All about Audio
Top 10 Audio books and Podcasts

8:00 AM

photo by Corey Blaz

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I started listening to audio books on my freshman year in college. I had a long commute and an even longer reading list. Between work and classes, I had very little time and knew I had to step up my game if I wanted to cross off every single title on my courses’ required reading list. 

That's when I discovered Librivox. I can’t tell you how grateful I am this site exists. They produce audio recordings of books in the public domain. That is, all the old books I love reading. The readers are so talented and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were either professional readers or actors.

Below are some of my favorite titles:

The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
The Waste Land is possibly the most difficult poem ever written. When we were studying it in college, I listened to this recording several times. Even today I can't read this poem without hearing this reader's voice in my head.

Since we are talking about poetry, let me add an audio book that is not an online recording. Poetry Speaks is a poetry anthology that comes with 3 CDs of authors reading their poems. This was a Christmas present I got from my mom years ago and it has helped me not only to appreciate poetry even more but also to discover great poets (looking at you, Ogden Nash)

I’m not as big a fan of Poe as I used to be, but his short stories are very entertaining and worth revisiting. My absolute favorite is The Cask of Amontillado. Ooh, no. The Tell-Tale Heart. Ok, it's a tie.

photo by Oscar Nilsson

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
Drama is another genre that translates very well to audio. I try as much as I can to see plays but that can be difficult for a number of reasons. My solution has always been audio books.

The man who wasThursday by G. K. Chesterton
So far I spoke only about poetry, drama and short stories for a reason. I believe these are the best genres for audio books. I usually listen to audio books while doing something else (driving or doing chores) so for me a long novel wouldn’t really work. With that being said, I listened to The Man Who was Thursday during a road trip to D.C. It is a fairly short novel and so captivating that I listened to it during the trip and while I was commuting in the city. This was the only novel I ever heard on audio, but novels can be a good option for people with long commutes and good focus.

Shakespeare's plays (and poems)
Back to plays! I'm sad to say I've never seen a Shakespeare play on stage. I try to make up for it with audio books and my imagination. My favorite recording from Librivox is Much ado about Nothing.

Chekhov’s plays (and short stories)
Oh, Chekhov. You’re so good I had to put two of your plays on my list. The recordings of The Cherry Orchard and Ivanov were made by the same group of talented readers and they do a great job of helping us understand the characters’ personalities and emotions. 

Now, podcasts belong to my post-college years. I usually listen to them while doing chores and sometimes even at work. Boredom is real when you live and (mostly) work by yourself.

First I got hooked on this podcast, then I was sad to discover that it ended in 2015. I love the premise: each episode, the host H. G. Wells (comedian Paul F. Tompkins) travels in time and talks to a famous dead author about their lives and books. The episodes are definitely NSFW and two that made me laugh out loud are the ones with Albert Camus (Steve Agee) and Gore Vidal (Marc Evan Jackson)

Bookworm is an LA radio program more on the highbrow spectrum. Host Michael Silverblatt has very intellectual conversations with contemporary authors about their latest books. I don't listen to this show as much as I wanted because I don't read that many contemporary books. But Bookworm has been on the air for 17 years so you are bound to find an interview with an author you like. The interview with David Foster Wallace about Infinite Jest is worth checking out.

This BBC Radio 4 show is on the very highbrow spectrum but it's possibly my favorite. Readers from the UK know the format: host Melvyn Bragg and three guests discuss a range of topics in culture. Their archive is impressive and the shows are always very informative. My favorite episodes about books are the ones talking about Jane Austen's Emma, Kafka's The TrialAlexander PopeChekhov, Camus and Taste.

I hope this list offers some interesting listening material. I know I read twice as much since I discovered audio books. Why not wash the dishes while learning about the druids?

Do you listen to audio books and book podcasts? What are your favorites? I’m always looking for recommendations!

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  1. I've listened to a quite a few Librivox productions and I'm always really impressed by the standard of the readers. It's a great service that they offer.

    My TTT

  2. Librivox was a game changer for me. It's amazing how talented the readers are. Checking your list right now :)

  3. I love Librivox! I see several new things I'll have to try. I also love Chesterton and I listened to Manalive on Librivox. If you liked The Man Who Was Thursday you'd probably like Manalive:) I've never read anything by Chekhov, but maybe I can try him during my next round of chores!

    1. Thanks for the Chesterton recommendation. That is the only book I read of his, which is a shame - he was such a prolific author. I just checked the synopsis for Manalive and it's a "comedy/mystery", so excited to read it now!

      I hope you like Chekhov, his plays are amazing and so are his short stories. Uncle Vanya is probably my favorite play of his and maybe less melancholic than the ones I listed :)

  4. I'm excited to check out your LibriVox recommendations, especially since I agree that poetry, drama and short stories lend themselves better to audio than novels.

    Oh, how did I miss the Dead Authors podcast?! It sounds awesome.

    1. I don't even remember how I got to the Dead Authors podcast but it is very funny and more informative than you'd expect. I hope you like it!


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