The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Bringing novels to life

Forget about lugging around hardcovers and paperbacks, convenient audiobooks can be stored on a phone or a music device and many
e-readers ...

There’s always time to read. You don’t have to have your hands free – you could be cooking or travelling to work; you could be on the treadmill at the gym or waiting for your doctor at the hospital. Having someone read to you can be a real pleasure, but remember that the reader is everything. He or she can become the most perfect interpreter of a book or put you off one for life. You can store these mp3 files on your phone or music device, and even on many e-readers. Audiobooks are more expensive than their paperback cousins, but you’ll find that many are worth paying for…just read the reviews first.

There are also several sites online where you can find plenty of free audio books to download. At http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks you can find Philip Pullman reading Anton Chekov, Salman Rushdie reading Donald Barthelme or Corey Doctorow reading Lewis Carroll. At librivox.org, which bills itself as the world’s largest producer of domain free audio books, you can both download and upload – recording yourself reading your favourite books so that others can enjoy them too. Many other such sites exist. Just remember Google is your friend. Here are some of our favourites:

The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling, read by Stephen Fry: When it comes to the Potter books, the fans are divided. Some swear by reader Jim Dale, other by Stephen Fry. We come down firmly on Fry’s side of the debate.
He’s wonderful – funny and warm and just perfect, really (we’ll admit his Hermione is a little squeaky.) Even for fans who’ve read and re-read the series, actually listening to them can be a rewarding experience.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak read by Allan Corduner: In ‘The Book Thief,’ Zusak plays with literary form and some readers have had trouble orienting themselves a little – but perhaps to be expected when your narrator is Death itself. The book, set in Nazi Germany during WWII, is a gorgeous read, both funny and heart breaking and narrator Allan Corduner actually pulls it off very well. A resonant British accent makes him pleasant to listen to, but he brings to his narration that sense of omniscience as well as the detachment that Zusak’s has given his own storyteller, Death.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir written and read by Bill Bryson: Who doesn’t love Bill Bryson? He’s funny and intelligent and his books are so crazily omnivorous – there’s nothing that he can’t make interesting.
He’s perhaps best known for his book ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ as well as for Travelogues like ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘A Sunburned Country,’ but his memoir is perhaps the easiest read of them all. It’s hilarious and sweet, and hearing it read in the author’s own voice just magnifies its charm.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Written and Narrated by Douglas Adams: His fans may never stop mourning the brilliance of Douglas Adams. Fortunately, this audiobook will give them no reason too. A dramatized version – with a full cast and sound effects – was produced by the BBC but the unabridged version read by Adams himself is lovely, if bittersweet, to listen to.

Bossy Pants written and read by Tina Fey: If you’ve read the book, you probably already heard Tina Fey’s voice in your head – it was so perfectly authentic. With the award winning audiobook, you can stop feeling crazy and enjoy the author’s unique take on life, love and comedy. She really delivers – playing with timing, voices, impressions asides as well as the audio from her famous depictions of Sarah Palin for Saturday Night Live.

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