# 73 Audiobooks – the new rock n roll

In books on January 31, 2011 at 3:10 pm

There’s something almost paradoxical about audiobooks: on the one hand they hark back to our most primitive oral traditions and childhood memories of being read bedtime stories, while at the same time exploiting the latest technology by being available to download straight to your iPod, bypassing the invention of the printing press completely.

Audible, ‘the UK’s largest provider of downloadble audiobooks’, even has an instant download app for iPhones and Android. No longer the preserve of the Large Print section of the local public lending library, audiobooks are the new rock ‘n’ roll. Here’s an article I wrote about the phenomenon for Time Out back in Jan 2008. Rather than bore you again with why I love audiobooks (able to do something else while listening, soothing qualities of actor’s voice, portability if on iPod, restful for eyes, way to get children reluctant to read to at least engage with literature, etc; drawbacks = putting iPod on shuffle and killing the dinner party mood when a chapter of Madame Bovary pops up in between some Joy Division and The XX), I’ll just prove my point by directing you to some of my favourites, and some new recordings that are coming out around now.

Old favourites:

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day read by Frances McDormand

Ngaio Marsh’s Scales of Justice read by Benedict Cumberbatch

The Sunday Sessions read by Philip Larkin

Look We Have Coming to Dover! read by poet Daljit Nagra

Now listening:

Pulse (the new one by Julian Barnes) read by David Rintoul

The Moonstone Radio 4 dramatisation (c/o iPlayer)

Waiting to be uploaded/out imminently:

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes read by award-winning actor Derek Jacobi

Paul Temple and the Geneva Mystery read by Toby Stephens

Brighton Rock read by Samuel West

Blood Rain an Aurelio Zen Mystery read by Michael Kitchen

One Day read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

In conjunction with Radio 4’s  year long project to record all of the Philip Marlowe books, with Toby Stephens, I’m also looking forward to: The Big Sleep (24 Feb); The Lady inthe Lake (24 Feb); Farewell, My Lovely (3 March); Playback (3 March); Poodle Springs (3 Nov); The High Window (3 Nov); The Little Sister (3 Nov); The Long Goodbye (3 Nov), all from AudioGo.

My children (who are too lazy to read) particularly like:

Animal Farm read by Simon Callow

Young Bond books (but only when read by Nathaniel Parker, not author Charlie Higson, sorry Mr H)

Grubtown Tales read by David Mitchell

Winnie-the-Pooh/The House at Pooh Corner read by Alan Bennett

Dad’s Army BBC radio recordings

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night read by Ben Tibber (he’s a child, that’s why you haven’t heard of him, but he’s very good) listen to an extract here

Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire read by Andy Stanton

Good audiobooks sites:

AudioGo (the BBC’s audiobooks arm)

Audible (Amazon’s audiobooks arm)

Silksound Books (top flight UK acting talent)

Faber & Faber (who often do simultaneous audio releases, and a nice line in recorded poetry)

Hachette (David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King avail 15 April)

Hodder (as in …&Stouton)

  1. Most downloaded books and audiobooks from UK libraries in Jan 2011:
    Mainly crime and thrillers for adults; Stephenie Meyer, Philip Pullman and languages for kids.

  2. why I love audiobooks (able to do something else while listening, soothing qualities of actor’s voice, portability if on iPod, restful for eyes, way to get children reluctant to read to at least engage with literature, etc

    I love to listen to audiobooks at night to help me drift off to sleep so the soothing qualities of the actor’s voice cannot be stressed enough. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to all of the books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, as read by Stephen Fry and Martin Freeman. I can also recommend the BBC radio dramas that are sold on Audible. The Charles Paris series starring Bill Nighy are quite funny.

    • Ahh, indeed, the Charles Paris mysteries. Yes, I love those too. Could listen to Bill Nighy’s voice for hours, and frequently do. They are often on BBC Radio 7 so I tend to binge on them via BBC iPlayer when they’re available. And it’s definitely time our household bought the HHGTTG on audio.

  3. Alan Bennett reading Pooh is great, but these dramatisations are even better: Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Jane Horrocks, Geoffrey Palmer, Sandy Toksvig, etc, etc. I must declare an interest, my uncle adapted and produced them. He also wrote the ‘official’ sequel, Return to Hundred Acre Wood. (And that’s how to turn a plug into a name drop in one swift move).
    Winnie the Pooh: http://bit.ly/gXnoqS
    The House at Pooh Corner: http://amzn.to/dJ5DN2

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Midlife Manual, Jessica CT. Jessica CT said: Audiobooks – the new rock n roll: http://wp.me/pF383-gE […]

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