Listening to the Classics

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David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens; narrated by Richard Armitage

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens’ own “favorite child” book, appealed to me because it is a semi-autobiographical novel of how Copperfield (essentially Dickens) became a writer. So when I heard that British actor Richard Armitage had narrated this book, I was in. His gold-standard narration of this massive classic gives vivid life to a grand cast of characters: a greasy Uriah Heep, a kooky yet kind great-aunt (Betsy Trotwood, if you please) and stouthearted allies, such as the salt-of-the earth Peggotty. Now when I regard the brick-thick tome lying on my mantle, I smile, because I now regard young Copperfield and his friends and foes alike as intimate friends. (36 hours, 30 minutes)

Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Scott O’Dell; narrated by Tantoo Cardinal

I had never read the 1961 winner of the Newbery Medal, but listening to it was just the balm I needed in 2020. From the book’s description: “Karana is the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Hers is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.” Tantoo Cardinal, a Canadian actress of Métis and Cree descent, is the perfect narrator. Her subtle accent and pronunciations lend an authentic underpinning to Karana’s story, You will be inspired by Karana coming of age alone on an island and surviving by her wits and grit. (3 hours, 55 minutes)

Little House on the Prairie

By Laura Ingalls Wilder; narrated by Cherry Jones

This second book in the Little House series finds Ma, Pa, Laura, and Mary leaving their cabin in the Big Woods and setting out for Kansas. We travel with them in their covered wagon and listen as they face the hardships and rewarding moments of pioneer life. Cherry Jones does a crackerjack job of narrating different ages and genders, differentiating between Pa and little Laura effectively. One treat of this narration is the weaving in of Pa’s fiddle throughout the book. Jones has a rich, soothing voice that lingers in one’s mind. In the words of Read Aloud Revival’s Sarah Mackenzie, “these are truly some of the very best audio books I’ve ever heard.” (8 hours, 50 minutes)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Written and narrated by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s majestic writing is resplendent with prose that demands a reread—or a re-listen. As I listened to the story of Angelou’s upbringing in a small Arkansas town, I felt as if I was there with her, which is probably why the terrible scenes of her sexual abuse are so searing. Not every writer is a good narrator, but Angelou is superb. Her deep voice rings with emotion and certainty as she narrates her own powerful story. As a poet, Angelou knew just how to deliver a line with perfect pace. (10 hours, 11 minutes)

Check our Mixed Media reviews online for reviews of other first-rate classics in audiobook form, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, and The Odyssey, by Homer.

 

About the Author

Lorilee Craker, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., in a 1924 house full of teenagers, pets, exchange students, and houseplants. The author of 15 books, including Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me, she is the Mixed Media editor of The Banner. Find her at Lorileecraker.com or on Instagram @thebooksellersdaughter.

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