It is no surprise to anyone around the library that I love to read out loud. They even let me do it in public, twice a month! My wife and I used to read big novels aloud together – All the King’s Men, War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov – and we’ve just started on Stephen King’s Dark Tower books – though these are hardly titles I’d suggest to those working on their Book Bingo cards. Parents or grandparents already reading aloud to children get a freebie with this square, but for others this category may be among the most challenging. A century or more ago, people read aloud regularly, as Verlyn Klinkenborg writes:
…recapturing the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.
For this reason, reading aloud can be a wonderful form of intimacy with a loved one. But what to read? Here’s a great recent blog post with one writer’s suggestions, including Peter S. Beagle’s charming fantasy The Last Unicorn and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. And here are some additional suggestions of my own:
- Scary Stories. Twenty wonderfully creepy tales ranging from Edgar Allan Poe, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and others. Also try the great Ray Bradbury’s collection The October Country, or The Haunted Looking Glass, selected by Edward Gorey.
- Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud, edited by Robert Pinsky. If this treasure trove of wonderful read-alouds seems daunting, try a smaller collection such as Billy Collins’ The Trouble With Poetry, and other poems or Ogden Nash’s Zoo, or if you like your poetry to tell a story, The Wild Party by Joseph March.
- Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, by Etgar Keret. Surreal, bite-sized fables that never fail to startle and surprise. Or try Pastoralia, by George Saunders, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby, by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, or Love in Infant Monkeys, by Lydia Millet.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories, by Truman Capote. Capote wistful whimsy reads wonderfully aloud: when you get to A Christmas Memory, get out your handkerchiefs.
- Tales, by Amiri Baraka. Vivid, impassioned and revolutionary, this re-issue of a landmark 1967 collection pulses with rhythmic life when read aloud.
- Ragnarök: The End of the Gods, by A.S. Byatt. Read an entire novel by a major writer in a single sitting? Sure you can, with this wonderful and absorbing cross of Norse mythology and World War Two. For other great novels to be read in a single evening, try Night Flight by Antoine St Exupéry, Enchanted Night, by Steven Millhauser, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez, and for those who really love a challenge, Bohumil Hrabal’s Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, a novel told in one rambling, run-on sentence!
– Posted by David W.