Top Audio Books

When a rainy day comes and I am forced to sit inside and with the soft roll of thunder in the distance, my favorite way to pass the time is to find some new audiobooks and to give them a listen. There is nothing like laying in bed comfy under my goose down comforter, pressing play on my audiobook, and watching the rain drip down the window as the soothing voice of the narrator mixes with the soft boom of thunder outside.

Rainy days can get me feeling down at times and can make me feel frustrated because I’m not getting all that I want to get done, but when I have the plan of listening to a good audiobook and curling up in bed I can forget all of that and enjoy the moment. I just let myself relax and have a good time while staying indoors, watching the rain fall down outside and knowing that this is a time to just take a break. Maybe the storms come as a reminder to slow down, to take some time to yourself and doing the things that you enjoy in life. Our days shouldn’t always be filled with rushing back and forth from place to place but should be more about enjoying the little things. Such as a good storm and the comforts of staying inside while it happens, listening to a new or favorite audiobook.

Simple Joys Of Listening To An Audiobook During A Storm

Staying inside and staying cozy and warm is my favorite way to enjoy the storms that come, especially when I have a good audiobook to listen to. There really is nothing like the soothing sound of the rain and thunder outside mixing with the words of the book. I can watch the storm outside or close my eyes and pay attention solely to the sounds around me. Whatever I do, I know that I am going to be relaxed and having some much needed time to myself. I let myself get busy way to often and just taking that time to myself during the storm is essential to staying calm and focused on what matters most in life.

So, I have begun to look forward to those rainy days when all that I have to do is stay inside and listen to a good audiobook. There really is nothing like the simple joy of snuggling into the down blankets and letting someone else do the reading for me.


When were audio books introduced?

Audio books, in other words, books that have been recorded so they can be listened to instead of read go back as far as Thomas Edison when he recorded, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Edison’s vision was for what he called, ‘Phonographic books’, and were intended for blind people. This is the first recorded story/verse and then in 1878, some of Tennyson’s poetry was presented at the Royal Institution in Britain and this began the technology now associated with spoken literature.

From the presentation of Tennyson through the early 1900’s there were no discoveries made that enabled a full story to be recorded. There had been some short spoken words put on cylinders, but they were restricted to 4 minutes each so this would not allow for a novel or story to be applied. The flat platters that followed were able to record about 12 minutes, but still this was not enough time either. When the close-grooved record came out in 1930, this increased the time to 20 minutes which was starting to make it easier to record longer passages.

In 1931 the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) asked for congressional approval to create, ‘Talking Books’. They wanted to give material to those who had been injured during WWI and other visual disabled people. They received the congressional approval and recorded the first ‘Talking Book’ in 1934. Their recordings were of; the Declaration of Independence, the Bible, plays, sonnets and some fiction stories.

Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind) was established in 1948 due to the volume of requests from soldiers who lost their sight in WWII. The GI Bill of Rights was brought about guaranteeing an education to all veterans, but they needed texts to accommodate their disability. Since most of the veterans did not understand Braille, the founder of Learning Ally, Anne T. Macdonald got together the Public Library’s Women’s Auxiliary and together they began turning the New York Public Library attic into a recording studio. By this time phonograph discs were available to hold about 12 minutes of material on each side. These were called, ‘SoundScriber’, and were considered at the time to be state of the art vinyl.

audio bookThis brings us to the ‘audio book’ recordings. What is known as the ‘seed’ for the industries came from, Caedmon Records with their release of a collection of poems by Dylan Thomas and were recorded by Thomas himself. Caedmon used LP records that had been invented in 1948. These records allowed for longer selections at a more affordable price. These early recordings did not include unabridged books, but rather; poems, short works and plays.

From the 1970’s through most of the 1990’s, vinyl record format was the most popular for schools and libraries. Cassette tapes also came into play during this period as well. The market at this point saw recorded material as mainly used for the blind or instructional material. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s when a traveling salesman, Henry Trentman saw the advantage of listening to unabridged recordings while driving long distances. He started the company, Recorded Books and introduced production teams and worked with professional actors.

A turning point for the industry occurred about 1986 when it moved on from the experimental stage. With this change came the creation of; Audio Publishers Association, Book of the Month offering audiobooks to members, History Book Club, Get Rich Club, Scholastic club and many more all offering audiobooks to customers. By the mid 1990’s this industry was seeing 1.5 billion dollars a year in retail sales.

Today with current technology and the creation of the internet there are new audio formats available in portable media players. This has seen a compelling growth of audiobooks. The move from cassette, to CD to now the digital download has over half the sales showing the digital format is preferred.

Audiobooks are a valuable learning tool due to their format. Other tasks can be performed while listening to the material on a portable device such as; driving, exercising, laundry and more. Many people now use these devices to just relax, or help them fall asleep.


FrankensteinFirst published in 1818, “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” is Mary Shelley’s gothic romance which most people agree is the first science-fiction novel to be written by a woman. Due mainly to James Whale’s 1930s horror movie adaptations for Universal starring Boris Karloff as the monster, this is undoubtedly one of the best known but hardly ever read stories in popular culture.

Although the basic plot of Swiss medical student Victor Frankenstein bringing to life a ghastly creature made of parts taken from dead bodies is much the same between the movies and the book, the novel is repetitively bogged down in its epistolary style and is hard to turn into something entertaining without leaving a lot out. For that reason, the version read by Kenneth Branagh (who, in 1994, also starred in and directed his movie version of “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”) is also abridged.

With its philosophical theme of the evils that science and technology may bring along with the good, and its warning against playing God in the medical field, “Frankenstein” is a truly classic tale of a protagonist struggling with guilt and fighting against his own creation which has provided archetypes for many subsequent stories. The main differences between the novel and the movies, however, is that the method of creation is never explained and the tragic creature is not so much evil as it is more of a neglected child who runs amok and seeks revenge without moral restraint.

Mary Shelley's FrankensteinKenneth Branagh’s obviously classical training as an actor allows him to eloquently tell this story with the tenderness which might be lacking in anyone else’s interpretation of such antiquated prose. He keeps the audience’s attention by making all the characters including the creature come across in a sympathetic manner. For those who think that the creature will be nothing but the grunting caricature of the movies, the storytelling reveals that he was originally written as an intelligent but pitiable creature, and the pathos involved in the scenes between Victor and the creature are heartrending at times.

Having a warm and engaging voice, Kenneth Branagh is simply one of the best audiobook narrators. It just so happens that my house kitchen was being worked on while I was going through this audio book and the sound of table saws in the background actually gave the book sort of a spooky feel! He can tell any tale like few others and is especially good with thought provoking period dramas such as this. Although there are still places where the story lags, Kenneth Branagh makes “Frankenstein” as exciting as possible and changes the pitch of his voice to imitate the various characters.

Even though many of the medical elements of “Frankenstein” have become today’s reality, Kenneth Branagh tells the story with a wondrous quality which epitomizes the curiosity which must have been felt at the time Mary Shelley first wrote the story and questions it.

Being an abridged version of “Frankenstein”, some people may be disappointed by the fact that a few of the not very important scenes are left out (even though the audiobook runs for a lot longer than any of the movies). For particularly younger listeners, who have never read “Frankenstein” before, it’s ideal. “Frankenstein” is not a frightening horror story, but it is a sad one with a lot to think about ethically.


Everyone has heard of “Dracula” even if they’ve never had the opportunity or inclination to read the famous gothic novel for themselves. Since “Dracula” was written in 1987, there have been literally hundreds of movie and television adaptations, not to mention an even greater number of clones and parodies which utilize the same vampire mythology originally created by Irish author Bram Stoker. If you’ve ever wondered where all the stuff about the undead, crucifixes, garlic, holy water, turning into bats and sleeping in coffins comes from, this is the book.

Dracula by Bram Stoker Taking place mostly in Transylvania and England, “Dracula” is the adventurous horror story which introduced the world to the titular vampire Count Dracula, his attempts to find new blood and spread his evil curse, and of course, the battle between the vampires and the small group of middle-class protagonists led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Although there are plenty of scares along the way, the amount of research which went into the composition is revealed through detailed characterization and not-so-subtle social commentary, and consequently, there is a lot more to this tale than just a vampire going round biting people.

Containing blatant themes of sexually transmitted disease and its anti-Christian monster, “Dracula” successfully captured Victorian imaginations with its semi-epistolary style. The format consisting of letters and diary entries may seem dated now, but it lends itself particularly well to a dramatic reading. Bram Stoker realized this himself and adapted the novel into a stage play which was performed at the Lyceum Theater.

Having performed the role on stage, it was a logical choice that the heavily Hungarian-accented Bela Lugosi would be chosen by Universal to play the first official Count Dracula in movies. However, it was British actor Christopher Lee, beginning in Hammer’s 1958 “Horror of Dracula” movie, who went on to reprise the role the greatest number times on screen. Thus, it is an absolute pleasure to have the story read by the actor who is the personification of Count Dracula for so many people.

Christopher Lee has one of the most impressive voices ever, and with his natural gravitas and sense of the dramatic, he is the perfect choice for reading Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Whereas some storytellers might allow a tale of this length to become monotonous and boring, Christopher Lee provides a range of often amusing character voices and accents to keep things exciting. The incidental music also adds a lot to the atmosphere, and mercifully, it is never overpowering or overused.

If you can put the movies slightly out of your mind for a couple of hours and want to hear Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” being told as it should be by a really talented storyteller, Christopher Lee’s dramatized version is amazing.

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