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When I was in high school, we read a lot of classic literature in our English classes. Usually it wasn't a problem, and I typically enjoyed the books we were assigned. But I remember being told to read Great Expectations in my freshman year and struggling with it enough that I only skimmed the book. It always bothered me a little because I love to read, and I'm not easily scared by old literature. For example, I started reading Shakespeare in the seventh grade and typically have no trouble with it at all.

How can I keep up with all that reading? How can I keep up with all that reading?

But I never gave it too much thought after high school, until my older daughter was assigned Tale of Two Cities for English last year; I knew I'd be in trouble. I have a dickens of a time getting into Charles Dickens' writing. I mean, I have the worst of times pushing through his prose. I picked up a copy of the book and tried desperately to get much further than the famous opening sentence. After several attempts, desperate to read the book so as to assist my daughter with her related assignments, I remembered that there are free audiobooks available online and went in search of one. When I searched iTunes, I discovered that LibriVox has uploaded their various audiobooks as podcasts, typically containing one chapter per episode. I was delighted to find that the woman who volunteered to read this classic Dickens novel was entertaining to listen to, and I worked my way through the massive book completely via podcast. In fact, when my daughter became overwhelmed with other reading, she joined me in listening to the book to finish it. When it came time to write about it and take her open book tests, she used the text to find examples for the answers she already knew from the story.


I was completely hooked. I decided I wanted to "read" more books this way, and searched LibriVox and iTunes for more classics. I started with another book my daughter was reading for English class: My Antonia. I downloaded Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, and more. My driving time has become my book time, and I've been truly enjoying the experience.

My books-as-podcasts, right in the Podcast App on my iPad! My books-as-podcasts, right in the Podcast App on my iPad!

I have discovered a few things about LibriVox. First of all, every book available there is in the public domain. Books under copyright are not available, but the selection of classic literature is pretty epic. Also, there are sometimes multiple copies of the same book; if you don't like the way one person is reading it, try looking for another version of it. Finally, some books are done as a group project. This can sometimes be a bit distracting, such as when I was listening to My Antonia, and about every third chapter was a different person doing the reading.

Overall, though, LibriVox recordings are wonderful! There are thousands of recordings available. Of course, if your favorite book isn't available (or you don't like the way it's been read), you can also volunteer to add to the database. And listening does not require iTunes, either. You can download the files straight from the LibriVox site!

image Thousands of books: from your fingertips to your ears!

This summer, if you know you're going to be busy, why not check out the list of books available on LibriVox and pick out some classics for your listening pleasure? It's a great way to gain a new appreciation of some classic books you may not have experienced since your high school days. And if you're a homeschooler, it's a great way to keep up with your children's book assignments, too.

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Copyright 2015 Christine Johnson.
Images copyright 2015 Christine Johnson. All rights reserved.