tell-all, find your way to Leah Remini’s memoir: Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. Written and narrated by The King of Queens star, Remini’s thick Brooklyn accent and spot-on comedic timing make it a laugh-out-loud experience.
Deep Cut Rec: Are you a fan of reality television — (hey, even the most studious among us need brain breaks)? Remini’s family was the subject of one called “It’s all Relative” back in 2014. Check it out if being ensconced in a cacophony of New-Yawka-ese sounds like a fun afternoon.
The comic universe crowd best knows Ray Porter as Darkseid from Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but he kickstarted his professional acting career with a walk-on role in a 1998 episode of Murphy Brown.
Over the years, Porter has had many one- or two-episode arcs in dozens of well-known shows, including Frasier, The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, Will & Grace, Always Sunny, Sons of Anarchy, and Modern Family.
In addition to his work in front of the camera, Porter is a prolific audiobook narrator who’s lent his skills to hundreds of titles like The Terminal List, The Sandman, and Project Hail Mary. In 2015, Audible awarded Porter the Audie Award for Science Fiction.
What makes Ray Porter such a great narrator? The timbre of his voice is both commanding and soothing. Plus, he hits emotional cues pitch-perfectly.
Deep Cut Rec: Porter had a three-episode storyline on Justified, a cinematic spiritual forefather to Yellowstone. If you’re a fan of western crime dramas, check it out.
4. Julia Whelan
Julia Whelan started her professional career at age 14 in the 1998 made-for-TV movie Fifteen and Pregnant, starring alongside Kirsten Dunst. Whelan went on to act in a handful of projects but stepped away from the silver screen to attend university in the early 2000s.
After graduating magna cum laude from Middlebury College in 2008, Whelan became a sought-after, award-winning voice actor after nailing her performance for Gillian Flynn’s 2012 Gone Girl audiobook.
From there, The Secret Life of Zoey star went on to narrate Kristin Hannah’s Four Winds, Tara Westover’s Educated, Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and others.
Deep Cut Tip: Whelan is also an author with two books under her pen, My Oxford Year and Thank You for Listening. Both have enjoyed critical praise, and the former is getting the Hollywood treatment.
Thanks to her parents’ international professional pursuits, Saskia Maarleveld spent time in many countries, including the United States, New Zealand, and France.
To date, she has recorded over 160 audiobooks and can seamlessly vacillate between British, Australian, and Kiwi accents, in addition to various European and American dialects.
Maarleveld’s work has garnered her AudioFile magazine and Earphone awards.
According to her Tantor Media bio page, Maarleveld’s love for “books on tape” stems from her childhood. She explained that the only way her large family could peacefully endure car rides was if a story was playing.
Deep Cut Rec: Do you enjoy historical fiction novels set in the Gilded Age? Then check out Stephanie Barron’s That Churchill Woman, narrated by Maarleveld.
6. Stephen Fry
This generation’s spiritual scion of Oscar Wilde, writer, actor, director, and professional wit Stephen Fry is one of the best audiobook narrators in the game. He does it all, from the Harry Potter series to the Mythos Trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to Winnie the Pooh.
Fry also lends his voice talents to a series of Sherlock Holmes books.
Give one of Fry’s works a shot if you enjoy vibrant British accents used to narrative perfection.
Deep Cut Tip: Are you a fan of Stephen Fry’s acting and commentary work? Then why not check out one of his fiction novels? The Hippopotamus is a naughty, manor-house, Bohemian romp — for adults only.
7. Sneha Mathan
Sneha Mathan is a linguist and a gifted raconteur. Moreover, anyone who’s listened to her work can testify to her accent wizardry.
Mathan’s deep, sultry voice is the gem behind many best-selling and much-beloved fiction novels and romance series.
After studying to be a speech pathologist, the Seattle-based talent couldn’t shake the voice-acting bug, and today she is an in-demand talent.
Mathan is probably best known for her work on The Sleeping Dictionary, in which she successfully executes a dizzying number of dialects, including Australian, Scottish, Chinese-Indian, and British.
In addition to commercial and corporate work, Mathan also lends her talents to the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library.
Deep Cut Tip: Sneha Mathan narrates the Jaipur Trilogy by Alka Joshi, which follows the story of a brave woman who escapes an abusive relationship and charts a journey from Jaipur to Paris in the late 20th century.
Cynthia Farrell is a multi-hyphenate performer. Singer, narrator, actor, and voice-over artist Farrell started her career on the stage, first appearing in off-Broadway plays while studying at NYU’s musical theater department.
While she continues to work in front of the camera, she’s also a narrator for romance, fantasy, science-fiction, young adult, motivational, non-fiction, and Crime titles.
In addition to narrating over 150 books for retail publishers and producers, Farrell has recorded over 100 books for The Library of Congress.
Deep Cut Trivia: Alongside her audiobook narration, Farrell is also the voice behind several video game characters in Batman: Dark Tomorrow, Grand Theft Auto III, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
There’s little mystery why Rachel Atkins is one of the most popular audiobook narrators working today: She has a silken, crisp, British voice that makes listening a treat.
Atkins has contributed her talents to over 100 audiobooks, including White Lies by Lucy Dawson, The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas, and a compendium of Jane Austen novels.
Deep Cut Tip: If you want to enjoy some of Atkins’s best narration work, check out The Temptations of Gracie by Santa Montefiore.
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10. Nathaniel Parker
Nathaniel “Nate” Parker is an actor’s actor. As a young man, he joined the National Youth Theatre of the UK and continued learning his craft at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
From there, he went on to join the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986.
Most people know Parker from the BBC’s Inspector Lynley Mysteries, and he’s also had roles in Merlin, Hamlet, The Bodyguard, and The Last Duel.
While Parker still acts, he’s also become a top audiobook narrator. A cozy mystery aficionado, he’s the voice of the Mydworth and Bunburry series. Parker is also the voice behind two classic novels: Black Beauty and Far From the Madding Crowd.
Deep Cut Rec: Calling all Charles Dickens fans. Be sure to check out the 2005 documentary Dickens in America. It’s hosted by another narrator on our list, Miriam Margolyes, and Parker does the voice work for the venerated author.
With dozens of titles under her “shingle,” Katherine Kellgren was one of the most celebrated audiobook narrators in the game. During her working years, she won 11 Audie Awards and 43 Earphone accolades.
Kellgren studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and before hitting it big in the narration world, she did several radio plays.
Sadly, Kellgren passed away in 2018, but her work will live on forever.
Deep Cut Tip: If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie-esque murder mysteries, check out Kellgren’s work on the delightful Her Royal Spyness books by Rhys Bowen.
12. Soneela Nankani
Classically trained actress Soneela Nankani has been in theater, film, and television productions. Since 2009, she has narrated over 300 audiobooks, yielding her multiple Audie nominations, 17 Earphone awards, and a SOVAS recognition.
AudioFile Magazine and The Washington Post have featured several of Soneela Nankani’s narrations, and in 2021, the former awarded her the Golden Voice Lifetime Achievement Honor.
Deep Cut Rec: One of Nankani’s most engaging works is The Vibrant Years, which writer, actor, and director Mindy Kaling described as “a joyful and fun read” that is “very much a timely tale about a group of underestimated women demanding respect and embracing their most authentic selves.”
13. Miriam Margolyes
The moment they see her face, most people joyously giggle, “Professor Sprout!”
But Cambridge-educated Miriam Margolyes has done much more in her decades-long career. Not only has the Harry Potter veteran appeared in fan favorites, like Babe: Pig in the City, Yentl, Happy Feet, and Little Shop of Horrors, but Margolyes has a long history of activism and volunteerism.
A highly decorated artist, Margolyes was inducted as an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2002, and she has also won Laurence Olivier awards, Baftas, and an AudioFile Earphones Award.
Deep Cut Rec: In the mood for a period drama? Check out Martin Scorsese’s 1993 The Age of Innocence, based on the Edith Wharton book. It stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, and Miriam Margolyes.
14. Justine Eyre
With over 600 titles under her mic, Justine Eyre is one of the best audible narrators for romance novels. She’s got a warm, inviting voice that’s perfect for the genre, and for many, Eyre has become a friend who always has a great story to share.
Eyre also narrates cozy mysteries and best-selling fiction titles, like The Historian.
Like many narrators who made the cut, Eyre is a classically trained actor who’s won several awards for her work, including Audie and AudioFile recognitions.
Deep Cut Rec: Justine Eyre had a small role in the 2008 Mad Men episode, The Jet Set. If you enjoy “prestige” television drama, it’s a great watch. On the opposite end of the television spectrum, she also did a two-episode arc on Two and a Half Men.
15. Robin Miles
Often regarded as “one of the audiobook narrators saving the publishing industry,” Yale-educated Robin Miles is one of the top voice actors in the audiobook milieu. She has read over 300 books, won multiple industry awards, and is an honoree in Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame.
Miles doesn’t stick to one genre, having worked on children’s books, non-fiction, biographical, fantasy, horror, and historical fiction, including Hidden Figures, Difficult Women, Charlotte’s Web, and The Obelisk Gate. She’s also a casting director, audiobook director, and actor who’s appeared on Broadway and in episodes of Law & Order and Murder by Numbers.
Deep Cut Rec: Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life is a wonderful read, and we recommend opting for the audio version to hear Robin Miles’s work. It’s a sensational listen that will keep you glued to the speakers.
Enjoying books is easier than ever, and great narrators enhance the experience. Happy listening!