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Great American Audiobooks

4 Jul

Great American AudiobooksAcross the USA, the 4th July brings parades, fireworks, barbeques and a“Star-Spangled Banner” all in celebration, commemorating the United States’ declaration of independence from Great Britain. On this side of the pond, it’s a great chance to appreciate some of the most important American literature, which is also available on audiobook. Here are six, which truly capture their times, the thoughts, struggles and culture of their characters and give us an insight into various parts of US modern history.

The Great Gatsby
Long before Baz Luhrmann’s visually epic remake, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this classic, exploring themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess in 1925. The focus of the story is the mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby, the man who has everything, but one thing will always be out of his reach…

Fitzgerald shows us the garish society of the Roaring Twenties, with obsessions of money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. But although the era of focus is almost 90 years ago, even to this day, the plot stands the test of time.

Buy The Great Gatsby audiobook

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
A familiar story in schools in the United States, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be one of those books that, over here, many know of, but not so many have actually read. But there’s no denying the fact that Mark Twain is one of the most fascinating writers of all time. Whether you’ve read his books, seen the adaptations in the cinema, or shared his inspirational quotes on Facebook, you’ll notice that he is, as a writer and humourist, timeless.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is noted for the colourful descriptions of people and places along the Mississippi River as well as the often scathing look at racism.

Buy The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn audiobook

The Grapes of Wrath
Published in 1939, John Steinbeck’s award winning novel is set during the Great Depression and follows a poor family of tenant farmers. The Joad family are driven from their home in Oklahoma by drought, money troubles and changes in the financial and agricultural industries. They head to California for work, land and a future, only to discover thousands like them are also on the move.

By February 1940, 430,000 copies of this, the best-selling book of 1939 had been printed. It has been discussed, criticised and read countless times and is known for Steinbeck’s passionate depiction the struggles this poor family, much like many others went through.

Buy The Grapes of Wrath audiobook

Tales of the City
A little less heavy than the other choices, but no less relevant. Armistead Maupin’s wonderfully written series, set in San Francisco gives us a realistic taste of the city’s culture, people and lifestyles.  The story follows Mary Ann Singleton, a young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, as she tumbles into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut-throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests.

Buy Tales of the City audiobook

Ethan Frome
This is one of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton’s most powerful stories. It follows Ethan Frome as he scrapes a living from his woodlot and lives in an unhappy marriage with his hypochondriac wife, Zeena. The arrival of his wife’s cousin, Mattie brings a ray of light into his life, leading to him falling in love with her, but stifling conventions of the time determine their fate.

One of the most fascinating elements of this is that themes of this story mirrored real events in the life of the author.

Buy Ethan Frome audiobook

Fahrenheit 451
Written in 1951, Fahrenheit 451 tells a story, set in a dystopian future. The protagonist, Guy Montag is a fireman, whose job is to burn books, which are outlawed, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Unhappy in his marriage and shocked by a sequence of events, Montag fights back against the status quo, but the Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

Written by Ray Bradbury in the 1950s because of his concerns at the time, the classic novel of a post-literate future describes world that he thought might become real decades later.  This stands alongside Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a visionary account of Western civilization’s enslavement by conformity.

Buy Fahrenheit 451 audiobook

What is your favourite American novel?

One for the Dads

7 Jun

16th June is Father’s Day! Struggling to think of what to get your dad? We are here to give you a helping hand with making your selection. We asked the dads at AudioGO which audiobooks they love to listen to when they like to wind down.

Jan Paterson, Publishing Director:
Chowringhee ‘When I am on holiday or have a long drive, I really like to get into an unabridged book.  But over this weekend, what with thinking of things to do with the kids, and one thing and another, I will not get much time for listening, so I then chose to listen to short plays or comedy.  Earlier this week I met up with Roger Elsgood, who has produced a radio version of the Indian bestseller Chowringhee, which he recorded on location in Culcutta.  I am also looking forward to catching up on the latest instalment of The People’s Songs.’

Steve Jones, Audio Engineer:
‘Rather self-indulgently I’m listening to my own creation (I did the music) of ‘Wheels on The Bus Singalong in the car.  My 2 year old son loves it and there are loads of classic rhymes that he knows and sings already in nursery.’

Matt Edwards, Digital Marketing Manager:
You Only Live Twice‘I like to listen to anything by Douglas Reeman because they’re always very well read and have guns and explosions! I also loved all the Bond audiobooks because they were really different from the Bond you see in the movies. There is a stellar cast of narrators. Martin Jarvis was the best!’

Steve Borge, E-Commerce Manager:
I’m getting into Cabin Pressure because I saw it in the bestsellers chart and wondered what all the fuss was about. I was completely hooked! Hilarious performances, especially from Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m thinking of listening to the ‘John Finnemore Souvenir Programme’ next.

We’ve put all of our best ideas into our Father’s Day page, and you can save £3 when you spend over £10! Make sure you order by Wednesday 12th June so your CDs can be delivered in time for Sunday!

If you’re a dad what do you like to listen to? 

Why listen to audiobooks?

3 May

audiobook

Having worked at AudioGO for a while now one of the most common questions I’m asked by friends about my job is ‘Why do people listen to audiobooks?’ I have to admit, this is a good question. Why would you listen to an audiobook when you could read the book or watch the film? After much deliberation and research I think I may have come up with some solid reasons why people would choose to listen rather than read or watch.

Nostalgia
According to The Observer, ‘revenue for downloaded audiobooks has risen by 32.7% since last year,’ which clearly shows a sudden thirst for listening. It seems people want to revert back to that old nostalgic tradition of reading aloud. Remember those times at school sitting on the carpet listening intently to your teacher reading the latest exciting children’s novel? It was a time to relax and drift into your own world, without the pressure of having to take everything in. Doris Julian (age 70), a lady attending a storytelling session, remarked on how hearing the story read aloud “took me right back to being a child and being read to in the library” (The Observer). We live in a technological age where we so often have to concentrate on more than one thing at the same time. The audiobook gives us the chance to relax and unwind, whilst also creating enjoyment as we carry out life’s everyday mundane tasks. Speech, of course, was the means by which stories were conveyed long before the written word came into play. We should make an effort to honour this great storytelling tradition.

You can multitask when listening to an audiobook
Audiobooks can be seen as a saviour to the modern day multitasker. In the technological world we live in we are no strangers to having to complete various tasks simultaneously. We no longer have the time to relax for a few hours with a book, as that takes up valuable time. People often listen to an audiobook because it saves time and doesn’t put a halt to the daily routine. For example, Claire posted on our Facebook page saying “I can do other things while I listen and move from room to room or even leave the house and continue with the story, which you can’t do with a book.” Further to this, people have explained how they enjoy listening to audiobooks as they carry out their daily chores. The more engrossed they are in the reading, the cleaner their house becomes! Many people have talked about how audiobooks have helped them happily complete mindless tasks, as they can switch onto autopilot and let the story take them somewhere else.

They’re great to listen to on your commute
Now that Smartphones, tablets and MP3 players are the norm, we have a way of instantly accessing audio files. We can download a book or an album at the click of a button, anywhere. It is becoming more and more common nowadays to see commuters with headphones on and a glazed expression as they block out the hubbub of the city at rush hour. In fact, it is rarer to see someone without. It is not just music people are listening to now though; there is a rise in the number of commuters listening to an audiobook as they make their way to the office. It can become a satisfying routine to listen to a chapter of a book or a podcast on each leg of the journey, until it is finished. Audiobooks also give people the chance listen to titles such as ‘The Art of Succeeding at Interviews’, or other motivational audiobooks whilst driving to an interview or an appointment, allowing extra preparation and making good use of the free time in the car.

They give more people access to books
Why listen to audiobooks?Aside from these points, audiobooks have also become a great aid to people. They give blind people access to stories they might not otherwise have had access to. For many people they are a vast improvement over Braille books and are less time consuming. Another attendee of a storytelling session was quoted in The Observer saying “I’m dyslexic, so I prefer to listen to radio plays and things like that.” They are very accessible to people with reading difficulties, which is hugely positive. Who says interpreting a book is more rewarding when you read it rather than listen to it anyway? A lot of people say how audiobooks help with their insomnia as the readings can become almost hypnotic and eventually lull them into a peaceful sleep.

Kate Doyle

AudioGO

So, what do you think? Have I missed something? Do you agree/disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.