I'm a huge fan of listening to books on tape and audio recordings of my favorite novels, and when it comes to Harry Potter things are no different.

My view is that the best way to truly appreciate any story is to listen to a good narration of it. That allows you to sit back, relax, and just let the story flow through, and always reminds me of what it might have been like to live back in the days of Ancient Greece, with Homer or some other storyteller sitting around the fire weaving a tale of epic proportions.

Well, there's no doubt that Harry Potter is The Odyssey of the 21st century. Like Homer, Rowling has spun a magical tale with mythical creatures around every turn, and you only get a sense of that through the original narration of the book. That's something not even the movies can compete with!

The Best Audio of Harry Potter

In my view, the best narrations of the series were done by Jim Dale. He's one of those great voice artists that you probably have never heard of, but have most certainly heard!

Dale has a sweeping, smooth British accent that cascades through the pages of Rowling's novels. He recorded the complete set a few years ago, and also recorded voices for the Harry Potter video game.

The other option for the series is Stephen Fry, who also does an excellent job, but, in my mind, can't even remotely compare to Jim Dale. Personally, I feel like Stephen Fry's voice is a little too "old papa" and takes on the role of a father reading to his children. While I'm sure that's interesting and advantageous for a lot of people, for me it just isn't my style.

To take things one step further, the best audios are by far in that later books. Deathly Hallows and Half Blood Prince simply have a lot more excitement and mystery to them, and are certainly far more complex and "grown up" than the first few books in the series.

That's another point in favor of Jim Dale, because a fatherly bed time story might be ok for The Sorcerer's Stone, but when it comes time for Harry and Voldemort to face off in the series climax, I'd rather opt for Dale.

There's a great back to back comparison of the two narrators reading that climactic scene in this youtube video, which should give you a good sense of the difference. Listener beware, though, because if you haven't already read the books you don't want to listen to this scene first! Even if you have seen the movies and know what happens, pick a different, earlier clip to compare the two.

You can click here to download the Jim Dale Half Blood Prince audiobook, or click here to download the Jim Dale Deathly Hallows audiobook, free from harrypotteraudiobooks.org.