On talking books

Adam Nicolson's "Sea Room" with headphones resting on it

Book for illustrative purposes only

There are thousands of talking books out there.  Mostly they cost money, but there are free services available for people registered with a Visual Impairment in the UK.

For me, almost more important than the author, is the reader.   These vary.  My favourite volunteer reader is my 10-year-old granddaughter!  This is clearly a biased choice but also because I like variety, humour and feeling.  I can recommend our current reading about a biker granny!

Some useful resources:

Local libraries in the UK

Most provide  an excellent free service for people with VI and will have a specialist librarian.

The contact in Birmingham, UK is Sue Campbell … very friendly and knowledgeable.

I like the Playaway audio books, which come in the form of a small device the size of an iPod, holding one book. Borrowers provide  their own earphones.  Search in the library catalogue.  There is not a lot of choice at present.


Calibre sell their own player and charge a one-off subscription fee.  There is a good choice of books, some read by volunteers.  The books are delivered by mail.


The RNIB are a good source of audiobooks. You  can buy a DASY player and pay a subscription to their enormous audio library.  Again books are delivered by mail.  They also have arrangements with local libraries for a free service for some people.  I’m not sure how this works.


Audible is owned by Amazon.  Books can be downloaded onto your own device.  It’s worth checking out the different offers available.

Some favourite listens!

  • Boons Luck by Larry McMurty
  • Flanagun’s Run by Tom McNab
  • This Boy by Alan Jonson
  • Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Summer by Edith Wharton

In choosing talking books, I’ve kissed a lot of frogs, so I’ll spare you the whole list.  The point is to choose what you like and not what you think you ought to listen to.  You never do!

Happy listening!

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8 Responses to On talking books

  1. Nordie says:

    I like James Saxon (now dead, unfortunately), who reads the Ngaio Marsh books on Audible.

    Neil Gaiman is also very good reading his own books.

    For fans of Edith Wharton, Librivox have a copy of Age of innocence read by Brenda Dayne (who is wonderful to listen to).

    Heather Ordover is an English Teacher who does weekly podcasts covering classic books, several chapters at a time. This comes in various flavours – “Just the Books” is just the book itself and Craftlit is the same book + some crafty talk. She’s just started Age of Innocence (5/7/2013), but has previously done Dracula, Tale of Two cities, The Moonstone etc.

  2. Nordie says:

    And some of my frogs from Audible include “Shogun” (love the book, hated the reader) and “The travels of Marco Polo” who sounded like he was literally phoning it it, both in audio quality and his attitude

  3. Thanks Nordie. Interesting to have good and bad recommendations. I’m inventing a new category TBLT (To Be Listened To). Think it will be longer than my TBR.

  4. Great post! You have lengthened my reading list, which I’m always happy about!

  5. If you love memoirs and the guy who reads Harry Potter, try The Fry Chronicles about and read by Stephen Fry! I think I am going to add a talking book section to all future blogs and hope comment writers will add more. Love to know what other people are listening to.

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