The NAB Blog

Christmas Ideas…

By Nicolas Soames

1 December 2008

Audiobooks make very good Christmas presents. Often, it is the kind of present that your mother, father, son, daughter… etc., …didn’t know they wanted. And it certainly makes a difference to those mountain of books that come at this time of year, and that pile up ‘waiting for when I can get round to it.’ With audiobooks, of course, they can be listened to on the move, in the car, on an MP3 player, in the gym, or on a walk, or at home in bed when one is too tired to read… in other words, there are plenty of opportunities.

So, here are some Christmas ideas:


1. Little Dorrit – unabridged or abridged by Charles Dickens
You saw/missed the TV drama – now listen to the original words read by Anton Lesser.

2. Villette – unabridged or abridged by Charlotte Brontë
Why should Jane Eyre dominate the CB landscape?

3. The Lives of the Artists – abridged by Giorgio Vasari
To inspire a visit to Florence and Rome and Italy generally.

4. Under Milk Wood – unabridged by Dylan Thomas
The greatest radio play ever in the original recording with Richard Burton and the superb cast.

5. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
A new recording of an always challenging play.

6. The Great Poets – William Wordsworth
A good selection of the best-known poems remind us of his quiet meaning.


1. Nostromo – unabridged or abridged by Joseph Conrad
Conrad’s masterpiece about a silver mine in South America, read persuasively by Nigel Anthony.

2. Under Milk Wood – unabridged by Dylan Thomas
The greatest radio play ever in the original recording with Richard Burton and the superb cast. For anyone!

3. The Essential Edgar Allan Poe – selections
A compelling selection – Detective (Dupin) Horror (The Pit and the Pendulum) Poems (including The Raven) and a fascinating biography… to prepare for Poe’s 200th anniversary in 2009.

4. Our Mutual Friend – unabridged or abridgedby Charles Dickens
David Timson’s energetic reading of Dickens’ condemnation of legal tangles.

5. The Wealth of Nations – abridged by Adam Smith
The classic look at world economics read by Sean Barrett.

6. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – new verse translation, Anon
Jasper Britton reads this important stepping stone in English literature, an accessible medieval Arthurian poem that has drama, vivid imagery, finely-drawn characters and some delicate pastoral passages.


1. The Lost World – unabridged by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The classic precursor of Jurassic Park has lost not one whit of its excitement and humour over the years, especially in the hands of Glen McCready.

2. Ivanhoe – abridged by Sir Walter Scott
One of the great knight in armour tales.

3. Stories from Shakespeare – The Plantagenets retold by David Timson
A very useful overview of the history plays from Richard II to Richard III (and the Henrys in between!) retold with the key speeches.

4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Volume I – unabridged by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This includes The Speckled Band, one of the best stories. It is read by David Timson who has completed the whole Sherlock Holmes canon, a remarkable feat.

5. Great Scientists and their Discoveries by David Angus
Short, entertaining portraits of eight important figures, from Galileo and Charles Darwin (2009 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth) to Einstein and James Crick.

6. Treasure Island – unabridged or abridged by Robert Louis Stevenson
A classic tale of adventure and pirates brought to life by Jasper Britton.


1. The Rights of Man – abridged by Thomas Paine
A key political work written at a time when the world was changing at the end of the eighteenth century… but still relevant today.

2. The Essential John Milton
A special compilation to mark his quatercentenary, with selections from Paradise Lost; Paradise Regained (unabridged); poetry, essays, and a short but direct biography. The ideal Milton overview.

3. The Good Soldier Švejk – abridged by Jaroslav Hasek
If you don’t know this it will come as a wonderful discovery. One of the great satires of European literature, it tells the delightful story of Švejk, an innocent (or is he?) caught trying to survive as the Austro-Hungarian empire gets embroiled in the first world war. Administrators and officials do not know what has hit them!

4. The Great Poets – Gerald Manley Hopkins read by Jeremy Northam
Many of the best-known works from the hand of the Jesuit poet.

5. The Odyssey – unabridged or abridged by Homer
Anton Lesser tells the story of Odysseus working his way home to Penelope, surviving the Cyclops, the Sirens and many other adventures and temptations.

6. The Third Policeman – unabridged by Flann O’Brien
A tale of murder, unlikely happenings, bicycles, love and fantasy… Irish! Especially in the hands of the incomparable Jim Norton.


1. To the Lighthouse – unabridged or abridged by Virginia Woolf
Juliet Stevenson is incomparable in this breathtaking portrait of a family and a lighthouse.

2. The Woman in White – unabridged of abridged by Wilkie Collins
Suspense and dangerous characters in the hands of a master author and in a strong cast.

3. Bliss, and other stories by Katherine Mansfield
No apologies for choosing another recording by Juliet Stevenson.

4. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – unabridged or abridged by Thomas Hardy
The abridgement is read by Imogen Stubbs, the unabridged novel by Anna Bentinck – both are compelling. And despite the television dramatisation, the original novel remains deeply moving.

5. Pride and Prejudice – unabridged or abridged by Jane Austen
The abridged version is read by Jenny Agutter and the unabridged version by Emilia Fox.

6. The Great Poets – Emily Dickinson read by Teresa Gallagher
A selection of the key works in idiomatic readings.

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