Outside of the Library, there are plenty of sources for audiobooks, but they usually have one thing in common––they cost money. While the Library is your best bet for free audiobooks of more recent titles, for free audiobooks in the public domain (books published before 1923), there's LibriVox. There, a diverse range of popular and unpopular authors are given a voice, from Shakespeare to H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain to Dostoyevsky, and Aphra Behn to Stendhal.
Launched in 2005, Librivox identifies its sole purpose as "to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.” To accomplish this, a slew of volunteers from around the world read texts, the vast majority of which come from Project Gutenberg.
The biggest issue with LibriVox’s audiobooks is the variable quality of the recordings, perhaps because anyone can participate as a reader. Fortunately, you can choose from multiple readers of the most popular titles—just hunt and peck to decide which narrator is best for you.
This is a fairly eclectic list, but here are some of our Librivox favorites:
- The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Brooks Adams. This grandson of John Quincy Adams was raised in a family as deeply entrenched in American politics as a hookworm in a small intestine. An entertaining study of how American politics and society worked before the twentieth century.
- Democracy: An American Novel by Henry Brooks Adams. A similarly-themed novel that explores Ulysses S. Grant-era Washington D.C. Adams knows where the levers are pulled, the buttons pushed, and how to discern motive amidst misdirection.
- The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. A tale of Washington politics seen through the eyes of naive westerners who quickly, and sometimes disastrously, wise up. It’s also a commentary on the sentimentality of the popular novels of the day, but the less said about that, the better.
- The Collected Public Domain Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s prose is beautiful, if eccentric, as he defines the unspeakable by its negative space.
- The Skylark of Space by E.E. “Doc” Smith. This “father of space opera” shows how it’s done with a wild tale of intergalactic space travel and almost gleeful extermination of alien races.
Other useful links: