While it’s perfectly pleasant to read words on a page or listen to an audiobook narrated by AI online, there’s nothing quite like hearing a book read by the person who wrote it. The author of a work knows their words inside and out and will bring special phrasing and inflections that no one else would ever think of.
Luckily, though writers are known for their shyness, there are plenty of authors out there who have found the courage to give book readings in front of huge crowds and even narrate their own audiobooks. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to attend book events (especially in these turbulent times), and audiobooks can get awfully expensive if you’re running short on cash.
You’ll be glad to learn there are tons of places where you can enjoy book readings online by some of your favorite authors. You can often even access these readings for free. Here are 10 sites where you can find authors reading their own books and stories.
1) Open Culture
Open Culture offers 1,000 free audiobooks that are mostly classic works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Included in this extensive list are readings by writers and poets like T.S. Elliot, David Foster Wallace, John Updike, and Dylan Thomas. It can be tricky looking through the whole list to determine which readings are by the author and which ones aren’t, but using your browser’s “Find” option to search for the phrase “read by author” makes things much easier.
Chris Riddell is best known as the illustrator of children’s books like the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and several works by Neil Gaiman and many other authors. Riddell is also an accomplished author in his own right and you can find readings from his book Guardians of Magic on his Facebook page. He also does lovely readings of various poems by other writers and makes fascinating videos of himself drawing illustrations.
“To The Best Of Our Knowledge” is a nationally-syndicated public radio show that features conversations with people who have big ideas, like novelists, scientists, historians, and artists. If you go to the “As Read By The Author” section of TTBOOK’s website, you’ll find several conversations with exciting sci-fi/fantasy authors like N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor. These shows tend to include at least a few readings from the author’s books, as well as captivating interviews with some of the greatest writers of today.
Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick is a futuristic fantasy about a young girl who survives on her own after the sea has risen and land has started to disappear. It’s a book that is often assigned to 5th and 6th graders in school. When the pandemic hit, Sedgwick posted videos of himself reading the entire novel so that any students who couldn’t afford a copy could still finish the book from home. He also directs teachers to a free set of teaching resources provided by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
Litquake is a Bay Area literary festival that dates back to 1999. During the spring and summer of 2020, Litquake created a virtual series featuring local authors and others who’d had to cancel their book tours. In addition to poetry and flash fiction readings, you’ll find fascinating panels where authors discuss books and the art of fiction writing.
The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd is a light-hearted middle-grade fantasy novel about a boy who realizes that he can grow dragons like plants in his garden. Shepherd is another author who took to YouTube in 2020 to comfort young ones stuck at home and read her entire book chapter by chapter. The reading is full of humor and includes several delightful illustrations.
If you’re a fan of audiobooks, you’ve probably already heard of Audible. The site is full of bestselling audiobooks narrated by their authors, including the historical fiction novel The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel and Becoming by Michelle Obama. These audiobooks aren’t cheap, but you can listen to them both for free if you sign up for the Audible Premium Plus 30-day trial. After the free trial, access costs $14.95 a month.
Author Read-Alouds is a playlist available on The Children’s Book Council YouTube channel. There are several brief but deeply enjoyable readings by young adult and children’s authors like Kiera Cass, B.J. Novak, and Rick Riordan. There’s also a much longer reading of the first chapter of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (you can actually use this playlist to watch Gaiman read the entire book).
Another product of everyone being stuck at home during the pandemic, Literary Hub launched the Virtual Book Channel to archive live-streamed programming through partnerships with indie authors, literary festivals, bookstores, and more. Recent readings include ones by Aimee Bender, Emma Stonex, and Lesley Storm. You can also hear the first-ever recording of James Joyce reading from Ulysses.
Libro.fm gives readers the chance to enjoy authors’ audiobooks while supporting independent bookstores. All you need to do is sign up for an account and select your local bookstore. You can pay for a monthly subscription of $14.99 a month or buy audiobooks “à la carte”. This way, your local bookstore will get a portion of each purchase you make. Some great books read by the author on the site include Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller and Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. This option is more expensive than the others on this list, but buying from Libro.fm will allow you to support both the authors and indie bookstores you love.
Author’s Bio: Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jillian has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
She has done freelance writing as well for sites like Cracked.com and had her Twitter jokes featured on BuzzFeed and funnyordie.com. Jillian has also self-published two novels on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Karger/e/B07B894DNW).
Follow her blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.