I love reading and good stories, but I don’t always have the time or ability to read a physical book (like when driving. Holding a book really wouldn’t go well). So, what do I do? Enter radio dramas and audiobooks.
I started listening to radio dramas when I was little (“Adventures in Odyssey,” anyone?). Then, on the most magical of nights, my mom came home from the homeschool convention and gave me my first set of audiobooks. Technically these are classified as radio theatre, but they’re based off of one of my favorites book series, so I’ve always thought of them as audiobooks.
Anyways, you might think there’s a limit to how many times a little girl can listen to the same cassettes of “Adventures in Odyssey,” but there’s really not. It was (and still is) the same way.
“Ok, I get it,” you say. “You love radio dramas and audiobooks. But why should I care?”
Radio dramas and audiobooks allow you to immerse yourself in another world while still being able to do things (such as driving or cleaning your room. I know. These examples are totally similar). But that is their beauty. They allow all the adventures of reading without holding a physical book and actually reading. And they’re just plain fun.
My family listens to radio dramas every Sunday night after Awana. If we pack everything up quickly enough, we can listen to all of “Dragnet,” then part of “Gunsmoke” before stopping for dinner. I’m not entirely sure what airs after that because the programming shifts around and I’m normally at least partially asleep for the rest of the trip.
For the Christmas break drive of my sophomore year, my dad came and picked me up, and we listened to Canadian radio the whole way home (Yes, Canadian radio. No, I don’t live anywhere near Canada). During that drive, I discovered a “new” radio drama – “I Was A Communist for the FBI.” The title really says it all. It’s about a guy who was a Communist for the FBI (Fascinating, right?).
At school, I still listen to my audiobooks all the time. There’s really only two series I listen to at the moment, but they’re each seven books long. My mom gave me Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” when I was little, and my brother-in-law gave me all the Harry Potter audiobooks last year.
So far this semester, I’ve listened to all the Harry Potter audiobooks and am currently working my way through “Narnia” again.
My Harry Potter audiobooks were read by Jim Dale, an English actor/voice artist/singer/songwriter. He just reads the books, but he created a specific voice for every character, plus his natural voice as the narrator. He actually holds a Guinness World Record for creating and recording 146 different character voices for one audiobook, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Dale’s smooth voice draws you into the story, and his characters’ voices are spot on. It is extremely easy to tell all his characters apart, so I don’t have to be paying super close attention to keep up with the storyline.
“The Chronicles of Narnia” has always been one of my favorite book series. I read them when I was young (but only “The Horse and His Boy” when I was little, because I was scared of the others) and still love the stories (though I do read all of them now). Focus on the Family’s adaptation of the stories was excellently done. The radio dramas cover the entire plot of the book, keeping entire blocks of dialogue exactly as written in the book, while still condensing them.
Focus on the Family always has wonderful voice actors, and these dramas are no exception. The actors connected with their characters and, with the emotion in their voices, it’s easy to visualize the scenes.
One of my favorite parts of the dramas isn’t part of the books themselves – it’s the intros and closings by Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’s stepson. Gresham shares stories from his childhood and experiences with first meeting Lewis then of the other times they spent together. These anecdotes richen the experience of listening to the dramas by providing some backstory.
I still have a ways to go before I finish the series (I’m only on “The Horse and His Boy”), but that’s what long car rides home for break are for!
Stay tuned for the next installment of “Radio Dramas and Audiobooks.”