IoS Books of the Year 2012: Audio books

The name's Bonneville ... Hugh Bonneville

In 1967, Ian Fleming thought David Niven a perfect choice to play his hero on screen. But films make their own demands and stray from their progenitors. How Fleming would have thrilled to hear all his original books read with imperturbable panache, by a dozen of our finest actors, half a century on. Hugh Bonneville coolly saves the world from the evil Goldfinger; The Spy Who Loved Me rescues feisty Rosamund Pike from ruthless hoodlums in a seedy motel; Dan Stevens is restored to vigorous manhood by the glorious Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. These and other equally fine actors perform all of the Bond books, unabridged (AudioGo, £15 each). Each reader adds comments on a final, bonus track. Bill Nighy, for instance, is delighted by how well written Moonraker is, adding, besottedly, that he loves everything about Gala Brand, including "her skirts, her shirts … her throat".

This is the original, ultra-suave Bond, born before our times. A soft-centred killer, he smokes Chesterfield Kings; thrashes the bejazus out of a supercharged 1933 Bentley convertible (just listen to the "loitering drumbeat" of that exhaust); surfaces unscathed from cliff-falls, explosions and more intimate tortures; and remains unshaken and nearly always unstirred throughout, despite drinking enough to send today's GPs into apoplexy. These readings are fabulous, and dangerously addictive.

An earlier hero emerges in the first of a beautifully constructed series about murder in 18th-century Leeds. Chris Nickson's protagonist is Richard Nottingham, Constable of the city, searching for a murderer, a thief, and the other half of The Broken Token (Creative Content, £24.27). Steven Pacey is the fine reader of this vividly convincing historical thriller. You long to go to Leeds, right away, and trace the ancient streets he inhabits.

J K Rowling's first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy (Little,Brown, £30) is strong meat. Tom Hollander does a miraculous ventriloquist's job on the huge cast inhabiting a small West Country town with more than its share of greed, jealousy, racism, heartbreak and petty ambition. Bleak it may be, but it is also brave, compelling and unforgettable.

Generally, authors are unwise to read their own work. But Edna O'Brien is a soft-spoken and seductive exception. Her memoir Country Girl (Canongate, £21.41) looks back over her life from its beginnings in rural Ireland, where she qualified, surprisingly, as a pharmacist, to the maelstrom of 1960s London, a turbulent marriage and agonising divorce, and a career as the novelist who, like Françoise Sagan in France, defined a generation. Once started, it is impossible, in every sense, to ask her to pause.

Finally, a new unabridged reading of Kazuo Ishiguru's 1989 masterpiece The Remains of the Day (Canongate, £19.99). Dominic West perfectly captures the painful dignity of Lord Darlington's butler, Stevens, in a deadpan reading redolent of pathos, regret and occasional wild humour – as when Stevens is required to instruct His Lordship's nephew on the facts of life. Neither, by the way, emerges any the wiser.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition