books · Poetry · writing

Authors Reading Their Own Writing

There is something remarkable about hearing authors read their own works aloud. Often they emphasize words that are unexpected, or they add extra shades of meaning to the phrases. With all of today’s modern connectivity, it is easy to hear authors read their works even if the listener can’t afford to travel to a book reading or conference.

With that in mind, I’m sharing a few of the readings that I find interesting. These are organized in no particular way and include poems, short stories, and excerpts from Nobel Prize acceptance speeches.

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Ray Bradbury reading his poem “If Only We Had Been Taller”

This reading was done at Caltech in 1971 on the night before Mariner 9 went into orbit around Mars. Other people at this event included Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, and Walter Sullivan.

Ernest Hemingway reading Hemingway and William Faulkner reading Faulkner

At the website Open Culture, Josh Jones has curated several Spotify playlists of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner reading their respective works. The recordings were originally released in 1952 by Caedmon Records as vinyl albums. I’ll admit that I still think of readings and audio books as fairly new creations despite the long history of radio plays that preceded them, so these playlists were a lovely surprise.

Sylvia Plath Reading Her Poetry

Caedmon also released a recording of Sylvia Plath reading her poetry. Side one of the album is linked above, and you can find side two here.

Flannery O’Connor Reading “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

O’Connor originally performed this reading of her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” in 1959 at Vanderbilt University.

The David Foster Wallace Audio Project

The David Foster Wallace Audio Project is a digital archive of Foster Wallace’s readings and interviews. Readings include “Consider the Lobster” and “The View from Mrs. Thompson’s”.

Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape

The online Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape Collection from the US Library of Congress is a wonderful collection of readings from Latin American authors. Some of the readings I’ve enjoyed from it include Jorge Luis Borges reading his poetry, Gabriel Garcia Márquez reading his own work, Gabriela Mistral reading her poetry.


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The above readings are not, of course, the only examples of writers reading their own works, but they are ones that I have found particularly fascinating. If you know of other readings that are floating in the digital sea, please share them. I’d certainly like to hear more.

31 thoughts on “Authors Reading Their Own Writing

  1. Kristen, this is a terrific post! As a writer, thinking about how you read those words, and also as a reader-aloud, thinking about how you read those words makes a tremendous difference. It’s subtle yet very powerful. The voice inflections or emphasis on certain parts or words…well, it’s how you want the words and story to come across. When I read-aloud “Charlotte’s Web”, I often think about E.B. White, and how he would read those same words. Really. I have no doubt that Laura Ingalls Wilder would approve of my reading-aloud. Thank you for this post. Sylvia Path and Ray Bradbury!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The way that people speak (or read aloud in this case) always surprises me. I have such a solid mental impression of what they sound like that it doesn’t occur to me that they could speak differently until I hear them. That was definitely the case for a few of these recordings.

      Liked by 1 person

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