We admit, we’ve been on a bit of a literary audio kick lately (we suggest listening to The Hunger Games at the gym). Last week, we thought about which books we wished would be read to us by famous actors, but this week we felt an urge to get a little closer to the source, and see if we could listen to some of our favorite dearly departed authors reading from their own work. There’s something very satisfying about hearing an author read their work aloud — it’s probably as close we’ll ever get to being inside their heads. Intonation, emphasis, when they giggle to themselves, when they sigh — all of these small details can enthrall literary geeks like us, and perhaps enhance our understanding. We’ve collected audio recordings of fifteen famous authors reading their own work aloud from around the web, so lean back, take a listen, and let yourself be just a little bit transported.
Flannery O’Connor reads her most famous short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” at Vanderbilt University in 1959.
In the only surviving recording of her voice, Virginia Woolf speaks on BBC on April 19th, 1937 giving a talk entitled “Craftmanship.” Her talk would later be published as an essay in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. Read a transcription of the recorded text here.
Kurt Vonnegut reads from the then yet-to-be-published novel Breakfast of Champions at the 92nd Street Y in New York in 1970. The crowd loves it.
James Joyce reads from Finnegans Wake (page 213, if you must know). Yes, it’s even more incomprehensible than the text.
Ernest Hemingway giving a reading called “In Harry’s Bar in Venice” sometime in the late ’50s.
A recording (done by the man himself, no less) of T.S. Eliot reading The Wasteland.
Truman Capote reading a section from his short novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s , at the 92nd Street Y in 1963.
Jack Kerouac reading the last page of On the Road, to the smooth jams of some jazz.
William Faulkner reading from As I Lay Dying .
Allen Ginsberg reading “Howl” the way it was meant to be read.
David Foster Wallace reading his essay “The View from Mrs. Thompson’s,” from Consider the Lobster.
Anne Sexton reading her poem “The Truth the Dead Know.”
J.R.R. Tolkien reading “Chapter V: Riddles in the Dark,” from The Hobbit.