Not that I was, but I am now so… speaking of reading the classics, we have taken a bit of a break from our reading over the past week with The Pastor having been gone and my voice having apparently gone with him. It is mostly back now but in my hopes to find a way for my children to get the benefit of listening to a read aloud without the cost of my voice being lost again, I went in search in the land of Google that I might find some free online audio books. (Do you like my banner? If you would like to post about reading the classics aloud to your children and would like to borrow my banner, you may do so, just link back to me. Thanks!) So this post is not so much about reading the classics aloud as it is about listening to the classics being read aloud.
I just wanted to share some of what I found with you.
Free Classic Audio Books is a treasure trove of free MP3 and M4B for iPod audio classics read by various authors. Several of them are read by humans while another handful are read via advanced text to speech technology. (The advanced speech technology read ones may grate on your nerves so I don’t particularly recommend those.) These can be played straight from your computer or downloaded.
Audio Books For Free is another place where you can find numerous audio books from authors such as P.G. Wodehouse (can’t wait to download those!) to Louisa May Alcott to F.H. Pritchard. You can hear a sample of each book that you are considering downloading. You have several download options from completely free in a bulky and bearable (audio quality) format to a zip-file with very good quality which will run you approx. $10 (USD) per book.
Literal Systems is yet one more gem which contains several short stories and poems such as The Gift of the Magi (one of my favorites), An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge (I had forgotten all about this until now… I remember reading it in Jr. High), The Elephant’s Child and The Highway Man. Also included is a smattering of full length classic books including Tom Sawyer, A Tale of Two Cities and Heart of Darkness just to name a few.
LearnOutLoud.com is a deep pool of which I would like to swim to the bottom. From History to Literature, from business to technology, there are many audio (and apparently video, though I haven’t watched any yet) recordings found here. A nice feature at LearnOutLoud.com is that there when you click on a particular book, there are sometimes reviews listed. For instance, I clicked on Jane Eyre and found from the comments of the reviewers that the recording was not complete which is really good to know before you go to download something. Aside from the many books you can download for free, you will also find many for purchase.
LibriVox is a unique site that is an international community of “volunteers [who] record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. [Their] goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.” What a great idea! I hope someday maybe to contribute to this effort myself… if my voice could hold up! Check out their veritable fountain of audiobooks! Again, here you can listen online or download. Click here for their extensive catalog of recordings!
Project Gutenberg is the place to go if you don’t so much care if a book is in audio format or if it is simply a free e-book. Project Gutenberg works with some of the sites listed above for their audio books but they also have a huge (and by that I mean enormous) stash of public domain free e-books, which naturally includes a great many of the classics! Their virtual library is a virtual (har har) feast!
Free-Books is still another place where you can find over 1,000 free e-books.
And last but absolutely not least, what would this list be without a reference to the greatest and most influential classic of them all which can be read and listened to in its entirety for free online? At esv.org you can both read and listen to the Bible, from cover to cover, for free. Simply click the chapter you want to read/hear and at the top of the passage click the word listen and it will automatically start playing. This is a wonderful, beautiful gift that ESV has given to us. Naturally, as a Christian I find explicit and unequivocal value in the reading or hearing of the Bible. However, even if you are not a Christian, the Bible has decidedly been one of the most, if not the most influential book in all of history for many reasons, including that it is the story from which much of ancient and modern literature has gleaned many of its plot-lines and therefore should be read by all as literature if nothing else. I remember even having to read portions of it for my Advanced Placement English class at my public high school.
I hope this list of places to find butter for your literary bread is helpful to you all and that you at some point can enjoy some of the treasures found in these places!