Speak low if you speak love. — Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing I’m very fond of audiobooks. There is something endearing, maybe even romantic, about the act of listening. I get this same sense often in early photographs of radio listeners, that they appreciate the romance of the medium. Today our options are so much more, we possess a pocket oration of the world’s greatest texts if we want them. And that is so compelling that I’m always a little shocked when people malign audiobooks. I think they are typically snubbed because the act of putting on an audiobook feels almost
Oral traditions are how we evolved to tell stories; books allowed for greater distribution, accuracy, and depth; digital audiobooks are a synthesis of both forms.
Listening is easier than reading not because it's an inferior method (comprehension is about the same for both), but because we evolved to listen, not read. Still, like you're careful to point out, we have to listen properly. Moot point anyway bc we spend 12 years in school learning to read properly. On top of that, you can listen while driving, working, etc.
Audiobooks are a revolution on scale with the printing press. I'll die on this hill.
I have grown to absolutely love audiobooks. I never thought of using them as a way to re-read something. That’s a great idea. Also, I know for some, paying for audiobooks can feel frivolous for those on a strict budget. There’s an app called, Libby, that is essentially a library with free audiobooks. You just put in your library card number and you then have access to that library. You can check out the audio books and you then have two weeks to listen and return it. If what you want is not available you can put it on hold.
It can be a bummer if your library simply doesn’t have what you are looking for, but as far as free options go, it’s pretty good. And more importantly, legal haha.
Lastly, I will recommend the audiobook “Jayber Crow” by Wendell Berry. The writing is incredible in true Wendell Berry fashion and the narration is perfect, that I cannot remember the narrators name.
I agree! Let them (whoever they are) malign. I love audio books. And Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Anna Karenina is one of the best audio books I’ve listened to ever. I’m glad to see it praised! I too have listened to it twice. Her performance is - I don’t know what word to use here. She inhabits each character flawlessly. She fills the book with life. She made me appreciate the complexity of Tolstoy.
Just a quick audiobook recommendation: “Karain” by Joseph Conrad. I think a lot of people struggle to read Conrad, as his use is language is sometimes overwhelmingly complex - yet still beautiful. Listening to the words makes it much more digestible.
One of my favorite audiobooks is “The Sword in the Stone” by TH White, read by Neville Jason. Jason intuitively understands White’s humor and communicates the story so well through his narration. It’s the audiobook I return to again and again.
Strong second on Napoleon A Life. And Tolstoy, generally. I think the first audiobook I ever re-read was a soporific, almost chant like Gods of Pegana (still on YouTube but I guess it must have been a librivox or something when I first heard it). The first audiobook I liked as more than a mysticising sleep aid was Stephen Fry reading Falen’s translation of Eugene Onegin. After piously attempting Nabokov’s translation on paper I was ready to write it off (and drown myself), but Fry has both a frothier translation to work with and a suitably oily performance to make it shine. Or at least make it funny, no idea what I think of it til I read it a few more times.
Some audiobook performances leave strong imprints on me. Keith Szarabajka‘s performance of Tibetan Peach Pie irreparably damaged my own speech cadence. Then others are like looking through glass. Until I looked it up on Audible I couldn’t remember if I’d read The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break or listened to it but of course I’ve never owned a paper copy.
There are a few langauges that i understand well but can't read. Audiobooks opened up the world of those langauges for me.
Ian McKellen narrating The Odyssey...downloading audible to listen to it now :)
Instantly added Heretics to the top of my audiobook list for this month. Curious if you have read Ben Hur and know of a good audio book version?
I would also add The Count of Monte Cristo as a recommendation. I am not sure which translation I listened to, but the reader had a vast array of wonderful accents and voices. We often use librivox as a source for audio versions of classical works. An additional benefit is that children who are not yet able to read can listen to complex, long works (our youngest listened his way through the entire elementary Mensa reading list before he was five). Thanks for the recommendations :)
I want to second the recommendation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Simon Armitage's translation. If you saw the 2021 film and have any curiosity about the original poem, this is it. And it makes for a wonderfully weird Christmas story, as well.
Other favorite audiobooks:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe narrated by Michael York
Kitchen Confidential narrated by Anthony Bourdain
One Blade of Grass by Henry Shukman
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
I listen to audiobooks while driving and at night when I am having trouble sleeping. I generally only listen to books I’ve already actually read though, so if I fall asleep it’s no big deal.
You’ve rejuvenated my thirst for audio. Simultaneously you’ve boosted my resolve to savor one on one conversations and chew my food more thoroughly and thoughtfully. Quite a punch. Bravo.
Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings are also excellent audiobooks. I’m going to check out that audiobook of Anna Karenina, it’s one of my favorite books ever. Anyone have a recommendation for an audiobook of War and Peace?
which translation is the anna karenina? i had a look on audible but couldn’t see where it mentioned it