I love a good audiobook and so I thought I would share a few of my favourites with readers of my blog!
When I was studying history at university I worked part to full-time and so I was always playing catch up with my reading for modules. Sometimes I’d have to drive a couple of hours to commute to work, so thinking outside the box, I further indulged in my enjoyment of audiobooks and between borrowing from the library and ordering from my Audible account I ‘read’ many books to add to my historical knowledge and bibliographies.
Some would complement my course reading list and others would just keep me in the historical zone.
My seminar reading one week was Dangerous Liaisons and so I downloaded an abridged version so I could at least understand what the heck the lecturer was going on about! Another time my husband kindly gifted me an abridged version of Moll Flanders audiobook CDs just in time for my extended essay on prostitutes in the eighteenth century.
Top tip for audiobook rookies: only buy abridged versions if they are what you want. An abridged version is shortened in length, edited so that you still get the gist of the story but reduced in reading/listening hours. Now that I am not reading from a prescribed list I never choose abridged versions as I want to get my money’s worth and I’d hate to miss an important part of the narrative. And in my view, seeing as I do a LOT of driving, the longer the book is, the better!
After my course ended, I continued to listen to audiobooks with an historical theme, such as The Strangest Family (Janice Hadlow) and They all Love Jack (Bruce Robinson). My enjoyment in listening to audiobooks was not diminished when I finished university and I continued to listen to history books for pleasure.
But as to my favourite audiobooks that I’d recommend to others? It’s a toughie.
It’s hard to choose from the several Alison Weir audiobooks that I have, they are all extremely well researched and offer new insights into medieval and Tudor history. I’ve long been a fan of the in-depth analysis of Alison Weir and other authors of her genre, such as Antonia Fraser. I’ve chosen the following book having first listened to it six years ago and after recently listening to it again.
Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess – Alison Weir
It’s a fascinating read. Katherine Swynford is an ancestor of the British royal family through the Beaufort lineage. Katherine was the third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who was the third son of Edward III. Their four children were born illegitimate while he was married to his second wife. It is probable that they were named Beaufort as John of Gaunt had held the Lordship of Beaufort in Champagne. They were legitimised by Pope Boniface IX in the 1390s.
Margaret Beaufort, Katherine and John’s great-granddaughter was the mother of Henry VII. This line can also claim ancestry of five American presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, F D Roosevelt and G W Bush.
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime Fiction – Judith Flanders
This book had specific chapters that related to my undergraduate dissertation subject. I had bought a hardback copy and then found it beneficial to listen on audiobook. It’s a fascinating study on how the Victorians consumed criminality and the criminals that scandalised and entertained the people of the nineteenth century.
This book delighted me as it profiled the Eliza Fenning case, a case about which I had opted to write a short case study, demonstrating the differences between working-class and middle-class defendants.
Charlotte and Leopold: The True Story of the Original People’s Princess – James Chambers
The long eighteenth century fast became my favourite historical era while at university and so I greatly enjoyed this biography of Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent, later George IV. Later it came in very handy when I studied the man-midwife in the eighteenth century, as it discusses the protracted labour and death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth. Indeed, the book opens with the death by suicide of Sir Richard Croft, Charlotte’s man-midwife.
It is written in a more chatty informal style to Weir’s book, which although aimed at a public history audience, is written in a style verging on the academic, this book is thoroughly public history and is very easy to listen to. Furthermore, the narrator of Charlotte and Leopold is very engaging and her narration sounds like she is having a jolly good gossip! The tale romps along detailing the dramas of Charlotte’s dysfunctional parents, Caroline of Brunswick, then the Princess of Wales and George, Prince of Wales, whose conflicts mar their relationship with Charlotte, who was trapped between them lisping away her discontent. And of course, it all ends tragically as you can find out in my post here.
What do you think of my recommendations? Do you have any favourite history books that you can recommend to me?