Barbara Rosenblat has been called “The Meryl Streep of Audiobooks,” having recorded more than 500 titles and won more Audies than any other individual narrator. In fact, she literally wrote the book on it: AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR: The Art of Recording Audio Books.
How did you get started narrating audiobooks, and what were your earliest experiences like?
I was living in London at the time and my agent came to me with this strange recording project…a recorded book.
The title was some awful romance but I was intrigued at the prospect of playing all the parts including the narrator.
I knew this was a very special discipline that required a new skill set, and I gave it my best shot. I was exhausted at the end of the project and, frankly, the end result is still dreadful.
You narrated the first book ever recorded for Audible, Notes for My Friends by Lavern L. Johnson. How did you get selected for this honor?
Lavern’s husband was a big fan of my work and he approached me to do this. And Audible seems to have survived my efforts.
You have been performing audiobooks for over 20 years. How has the world of audiobooks changed over the years?
Actually, over 30 years. I recorded the last ever reel to reel audiobook at Recorded Books. Now everything is digital, and many of my colleagues record from home studios. I, however, work with an engineer and often a director as well at a studio booked by the audio publisher. Each project comes with its own set of protocols.
How do you prepare to perform an audiobook?
Preparation is key. I go into great detail in my book, AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR: The Art of Recording Audio Books.
Of the many books you have performed over the years, which books stand out to you as the most memorable?
Various series by Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Gilman, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, Nevada Barr, and others.
Titles? Well, that’s hard as there are so many to choose from after recording over 500 of them: The Queen and I, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Jamaica Inn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Complete Dorothy Parker, to list a few.
You have a wide range of genres that you perform. In particular, you are known for children’s books and cozy mysteries. How does your approach to the narration process differ as you perform various genres? Do children’s books have different needs than adult books?
Children’s books require a slower, more careful read, but the aim is the same for all age groups. I think you ultimately seduce your listeners one pair of ears at a time.
Besides performing audiobooks, you have performed on Broadway and starred in the acclaimed television show Orange Is the New Black as Miss Rosa. Does your work across the various media enlighten your performances in other media?
Of course. As a “full service” artist, I am always renewed when I get to play in the different playgrounds in the entertainment industry. As long as I keep learning in each of them, they will all benefit. I am currently shooting Homeland playing the Attorney General, and that allows me to focus on just one character with the care it needs to integrate well with the rest of the season.
You have received all sorts of awards for your work, including, most recently, being inducted into the first class in the new Audible Hall of Fame. Which ones are most meaningful to you?
Recognition of any kind is delightful but, honestly, some of my fan mail means so much more to me. If my work has brought a measure of joy or comfort to my audience, no award can top that.
What advice did you find especially helpful as you started out performing audiobooks that you like to share with new narrators now?
Always remember that the author is always in the studio with you. And if you are thoroughly prepared, you will channel that effectively.
What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?
I really enjoy creating immersive audio worlds for my listeners to be able to transport them to the places I have “painted” on my audio canvas.
Visit Barbara at
Read my review of Barbara’s narration of Crocodile on the Sandbank.