Scott Hanselman

Parenting Tip: Star Wars Audiobooks, Family, and narrator Marc Thompson

July 21, '14 Comments [23] Posted in Parenting
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The wife and the boys and I are often in the car for 30 minutes or more, heading off to various activities or events. We live pretty far outside of town, and when we need to head into the city, it's almost an hour. While we have lots of music, discussions, and what not, the boys aren't quite ready to listen to the unfiltered news.

 

BetrayalcoverMy buddy Dennis Petersen from LEGO recommended Star Wars audiobooks as a great way to pass the time as a family. I was a little suspicious, as I've listened to a lot of Audible audiobooks and it's been hit or miss. It all comes down to having a good narrator. Also, has the producer of the audio book decided that this would be a voice actor just reading the book or is this a radio production with music, voices, and sound effects.

The Star Wars Random House audiobooks with narrator Marc Thompson are AMAZING. My family and I have listened to nearly 50 hours of them and we still have a dozen and a half to go. These audiobooks strike a great balance between a dry reading (bad) and a the sounds of a movie (over the top). Marc Thompson does ALL the voices himself, and they are spot on. From Jabba to Boba Fett, C3PO to Darth Vader, we are consistently blown away by the quality of the voices. It's not distracting at all and it makes it much easier to follow the story.

You can buy any of the Star Wars audiobooks in Audible format at Amazon or as Audio CDs. You can also get them at iTunes. I recommend starting with the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force Series. The first book is #1 Betrayal. This starts 40 years the battle of Yavin when the first Death Star was destroyed. Leia and Han are married, they have two kids, and there's bunch of cool stuff going on.

Now at this point in the post, the non-Star Wars aficionados amongst you may have already checked out. But let me tell you this. My wife is NOT a Star Wars person. She couldn't care less. She slept through the movies. BUT, she loves these books. We'll get home from somewhere and she'll insist we sit in the driveway and finish a chapter. It's amazing.

The whole family has been having fun with these. It's much better (IMHO) than giving the kids an iPad or a DVD player on a long trip, and it's got us pausing the book and discussion galactic affairs with the 6 year old (who has turned out to be quite the the strategist).

Check out this YouTube video for a sense of the quality of narator Marc Thompson's amazing range. We've gotten to know him very well as a family, we think, while listening to these books.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, July 21, 2014 6:54:14 AM UTC
That's a great idea, I always loved Audiobooks as I was growing up.
Monday, July 21, 2014 7:20:57 AM UTC
I tend to use the audio drama's / audiobooks from Big Finish (www.bigfinish.com) on my long journeys. Although they tend to be more British Scifi classics such Doctor Who and Blake's 7 they are pretty much all done with the original cast and fantastic production values.

Also have to say I've done the sitting on the driveway waiting for a nice break point, you end up looking silly but I dont care :-)
JenniP
Monday, July 21, 2014 7:43:53 AM UTC
I have listened to and read a lot of the star wars books and they are really amazing stories. The audio books especially strike a real balance between just reading and too many effects. But I hadn't thought of putting them on for the kids!

Long drives just got a lot better in our house too!!!

Thanks Scott!
Scott Guymer
Monday, July 21, 2014 10:33:26 AM UTC
Disclaimer: massive Star Wars book fan, read most and have a couple on my shelf to read.

If you want a more Star Wars-y feel in your initial reads I would suggest the X-Wing series or the Han Solo trilogy. Personally, I, Jedi is my favourite and is slowly percolating up the queue to be re-read.

The Hand of Thrawn duology is also very good stuff.

For the military lovers, the Republic Commando series (featuring a heavy dose of Mando-styling) is interesting.

Slightly disappointed that a lot of good content becomes "unofficial" with the new films; best to remember fondly the past and look forward to the future.
Monday, July 21, 2014 11:13:48 AM UTC
Had to chuckle when I read this post, this morning, as I spent a fair while, yesterday, trying (and failing), to explain to my wife that 'Start Wars - Episode 1' is actually the fourth film of the franchise ;)
Bob Armour
Monday, July 21, 2014 1:57:48 PM UTC
For those who want to keep the cost down, but can't find the audiobook titles they want at the library, I often point out that you can buy the CD version from Amazon, choosing the used copies available there, listen to them, and then sell them back on Amazon. That way, you can end up listening to a book for less than the cost of the paperback version and still have your choice of books.
Monday, July 21, 2014 2:28:49 PM UTC
Marc Thompson is the Michael Jordan of Star Wars audiobook narrators. Nobody else comes even remotely close. It's really like listening to a movie. The depth and accuracy of his character voicing is simply amazing.
Drew
Monday, July 21, 2014 2:53:28 PM UTC
Don't forget to check out your local library too. Most library systems have extensive audio book collections available for free! :)
It can be hit or miss if you're trying to get a series though most popular series (like Harry Potter) are usually complete. You may just have to reserve them.
Monday, July 21, 2014 5:54:49 PM UTC
I too have started listening to audiobooks with my boys (age 11 and 9) as well as with my wife. It used to be just me that listened to books constantly and now we are all hooked. We love Marc Thompson and I'm always on the lookout for a new Star Wars book that he has narrated. The major problem I have, however, is that most of the older stuff is abridged. I just can't listen to an abridged book. It takes too much of the true story out of the tale. Unfortunately, that means that many of the Star wars books are "disqualified" from my listening options. Personally, I wish Marc would re-read the X-Wing series in unabridged format. I would buy that entire series in a heartbeat.
Monday, July 21, 2014 8:54:40 PM UTC
Thanks Scott,

We have been listening to our first audiobook, Fablehaven (good voicing as well), and I bet my kids would love some Star Wars action. Great for drives, or putting the kids to bed.
Dan Friedman
Monday, July 21, 2014 9:58:43 PM UTC
...6 year old (who has turned out to be quite the the strategist).
If the Formics become a threat, Battle School may be in their future. ;-)
(Ender's Game)
Matt Heffron
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:29:09 AM UTC
Thanks for the tip! My girls (7 and 3) and I love listening to books and radio plays on long car trips. They enjoyed watching Star Wars (they've seen all six and they prefer the classics!) but none of us could get into the radio plays. We'll try the Marc Thompson series instead.

I do recommend the Narnia Radio Theatre series for anyone interested. And for books, some Roald Dahl always goes down well - especially The BFG read by David Walliams.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:57:49 AM UTC
These are great though probably for a slightly older audience.
http://www.wholestoryaudiobooks.co.uk/captain-kydd
Tim
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 9:57:04 PM UTC
Great idea. Thanks for the suggestion.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 10:12:30 AM UTC
Reading star wars books is a guilty pleasure of mine. The Darth Bane stories are great. Thanks for the audio recommendation!
Dave
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 3:23:19 PM UTC
After that I think you'll be ready for William Shakespeare's Star Wars, The Empire Striketh Back, and the Jedi Doth Return
Chris
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 4:17:29 PM UTC
Marc Thompson is an AMAZING narrator. But so are the rest of the SW narrators: Jonathan Davis, Jeff Gurner, January Lavoy, and Daniel Davis (just one book for Danny, Darth Plagueis, but of one of the best). Thanks for all the kind words. I produced/directed all the books with all of them. They are a TREAT to work on.
Kevin Thomsen
Friday, July 25, 2014 1:14:34 AM UTC
I remember spending a fair bit of time as a kid listening to star wars stories that at that time (mid-eighties) were on records. The ones I remember most were the droid series, stories about the adventures of C3PO & R2D2
Wayne Gray
Friday, July 25, 2014 10:58:18 AM UTC
Totally agree with you about audio books being hit or miss depending on the narrator.

I had listened to all the Harry Potter books narrated by Stephen Fry (Highly recommend), and then started on Game Of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1 narrated by Roy Dotrice. The book has high ratings, but I just found it hard to get into because his narration was no where near as good (in my opinion) as Stephen Fry.

Sure the books are a lot more complicated than Harry Potter, but to me Roy Dotrice just sounded like a granddad sitting in a rocking chair by the fire, reading to uninterested children.
Monday, July 28, 2014 12:22:28 PM UTC
I'm really glad that you and your family enjoyed listening to the books. I've just run out of Star Wars books to listen to, so now it's back to the more serious business books again ;)

@Kevin Thomsen You and the rest of the team are doing a great job narrating these books. It really makes the commute better each day. Thank you!
Dennis Bjørn Petersen
Saturday, August 02, 2014 4:37:28 PM UTC
Take a look at the Harry Potter Audio Books or anything else read by Jim Dale. He holds the world record for most unique voices in an audio book, 134 for the fifth Harry Potter book. He is an excellent reader.
Brendan Morgan
Thursday, August 07, 2014 1:44:39 AM UTC
Many years ago, an office conversation revealed that Coworker #1 was confused between Alderaan and Elrond. To which Coworker #2 replied, "That's not an elf; it's a space station." Hilarity ensued.
Chris Valdivia
Thursday, August 07, 2014 5:55:09 AM UTC
In my family we are also a big fans of audio books. Remember some time ago I suggested you to get the Clone Wars audio books for your kids? Which are (unfortunately for you) only in German.

What do you use for letting your kids listen? CDs, USB sticks, streaming? We find that CDs seem to be the best because it's so convenient for them to put one into a player in the kids room while they are building Lego spaceships.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.