25 January 2019
Michael Sheen, reading from Phillip Pullman's 'La Belle Sauvage' at Penguin Presents 2018

Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms. From telling an anecdote to a friend about what you ate for lunch, your Grandparent sharing tales about the world they grew up in, or listening to an audiobook. It is ingrained in us to tell stories. 

#NationalStorytellingWeek focuses on increasing the awareness or oral storytelling. To join in with these celebrations we're sharing some of our favourite oral readings from writers, poets and actors. Click play and enjoy.

1. Stephen Fry - Heroes

In September, Stephen Fry visited our London studios to record the audiobook edition of his latest book Heroes. In this extract from a Facebook livestream, Stephen introduced the book - his own retelling of classic Greek tales - and gave us an exclusive reading.

2. Linton Kwesi Johnson - Tings

Linton Kwesi Johnson is known and revered as the world's first dub poet. At the Mayor of London’s Windrush 70 celebrations, he performed this poem, written in 1991. In it, Johnson reflects on years of struggle for black rights in the UK, the hard and messy work of activism, and the longing for home and comfort in the midst of impossible circumstances.

3. Imogen Hermes Gowar - The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock

Author Imogen Hermes Gowar's debut The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was called a 'cracking historical novel - with a twinge of the surreal' upon its release last year, and was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. In this video, the author reads a short extract from the book, introducing us to a spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession.

4. Michael Sheen - La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Michael Sheen's reading of Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage was nominated for Audiobook Narrator of the Year at 2017's Audio Production Awards, with Slate.com heralding his performance as 'better than an army of actors'. Reprising his role, Michael read a short extract from the book to an enraptured audience at Penguin Presents 2018.

5. Terrance Hayes - American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country's past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares.

6. Florence Welch - New York Poem For Polly

Florence Welch's Useless Magic is a beautifully illustrated collection of lyrics and never-before-seen poetry and sketches. In this video, Florence gives us a passionate reading of the spellbinding New York Poem for Polly.

7. Jay Bernard - Bras

In this video, Ted Hughes Award-winning poet Jay Bernard performs their poem Bras at Penguin Pride Live in Brighton. In Bras, Jay Bernard plays with the softness of the vocabulary around breasts and lingerie, and the tension of growing up gender-non-conforming with a female body.

8. John Boyne - The Heart's Invisible Furies

In this clip from the Penguin studios, John Boyne reads from his book The Heart's Invisible Furies. This hilarious extract sees Cyril confess his sexuality to the shock of his old catholic priest.

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