10 Audiobooks for Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events

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10 Audiobooks for Fans of <i>A Series of Unfortunate Events</i>

Netflix’s take on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events returns to heap a second season of misery on the Baudelaire orphans today. But when you’ve finished binge-watching the atmospherically stupendous nightmare, what should you do? Might we suggest diving into an audiobook while you are playing with your toy rocks or making your nightly puttanesca or paddling around a foggy cove in a slowly sinking boat?

Here are 10 audiobooks that will make the ASoUE-loving parts of your soul sing:

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1. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Narrator: Tim Curry

Run time: 3-6 hours each

Audible | | Overdrive

Let’s start with the book series that inspired the show. While Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is driven by basso profundo of Patrick Warburton’s narration, the original audiobook adaptation found its vitality in Tim Curry’s deliciously unctuous portrayal of the villainous Count Olaf (no one does an unctuous villain as deliciously as Tim Curry). Curry’s base narration is also fantastic—his British accent lends it more of a bedtime story vibe than Warburton’s (or, in alternate audio recordings, Lemony Snicket’s own) American-accented gloom-and-doom tellings—but it is Curry’s Olaf that so thoroughly sells this version of the series.

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2. Artemis Fowl (series) by Eoin Colfer

Narrator: Nathaniel Parker

Run time: 6-9 hours each

Audible | | Overdrive

Ireland’s youngest criminal mastermind could destroy Count Olaf in one go, but unfortunately for the Baudelaires, he’s busy fighting against and alongside the United Kingdom’s various species of fairy. The Artemis Fowl series is a better recommendation for Violet, as endless inspiration for her various inventions, than it is to ASoUE fans in general, but who knows when any of us will be thrust from normal life into a Baudelairian fight for survival? We might as well let Nathaniel Parker’s cultured brogues and all the disparate accents found in an underground fairy-cop precinct inspire us, too. Just in case.

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3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Narrator:   Neil Gaiman  

Run time: 3 hours and 36 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

Neil Gaiman  is one of the most dependable author-narrators in the industry, and his reading of this terror of a bedtime-story-gone-wrong finds him at the top of his game. Carefully paced and imbuing Coraline with the kind of openness that kids possess even when the world feels closed off to them, this audiobook is the perfect spookfest. It will remind you that—when you are grieving the Baudelaires’ endless bad luck—things could always be worse.

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4. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Narrator: Jill Clayburgh

Run time: 3 hours and 46 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

Claudia and Jamie’s adventures as orphans in the Met are entirely self-inflicted, and Claudia is much more a Count Olaf in the making than she is a Violet or Klaus or Sunny. But she and Jamie are, like the Baudelaires, alone throughout most of this classic, which is told from the point of view of a watchful (but non-interfering) adult. As voiced by Jill Clayburgh, that watchful adult is wry and wondering, when the character isn’t keen and knowing. Clayburgh digs right into the deep resentment Claudia feels at every detail of her put-upon (easy) life, chewing it up and triumphantly spitting it right back out in a way that will make the reader both want to follow Claudia’s mad genius and want to try their luck with the Baudelaires rather than Claudia, herself.

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5. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Narrator: Catherynne M. Valente

Run time: 7 hours and 17 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

Catherynne M. Valente, known for her audaciously vast and genre-hopping body of work, narrates the majority of the YA Fairyland series herself. She reads with a dreamy huskiness, which—when describing the general heartlessness of children as preteen heroine September is whisked away to Fairyland on the back of a green leopard wind—plays extra tongue-in-fond-cheek. Valente doesn’t swing wide to differentiate each character’s voice from the rest, instead depending on precise pauses, inflective intonation and a deep faith in the listener to be clever enough to follow context. And considering how clever this series is—something that fans of Snicket’s prose will adore—that’s a faith that is richly rewarded.

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6. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (series) by Maryrose Wood

Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

Run time: 7 hours and 52 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

More orphans ahead: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series centers on a confident governess and her three wolf-raised charges, all three of whom speak with wolfish diction. Aside from that wolfishness, this series is one that most harrowingly tracks with ASoUE, as the orphanhood of the Incorrigibles is proven, over the course of the series, to have been manufactured by the villainy of some greedy old men of high society. The books also feature a conspiratorial narrator who frames the scariest parts of the story with cheerful lessons in etiquette and cleverness rather than Snicket’s dour warnings to put his books down already. In the hands of the late, great Katherine Kellgren, this series’ combination of cheerful pluck and beastly children is pure delight, and the perfect ASoUE chaser.

(Fiona Hardingham, a YA audio stalwart, will be stepping in for the series’ final book, out this June.)

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7. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Narrator:   Kate Winslet  

Run time: 4 hours and 18 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

Few children in literature have been so tragicomically ill-used by adults than the Baudelaires, but Roald Dahl’s Matilda definitely gives them a run for their tied-up-in-inheritance-bureaucracy money. Most of us will be familiar with Matilda through her great 1996 film and not through her bookish origins, but Dahl, problematic as he was, is part of the children’s lit canon for a reason. Kate Winslet brings the magical story to life, narrating in the small voices of Matilda and Lavender, the lovely lilt of Miss Honey and unholy voices of the adults casting terrible shadows across Matilda’s world. Find this audiobook and share it with any kid you know.

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8. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Narrator: Christopher Cazenove

Run time: 5 hours and 4 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

There are approximately one million versions of English literature’s original “orphan children being menaced by an unhinged adult” story, Peter Pan, on the audiobook market (including one read by A Series of Unfortunate Events’s own Tim Curry). But the performance that is the most comforting to settle into is Peter Cazenove’s warm, measured narration from 2010. Not only will Peter Pan’s subject matter appeal to ASoUE fans, but Barrie’s prose—like Snicket’s—is extremely conversational, and Cazenove reads it with a conspiratorial grandfatherliness that fans of ASoUE will adore.

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9. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Narrator: Bahni Turpin

Run time: 10 hours and 37 minutes

Audible | | Overdrive

Your mileage may vary with the (very loose) Dreamworks adaptation of Adam Rex’s Smekday world. But whatever you thought of it, abandon all notions that the film relates in any substantive way to the book, which boasts a scarier, realistic heart. The novel follows Tip, who makes her way into an alien-infested world as an extremely endangered orphan whose Boovian adventures run parallel to genuine anxiety and abandonment. Bahni Turpin’s performance of Tip’s journey is moving and funny in equal measure, and her interpretation of J.Lo, Tip’s Boov friend, is unlike anything you’ve heard before. Tip’s life may not be as tragic as the Baudelaires’, but even the dark soul of an ASoUE fanatic can appreciate a bit of light.

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10. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Narrators: Jeff Woodman (Recorded Books, 1998) or Cassandra Campbell (PRH Audio, 2017)

Run time: 6 hours and 30 minutes (Woodman); 6 hours and 59 minutes (Campbell)

Audible | | Overdrive

In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire children are thrown into a mystery about adults who may or may not actually be dead in a world that is out of conspiratorial proportion. If you forget about the misery the Baudelaires endure, that is almost the plot of The Westing Game, a whodunit classic featuring a cast disparately-accented characters that, in audiobook form, is even more tantalizing than the print version. Cassandra Campbell’s more recent narration (the only one available digitally) is thoughtful and calculating, with a special wheedle in the adults’ voices that sells their variable unlikability. Jeff Woodman’s 1998 version (more likely to be found in disc-form at your local library) has a verve and energy that puts even the quieter domestic scenes into high gear. Both Woodman and Campbell treat the material with respectful enthusiasm, so whatever version you choose will be worth your while.

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The second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events is available now on Netflix.

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibiliophile whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult , Screener and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go 10 rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.