Books

Coronavirus lockdown: the 14 best free audiobooks on Audible

Lockdown life getting you down? Try listening to one of these brilliant audiobooks… 

The UK is in coronavirus lockdown – and there’s no denying that staying indoors is absolutely the best thing we can be doing right now. Not only are we easing the strain on our NHS, but we’re protecting those who are more vulnerable than us and (hopefully) flattening the Covid-19 curve.

Still, though… it’s boring, isn’t it? We can’t mindlessly chomp through snacks, because panic-buying has led to us rationing everything in our cupboards, and our health anxiety makes it difficult to concentrate on a book or film long enough to get through it.

Thankfully, Audible has the answer. Free audiobook, anyone?

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That’s right: Audible has made hundreds of its titles free to help us while away the hours in coronavirus lockdown.

On its new Discover page, Audible lists a whole host of gems to add to your reading list. There’s a focus on titles for young kids and teens – in a statement on its website the company said that they’ll be available for as long as schools are closed – but there are also tons of adult-friendly titles, too.

“[We recognise] that people are at home, in many cases with children home from school, and that stories have the power to entertain, teach and to keep minds active, alert, and engaged,” says Audible.

Here’s just a few of our favourites…

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

    “Out on the wiley, windy moors, we’d roll and fall in green…”

    So sang Kate Bush in her hit song Wuthering Heights, but have you ever actually read the classic novel it’s based on? Now’s your chance, as Audible’s version – narrated by Michael Kitchen – is now free for download. Of course, if you have read it before, we fully recommend doing so again: when you’re trapped indoors, there’s nothing like a torrid love affair in a wild landscape to offer up a little escapism.

  • Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare

    Leo as Baz Lurhmann's Romeo is Emerald's greatest love
    Leo as Baz Lurhmann's Romeo is Emerald's greatest love

    We all know the story by heart: Romeo (a Montague) and Juliet (a Capulet) fall in love, despite the fact their houses are locked in a bitter feud, and are at once swept up in a series of violent events and cruel twists of fortune. But have you also noticed that… well, that this Shakespearean tragedy is also very much suited to the coronavirus lockdown? Romeo professing his love to Juliet from the gardens below her balcony feels ever so 2020.

    In this Audible production, Romeo is played by Joseph Fiennes, Juliet by Maria Miles. And trust us when we say that both are absolutely splendid.

  • My Ántonia by Willa Cather

    Widely recognised as Willa Cather’s finest book and one of the outstanding novels of American literature, My Antonia details of the life of early American pioneers in Nebraska. And, through the free-spirited Antonia, we are offered an escape from UK lockdown into Big Sky Country, too.

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    The Secret Garden
    The Secret Garden

    In this classic tale for all ages, a spoiled young girl finds herself transformed when she goes to live with her reclusive uncle in Misselthwaite Manor. As she comes into her own, Mary explores the grounds around the house and finds a door all covered in ivy and brambles. Behind it lies a secret garden, neglected and hidden for years and, just like that, Mary takes it upon herself to restore the garden in secret. Slowly but surely, the magic of the outdoors winds its spell upon her and the entire household, setting in motion a chain of wonders Mary never could have predicted.

  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that…”

    Put away the DVD and listen to Jane Austen’s original text, ASAP.

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen

    Portrait of Jane Austen

    If you’re going to read Pride & Prejudice, then you ought to try downloading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, too. The celebrated author’s final published novel before her death at the age of 41, many believe that Persuasion tells the story of the author’s own lost love. It speaks of love lost, trusts broken, promises unkept, as our 27-year-old heroine tries to make amends and regain the affections of her sailor lover.

  • Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne

    Winnie The Pooh illustration

    It’s a children’s book, sure, but we know you’re all fans of Winnie-the-Pooh. So what better time to leave the real world behind you and visit our favourite bear and his pals, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore, Kanga, and Little Roo, deep in The Hundred Acre Wood? Peter Dennis narrates.

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

    Read by Rachel McAdams, this classic coming-of-age story is all about Anne Shirley, a brave outsider who, against all odds, fights for love and acceptance and her place in the world.

  • Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    Alice in Wonderland original film still

    Scarlett Johansson lends her voice to this timeless tale of a curious little girl who tumbled down the rabbit-hole and into Wonderland.

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

    Outcast Jane’s courage is tested when she arrives at Thornfield Hall to care for the brooding, proud Edward Rochester’s ward Adèle, only to uncover a terrifying secret in the attic. Somehow, this story is even better when narrated by Thandie Newton.

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    A tale of betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and redemption, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a true classic. 

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Somehow simultaneously a Gothic thriller, passionate romance, and cautionary tale about the dangers of science, everyone knows the story of Frankenstein by heart. But let Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens read it to you anyway, for old times sake.

  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

    les mis

    Set in the Parisian underworld and plotted like a detective story, Les Miserables (upon which the award-winning musical was based) follows Jean Valjean, originally an honest peasant, who has been imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving family. Sounds pretty apt for these panic-buying days, eh?

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming, and media: has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future? Let Michael York help you figure it out as he brings this timeless sci-fi tale to life once again.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    This is one of those books everyone pretends they’ve read, but absolutely haven’t (unless, y’know, they’d done an English Literature course). Put that to rights with Simon Vance’s narration of Dorian Gray’s story, and find out what happens to that handsome and narcissistic young man when he makes an ill-considered Faustian wish.

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