Growing up is a strange experience, mainly because we assume more or less arbitrarily that certain things we enjoyed as kids must be given up once we hit adulthood. Cookies for breakfast are awesome, yet at some point, we decide we must eat grapefruit and hate life. Reading out loud was also awesome when we were kids, right? But now that we’re all “grown up,” it’s something only crazy people on the subway do.
No more! Whatever mood you’re in today, go home and read aloud from a favorite book. It will give you a whole new appreciation for the language and wordplay the greatest authors in history have created for you. Not sure what book matches your mood? Here are a few suggestions for the ideal books to read aloud.
Mood: Longing for magic
Book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
One of the worst things about growing up is admitting you will never open your closet door and find a portal to a magical world where you’re somehow elected King or Queen without any sort of due process, unless the whims of an overlarge lion count as due process. Which they do not. Still, sometimes you come home from working at the bean counting factory and you’re sad, and reading Lewis’ charming, utterly sincere prose about Narnia is just what the doctor ordered. Well, that and a stiff cocktail, which makes the magic that much more believable.
Book: A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
Sometimes you feel like you’re the only sane person in the world, which you realize probably means you’re the insane one, and you go through the rest of your day with a shell-shocked expression on your face, mind blown. Settling down with the Baudelaire children and the series of literally unfortunate events that happen to them is soothing to the soul, because it takes the insanity of the world and makes it entertaining. Reading these books aloud will also make you feel much cleverer than you actually are.
Book: Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t still dream of being a pirate, and Stevenson’s classic adventure story remains a thrilling shout out to your greatest imaginary childhood adventures while also being a complex, entertaining read for adult-sized brains. Pro tip: combine Treasure Island with Talk Like a Pirate Day and you. Are. Golden.
Book: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Another book that somehow gets lost after childhood is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which is a shame, as it’s a clever one, packed with wordplay, hilarity, and, yes, adventure. It hasn’t aged well in some aspects, true, but if you’re looking to remind yourself life is worth living and you never know what’s going to happen next, reading Twain’s peerless prose out loud is a great way to transport yourself to a simpler time that wasn’t in any way simple.
Mood: Missing Harper Lee
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Storytelling in the modern age sometimes seems like it’s all about twists and sudden revelations that change everything. Harper Lee’s recent passing reminds us that sometimes a good story is more about clear, beautiful language, a strong voice, and characters you come to care for—and To Kill a Mockingbird offers those simple pleasures and plenty more. Reading Scout’s words out loud really brings home the simple elegance of Lee’s writing.
Mood: Coupled up and loving it
Book: As You Like It, by William Shakespeare
Have a partner you want to share the read-aloud experience with? Aces. There’s simply nothing better than Shakespeare for couples to share reading duties (just ask Marianne Dashwood). As You Like It is hilarious fun and contains some of the Bard’s greatest lines and speeches—including “All the world’s a stage…” Assign each other various roles and dig into some of the richest language in the history of English.
Book: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Part of the fun of reading out loud is making up voices and mannerisms for different characters—in other words, acting. Safely ensconced in your private domain, why not let your physical creativity fly? Tartt has been writing at an elevated level for years, but what gets lost in her Pulitzer Prize press clippings is the sharpness of her characters—there’s nothing more enjoyable than coming up with a voice for Boris.
Mood: Existentially tormented
Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Feeling small? Feeling like there’s no purpose to the endless drudgery? Been recently informed your house is going to be torn down to make way for a new highway on-ramp? Douglas Adams understood, and the magic of reading his humorous science fiction classic is how he makes that pointlessness and drudgery the point, yet simultaneously hilarious. Your life may be pointless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a laugh about it, and moments like a new math based on the calculation of shared restaurant bills are a pure joy to read out loud.
Mood: Single and hating it
Book: Bridget Jones’ Diary, by Helen Fielding
Being alone when you’d rather be part of a couple is painful, no matter your sex or your age, but people sometimes forget the reason the Bridget Jones novels do so well is because of the emotions behind then and the sharp writing. Fielding created a true character with a distinct voice, and be you male or female, her words are a joy to read aloud—and a comfort, even when you’re also eating cake and drinking wine and are pretty sure neither is helping.
Book: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
Let’s stipulate: Hunter S. Thompson was a maniac. He was also a writer with a rare and muscular love of language, a writer who conveyed the sheer joy of storytelling even when that story was slightly disturbing. From the initial line, “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold,” to the demented ending, there’s a delirious joy to reading Thompson’s prose. Extra credit for doing so with a cigarette holder clutched between your teeth.