A little while ago, my esteemed editor forwarded me this note from Norton’s subsidiary rights department…

Audio rights for THE HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE WORLD have just been sold to Audible. They’ll also do the other backlist titles that are still available: THE WELL-TRAINED MIND, THE WELL-EDUCATED MIND and THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD.

That was very happy news. Audible bought the audio rights to the History of the Medieval World a couple of years ago and produced a lovely version read by the British actor John Lee–in fact, it won a couple of awards. People then kept asking me why the History of the Ancient World wasn’t available on audio, under the impression that I have some sort of control over the process…which I don’t. Someone’s got to buy the rights first.

So, good on Audible. Frankly, I can’t imagine how on earth they’re going to make an audio version of The Well-Trained Mind (are they going to read ALL those lists of recommendations? With the prices? And the ISBN numbers?)…but that’s their outlook.

I just saw yesterday that the Audible version of The History of the Ancient World is now available for download as well. So I clicked over to the page to check it out.


OK, do me a favor. Click here and go to the Audible page. Listen to the sample.

What do you think of the narrator?

I mean, writers are rarely completely happy with the final form of any work that’s published or produced. We always have some gripe. And as much as I like John Lee’s voice, I actually can’t listen to him read my sentences because they come out sounding all wrong to my ear. I guess I always hear them in my voice, and to have a male British voice suddenly in my head instead is just weird.

But this narrator…

Well, I won’t finish that sentence. You tell me what you think instead.

ADDENDUM, June 13: Interesting…Audible seems to have taken the audio version down. Will it reappear with another narrator? Stay tuned…

Showing 37 comments
  • Jeremiah Valenzuela

    Wow. It sounds like a real woman trying to imitate a computerized female voice. It’s really really horrible! The tempo, inflection, over-acting, is more suited for a sarcastic comedy book.

  • Patricia

    I actually have the Medieval one and didn’t know the Ancients was available now too. I will go listen but I wanted to say thank you for writing these and thank you for promoting audible. I absolutely love them!

  • Kimberly Jahn

    I intended to purchase it, until I heard her read it. Ouch.

  • Patricia

    Oh my! I couldn’t even make it through the sample! OUCH! I will be leaving a comment to get a new narrator immediately!!! Jim Weiss perhaps…..

  • WTMCassandra

    Wow, that’s awful. Over-enunciation bigtime. I like enunciation, but SHEESH.

  • Jennifer Holler Pope

    oh, yeah. that’s bad. I have no idea what she was going for, but it didn’t work.

  • Amy H.

    My first thought was a computerized voice too. The pacing and inflection are weird. It’s unfortunate, for sure.

  • Tess

    OK, it sounds like a computer voice. Too slow for me to listen to for long. It’s um, not the best audio recording. Luckily we love to read!

  • renee

    This isn’t tongue in cheek: Is that a real person or did they do one of those auto-mated programs where the computer reads the typed script?? No, really, did they?
    Hey Audible, we LOVE Susan’s books but I would never punish my ears that way to educate my mind! I couldn’t listen to the full sample!!

  • Kelly

    Wow. She sounds like a flight attendant telling you to pull the mask over your own face first, then put it over the child’s…It has that same tempo, and is about as exciting. I was expecting a man’s voice, honestly, and like Kimberly, I’m not sure I am able to listen to all of it with that voice.

  • Jenise Leaser

    It reminded me of Mary-Louise Parker, but that’s a little mean to her. It was very nasally. I agree it sounded like a computer.

  • Sandra K

    Very hard on the ear, with an odd cadence. Makes it hard to enjoy because you have to concentrate on the sentences, more than you should, to follow what’s being said.

  • dangermom

    I don’t quite know what it is, but I can’t quite grasp what she’s saying, despite the extremely clear enunciation. Too slow? Weird cadence for sure.

  • Julie

    I have to agree, that sounds really weird, way too slow, and difficult to listen to. My mind is racing forward, ready for the next perfectly enunciated word, but there even seems to be spaces between the words. So weird, Susan, and I wouldn’t buy it.

  • Priscilla

    Julia Farhat has taken a fun read aloud book and made it very difficult to listen to. Her intonation is awkward creating a computer generated, stilted sound. Had I not already read and enjoyed the book, this noise would have sent me running. There is articulation for clarity and then there is articulation that sucks the lifeblood out of a sentence. Does she warm up to the read eventually or does she treat each word through the entire book as a stand alone item?

  • Michon

    My kids thought it was a computer until I corrected them. They want to know why Jim Weiss didn’t read it!! We love all his audio books/stories.

  • C Adams

    Well, I don’t think I’d enjoy 30+ hours of her reading. I checked out some samples of her other work and they sound just as…unnatural. 🙂 I’ll stick to my hardbound book.

  • Carolyn Buisson

    Wow. Be sure to click on the narrators name and see what else she has done – quite an odd mix 🙂

  • Ginger

    I really wonder if Julia Farhat is a real person or a named computer? She sure has released a lot of audiobooks in 2013 if she is a real person?

  • e

    More obnoxious than Zooey Deschanel.

  • Amy in NH

    OH, that’s unfortunate. She has a poor timbre.

  • Tami Witt

    See Spot run. See Jane run. See Spot chase the ball. Run, Spot, run. Etc… all in a voice somewhat reminiscent of a high school freshman with a nasal condition being called on to read aloud in class. Maybe her style gets better after 20 hours or so. I think I’ll just read it for myself!

  • JulieM.

    I couldn’t listen for very long. After the first sentence I was wondering if the narrator is related to Siri. So sorry! I’d much rather hear it in your voice. Or maybe I’ll just go with the old fashioned standby and read. =)

  • IrishMum

    I would love an audio of this book. But since my ears started to bleed after 30 seconds, it’s not going to happen 🙁

  • Sid Morrison

    Wow, this is almost the same voice I use when I read to my kids Tik-Tok’s (mechanical man)parts in the Oz books.

    In the audio sample, two of the lines read REALLY ring true to my ears. Susan’s choice of words in each case seems remarkably prescient… almost like she *knew* in advance the future audio version would be a mess. What do you think?
    1. “…must be told in the impersonal voice that mars too many histories.”
    2. “she has left her native land and is speaking a foreign language, usually with a total lack of fluency and grace.”

  • Emily

    Wow. That’s really bad and it is such a shame. 🙁

    She sounds like I do after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 50th time in one sitting – bored and robotic. I can’t believe they actually paid someone to do that.

  • Jen

    Thanks, but no thanks! My kids and I just finished listening to the first volume of “Story of the World” and have started the second, and we love it. This, on the other hand, is definitely not something I could listen to for more than about a minute. Sorry. 🙁

  • Kristi Gatzke

    Wow, that was bad! I couldn’t make it for more than a minute. I wonder if it would be easier if you put her on the 1.5x speed. I’ve had success with some other audiobooks being sped up just a tiny bit. At least then you wouldn’t have to listen to 30 hours of it. 😉

  • LaVern

    Really, really bad.

  • Hannah

    It sounds like an automated voice, not a real voice. I would have a hard time listening to that.

  • Jessica

    I’m so sorry. So very, very sorry. Thanks for the heads’ up. I guess we’ll hope it’s redone before we get back to the ancients. Oh my.

  • facebook_joshuaboman

    Yikes, that was terrible.

  • SAJones

    Ugh. My ears are bleeding as well. “Memuth bones,” indeed. Did no one suggest an alternate career for that reader? Ever?

  • LanaTron

    Ugh. It sounds like she was forced to read against her will, and is gritting her teeth and grimacing while doing it. Certainly doesn’t match your easy-going writing style.

  • Mary Kathryn


  • Shannon

    Wow, I have many unkind things to say but I will not. I’ll just simply state, I’m sorry. That is an insult to your book.

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