Some very talented (and famous) folks, including Johnny Depp and Tina Fey, are lending their voices to audiobooks

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 15, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Johnny Depp Leads A Rocking Cast for Keith Richards’ Life
Given the choice between reading Keith Richards’ rocking memoir Life or listening to Johnny Depp, Joe Hurley, and Richards breathe Life into my ear, there’s no contest: The rasping, growling, low-down audiobook is where I want to be, with Johnny, Joe, and Keith contributing their own singular infusions of soul and swagger to an already righteous read. Audiobooks can be like that: Sometimes, being read to by a talented actor brings even greater pleasure than one’s own eyeballs can possibly muster. So rock on, Johnny, Joe, and Keith, I’m up for all 22 hours of your audio-literary party.

Tina Fey Narrates Her Own Bossypants
I first read the lady’s smart, funny, true-to-herself memoir Bossypants in antique, hardcover, dead-tree form, figuring a book would be Liz Lemon’s preferred delivery system for reading a book. Now I know that listening to the author read her own literary creation is a happy happening akin to watching the best of 30 Rock and the best of Tina Fey on SNL, and getting the author to drop by your book group with tasty snacks. It’s no coincidence that even before she became a Best-Selling Author, Fey won awards for writing and acting and otherwise making audiences reconsider their relationships to the bossypantses in their own lives.

Octavia Spencer Helps The Help Become a Riveting Audiobook
Occasionally, listening to a book is just plumb better than reading it. Yes, I’m talking about The Help, Kathryn Stockett’s best-seller about the relationship between segregation-era black maids and the white women they work for. (The movie version, starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis, opens in August.) I struggled with the Southern dialect on the page. Then I found the award-winning audiobook, read by Bahni Turpin, Jenna Lamia, and Octavia Spencer. And those characters just came alive.

Hope Davis Reads State of Wonder
When a book is so memorable that a return visit is in order, then the audio version makes the familiar sound new all over again. That’s the case with State of Wonder, Ann Patchett’s enchanting, ambitious, provocatively female-oriented take on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I read it on my Kindle (while riding the New York City subway, imagining I was in the steamy Amazon jungle). After that, actress Hope Davis’ cool, clear audio performance offered a refreshing reimmersion.