All the Best Audiobooks I Listened to for The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

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I’ve been an audiobook addict ever since my first listen back in 2013 (Bossypants read, in all its hilarity, by Tina Fey herself). And while I felt it was important to tackle some of The 100 Greatest Books Challenge on paper (War and Peace, for example, and In Search of Lost Time), audiobooks have been a great sidekick on my classics crusade.

The audio format isn’t well-adapted to every narrative style, but in some cases I’m convinced I got more out of the experience by listening instead of reading. When it came time to confront Ulysses, I listened to the audiobook while reading the paperback—a strategy I’d recommend to anyone.

I’m sure there are dozens of great audio classics I didn’t happen to take advantage of. But these were my favorites among those I did (a total of 15/100):

  • A Clockwork Orange, read by Tom Hollander
  • The Iliad, read by Dan Stevens
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, read by John Lee
  • Tom Jones, read by Kenneth Danzinger
  • Charlotte’s Web, read by E. B. White
  • Ulysses, read by Jim Norton
  • Pride and Prejudice, read by Rosamund Pike

If you have audiobook recommendations, classic or otherwise, I’m all ears. Happy reading—and happy listening!

The Best Literary Links I’ve Come Across This Week (Round 5)

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It’s time for another carefully curated collection of the Best Literary Links I’ve Come Across This Week. It was a particularly good week, as literary links go—but you’ll soon find that out for yourself. Enjoy.

Happy reading! And happy holidays!

Listen Up: When to Audiobook

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Ah, the dulcet tones of Kenneth Branagh.

It took me a while to trend-ify my old-school reading habits and work the occasional audiobook into my routine.

I admit it.

But once I did, I mentally roundhouse-kicked myself in the face for being so blind deaf to the obvious merits of this high-tech format. (OK, maybe not high-tech, exactly. But it does mean I have to use my phone for something other than GPS.)

If, like me, you need a little persuading, here are the most significant audiobook advantages that come to mind:

Reasons to Listen to Audiobooks

  • Convenient. Listen on the go—wherever you go when you go.
  • Entertaining. Voice acting is an art that, paired with standout storytelling, makes for an enhanced readerly experience.
  • Eco-friendly. I like paperbacks as much as the next geek, but audiobooks are the answer to a trillion trees’ prayers.
  • Shareable. You can include other people (family, friends, tolerant neighbors) in your listening.
  • Educational. Hopefully, you’ll learn how to pronounce new words and place names.
  • Authentic. The voice actor’s inflection can shed light on the hidden meaning buried under a word or passage.
  • Accessible. You can use any number of devices to listen, so there’s no need to lug around a mattress-sized novel.
  • Relaxing. For those of us who spend the entire day reading on a computer screen, audiobooks offer weary eyes a much-needed rest.

I’ll stop there. I’m going to assume I’ve won you over to the theory of audiobooks by now, and jump right into practice.

I stumbled into the habit of literary listening obliquely and skeptically during a trip across Southeast Asia. The older I get, the more I depend on Dramamine to ward off car sickness (and bus sickness, and train sickness, and plane sickness—you get the idea. My days of reading and riding are, I think, officially OVER). As a dedicated traveler and unstoppable reader, this predicament brought out the best in my problem-solving skills.

Just kidding. Audiobooks were the clear and immediate answer to all my life’s problems. I started my free Audible trial and got busy downloading.

Travel is, of course, the most apparent of all opportunities to squeeze in a good listen. But what about all those other times, you ask, when life’s NOT a beach?

My suggestion: Listen during those times, too.

When to Listen to Audiobooks: The Obvious

  • Commuting. (Duh.)
  • Waiting in line literally anywhere. (Literally. Anywhere.)
  • Running errands. (I suspect you spend quite a bit of time shopping for groceries, picking up pharmaceuticals, pumping gas, and/or chauffeuring young people in and around the wilds of suburbia.)
  • Cooking. (I hate cooking. Audiobooks make it bearable.)
  • Road trips long or short. (The shareable aspect mentioned above is especially relevant here.)
  • Eating breakfast. (I do this all the time.)
  • On your lunch break. (Ditto.)
  • Performing chores of any kind. (House-cleaning, yard work, and laundry lend themselves particularly well to an audio-reading session.)
  • Engaging in hobbies. (You crafty thing, you.)
  • Walking your dog. (Unlike the humans in your life, Fido won’t notice or care that you’re tuned in to a new story.)
  • Exercising. (Walking, jogging, weightlifting… extra points for all three.)

When to Listen to Audiobooks: The Less Obvious

  • Anytime you would normally be watching TV. (I love TV, but by turning it off half an hour earlier I fit that much more reading listening into my day.)
  • At work. (While undertaking tasks that require minimal brainpower, that is: organizing your inbox, making photocopies, brewing coffee, etc.)
  • Your bath or shower. (I have not yet tried this out of fear for my phone’s life—and because, Jesus, I need a break from reading once in a while. But that doesn’t make it a bad idea.)
  • During your morning and/or nighttime routine. (Washing face, brushing teeth, fixing hair, applying makeup, shaving, getting dressed, or any combination thereof.)
  • At the doctor’s office. (Put down those germ-ridden magazines. They’re the reason you’re at the doctor’s office.)
  • Watching your kids on the playground. (Multitasking at its finest.)
  • Right before bed. (Think of your book as a lullaby. For best results, select something dull.)

I’d love to hear recommendations on any moments I may have missed. The point is, though, that your brain spends more time idle (or close to it) than you probably guessed—and you could be filling that time with the world’s greatest literature, or most exciting new releases. I even took the time to serve up my very best Audiobook Advice to help you select the best titles for this format (wisdom dispenser that I am).

Please don’t let my generosity go to waste. You want to know when to listen in? Do it anytime. Do it now! If you don’t, you’ll just end up roundhouse-kicking yourself in the face.

Yay Audiobooks (Quirky Bookworm)

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I just started listening to audiobooks this year, and I’m already a huge fan. Audio narration adds an entirely new element to a story: I loved Tina Fey’s hilarious imitations in the audio version of Bossypants, and Amy’s “voice” in Gone Girl renders her that much creepier by the end of the book (a startling 19 hours). Bridget Jones comes to life (complete with a British accent) in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and I could listen to Kristen Bell read Veronica Mars all day long.

It was the convenience, though, that drew me in initially. On a recent trip to Asia, audiobooks were my travel companion in trains, buses, cars, and other forms of transport in which reading (for reasons of motion sickness) was out of the question. Audiobooks are a great way to multitask, and they spice up non-fiction to the point of actually making it bearable. (JK, I totally read non-fiction. But only if Bill Bryson counts.)

If you’re still not convinced, check out the Quirky Bookworm’s list of reasons to listen to audiobooks. Happy listening!