Reading by Ear: Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert
read by Simon Vance and cast



The library at my high school didn’t have that much of a selection when it came to fiction—just three waist-high aisles. (This was not, as I briefly entertained, to cut down on canoodling; there were plenty of ceiling high shelves over on the nonfiction side.) But it was the only library I had constant access to until I was about sixteen, due to a family vendetta against the public library over a fine. (Not mine, obviously, but Madame McBride never forgets.) That was perfectly alright, since I wasn’t really reading much beyond occasionally inhaling a Jodi Picoult novel in a day, whatever was assigned for the school’s book club, and the occasional Heroes fanfic.

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Reading by Ear: Stuart Little

Stuart Little by E. B. White
read by Julie Harris



Honestly, I do try to vary my audiobooks, but, since I try to only revisit books I read before I was eighteen, I’m starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel after five years of book blogging. It is a truth I do not like to acknowledge that I was not actually much of a reader as a kiddo, although I staunchly identified myself as such. Given the political nonfiction that overwhelmed Fort McBride’s libraries, the bulk of my childhood reading actually came from school.

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Reading by Ear: Matilda

Matilda by Roald Dahl
read by Joely Richardson


Roald Dahl was one of the first authors I was aware of. He was not passed down to me by my Anglophile mother, but stumbled across in school at practically every turn. In third grade, there was a copy of The Twits in the classroom, which I promptly stole. (Before puberty, I had an extraordinarily loose grasp on ethics and morality. After puberty, I was anxious and angry all the time. I know which child self I’m teaming up with should the need and time travel arise, although Lord save me from those damned bangs.) In middle school, there was a copy of Roald Dahl’s Boy in one of my classes that I read over and over again, soothed by the format and just how British it all was.

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Reading by Ear: Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
read by Cori Samuel


Recently, the leadership in my ladies only sf book club opened up. Naturally, because attempting to navigate adult life, working two gigs, and garner funding for Operation New York isn’t enough of a challenge, I decided to take on the responsibility. To be fair, it’s a lovely gig—running discussion, organizing our monthly meetings, and thinking about fun field trips for a pack of literary-minded lady nerds. (Oh my goodness, we should totally all go see Her before it leaves theaters! Good idea, me!) To mark a new era of our book club, I decided that we needed to start at the beginning, when the eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley created science fiction, to significantly better results than her protagonist.

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Reading by Ear: The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
read by Paul Adams, Mike Pelton, Richard Kilmer, and James K. White


The dawn of the new millennium found my preteen self stunned by our fannish destiny, revealed in a screening of The Lord of the Rings. I’d been a speculative fiction fan since I was old enough to watch my brother play Warcraft II (“Where are all the female units?” I asked myself, squatting on a medicine ball), but being almost entirely cut off from television meant that I’d never seen the kind of things that I was into. Seeing speculative fiction on the big screen felt like validation, despite my total lack of knowledge about the genre, so I was a sucker for any speculative fiction film that came my way. (This is how the McBrides went to go see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without anyone knowing who Alan Moore was.)

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Reading by Ear: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
read by the author


Readers, I’ve messed up. As I stated in the first installment of this feature, I only listen to audiobooks of books that I’ve read before. After shelving the umpteenth copy of the very lovely new editions of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet, I decided it was time to return to A Wrinkle in Time. I patiently waited for it to come in at the library. When I started listening, the familiar opening scene sprawled out before me…

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Reading by Ear: The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
read by Ron Rifkin


I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating, since it was such a significant moment in my development as a reader.

I read The Giver for the first time in middle school, when I was roughly around the same age as Jonas is when we begin the novel. I was already reading adult novels (we didn’t have a fancy thriving young adult industry when I was a kiddo, sonny jim!)at that age, so it wasn’t a particular challenge. What did challenge me was the ending. Something was clearly off about the strange, dreamy ending, but there wasn’t enough information for me to determine what happened. The author chose not to tell me what happened. My teacher couldn’t tell me what happened with any certainty.

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Reading by Ear: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
read by Betty Harris


During the mid-aughts, my family spent two weeks in Seattle visiting my brother. (I’m not the first McBride who has gone west before returning east in glory. I am not even the second.) A little ways into the trip, my parents asked me if there was anything I wanted to do while we were there. Stunned by this rare opportunity to steer our course, I nevertheless had a ready answer: the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.

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Reading by Ear: Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
read by Richard Poe


I read in fits and snatches of time; ten minutes at breakfast here, twenty minutes at the doctor here, a glorious half-hour before bed. So whenever I have huge swaths of time to plunge into a book, it sticks with me. The Da Vinci Code was one such experience, back in the Wombat Years. I must have been twelve or thirteen, slowly wobbling towards bibliophilia. My mother had either borrowed from or been given the book by a friend. It had been left out with the rest of the books that swamped the house, so I nicked it and sequestered myself in my absent brother’s room during a rainstorm. I remember that reading very fondly. It was one of the first times I grabbed a great fistful of time for myself with a purpose.

Pity I didn’t spend it on a better book.

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Reading by Ear: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
read by Eden Riegel


As y’all know, I am a very visual person—that’s why this is a reread feature, not a first read feature. As a kid, cover art could make or break a book for me. What was depicted on the cover was not so much an artist’s interpretation of the work but the law as set down by the powers that be. (I also thought television shows happened when people spontaneously wandered in front of cameras. That might sound adorable, but I also didn’t understand that television shows came on weekly until I was fifteen. Knowledge is power, people.) Obviously, given my utter delight with awful book covers these days, I’ve grown out of this. But I encountered Ella Enchanted while laboring under these beliefs, which means that its original cover is seared into my brain like screen burn-in to such a degree that any other covers make my skin crawl. (I won’t talk about the movie. Until I see it again!)

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