Audio Book Review – “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace, read by Lloyd James

ben-hur

I couldn’t track down the copyright information on this, but it is a pretty awesome cover for the epic novel.

I love Ben Hur. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I got into it after I fell in love with the 1959 movie, which is my favorite film. I also enjoy audio books quite a bit. I got this one for Christmas last year and finally managed to find the time to get through the whole thing. I wanted to post a review of the audio book because it is difficult to find one that actually reviews the audio book rather than just the book, which is of course excellent. I felt it was warranted because those who enjoy audio books often wonder about the quality of those they are looking to purchase, which can vary wildly depending on how well the reader(s) invests him or herself into the characters. Thus, this is for you, fellow audio book lovers.

Voice

Lloyd James reads the book [in the version I’m reviewing], and his voice is quite good for the reading. He does do a few different voices depending on the character. These become fairly recognizable, though he doesn’t have quite the range of Jim Dale (see his phenomenal readings of the Harry Potter books). However, Ben Hur, Simonides, and other major characters are distinct in how they speak. James sounds about the right age for Ben Hur himself, which lends some credibility to the reading.

Recording Quality

The recording is generally excellent as well, with no shifting volume between tracks. (That is, there are no portions I could tell where it was louder or quieter than the rest of the book, such that I had to mess with the volume.) It is steadily recorded, with track breaks at around 3 minutes on the dot every time. It runs about 24 hours and spans 19 discs.

I do have two problems with the recording, which are fairly minor compared to the whole recording. First, about an average of once per disc, there is a skip in a track. It’s seemingly random and it really just splits one word in half. I noticed this both on the CD and in the same place on my iPod, which suggests that the skip is in the recording. I never felt it meant I didn’t understand what happened, but there was at least one of them that seemed to leave out a word. The other problem is that there are a very few (I can only remember about twice where it happened) times where James’ voice sounds quite tinny, as though he was too far away from the mic. This only happened for about 2-3 seconds each time I heard it.

Miscellaneous

The discs are in three separate booklets, which are of average quality. The discs slip out if you hold the booklets upside down, so if you take them in the car you’ll want to make sure to store them safely.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d highly recommend this audio book. The only downside is the occasional skips in the reading. The book is phenomenal, of course, and the recording does it justice. James did a great job reading the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Fiction can change your life. Also, answer me this.

matildaFiction can change your life.  Here, I’m specifically talking about books. It’s actually very easy: you read a book and you yourself are an open book, ready to ingest what the book tells you. You may not do it uncritically, but fiction has a way of catching you unawares.

I also know that fiction can change your life because it has done so for me. It has done so at least three times in major ways. The first was the book Matilda by Roald Dahl, which I consider one of the greatest masterpieces of children’s literature. The way that it changed my life was by opening my mind to a new understanding of the power of books to bring about emotions and love. Matilda was, for me,  almost an avatar of myself in literature. Her love of books mirrored my own. Did I have special powers? No. Was I in a horrible family situation? Absolutely not, my family is and was amazing. What Matilda did for me was to make me realize that the love of books was something almost necessary to my existence. It created in me a desire for fiction that still cannot be satiated. I admit that I have read this book more than any other. I think I have read it easily over 100 times. I used to grab it and a cup of tea (just like Matilda did!) when I was young and sit in my mom’s office at school and read the whole thing.

Another  book that changed my life was C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I read this when I first began thinking very seriously about faith and Christianity in particular. I remember seeing this book in my dad’s collection and on others’ shelves, but always thought that it was just some boring old book about religion. Who cared? I read the book and realized that religion touches on every aspect of life. Lewis, for me, awakened a love of reading books about Christianity and religion, and he opened the doors for philosophy of religion as well. This fictional book has very much shaped my life in many ways over the past several years. Were it not for this book I probably would not be writing on Christian philosophy and apologetics at my other site.

ben hur bookFinally, the masterful Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace, a book which continues to inspire my vision of life.  Ben Hur is my favorite movie of all time, but I had never read the book. I mean the thing was written in 1880, so I figured that it didn’t really have any relevance today. How wrong I was. The book is simply astonishing in its scope. The tumultuous action, the beauty of romance, the bitterness of revenge, and the trials of faith are all portrayed vividly by Wallace throughout. However, it wasn’t so much the story itself that inspired me, but the fact that it opened my mind up to a whole new reality: books that weren’t written during my lifetime are relevant and awesome. I know, this seems absurd to deny, but it is easy to fall into this feeling that only those things written now are good. The things written in the past are just old fashioned and out of date. Ben-Hur changed that for me. It gripped me throughout and delighted me. I now often read “old” books and find I enjoy them greatly–often more than modern works of fiction and non-fiction.

Now, answer me this: have you ever read a book that has changed your life? If so, which book was it? How did it change your life. Leave me a comment to let me know. I want to know!