The secret is out — you love reading aloud, and you love being read to. I knew it! And I am delighted. Last month I wrote about books that I thought would be great to read out loud. But you came up with a much better list. Let’s get to it:
It took me less than a millisecond to frame a response: “Babbitt,” by Sinclair Lewis. Not only is this the pre-eminent novel meant to be read out loud, it is also the one most delightful to hear. It’s boisterous, not reflective at all, despite the deep meaning, and needs voice, especially the bumptious voice of a Booster. -- Thomas Henry, North Mankato
I spent two decades reading out loud to my husband from the early 1980s until his death in 1998. Our favorite author was Charles Dickens. We thought “Bleak House” was Dickens’ masterpiece and assigned it in a college course we team-taught. We voted “Pickwick Papers” his most overrated book and stopped halfway through. We named “Martin Chuzzlewit” as his most underappreciated. -- Kathryn Christenson, southern Minnesota
“Out Stealing Horses,” by Per Petterson. Very beautiful, spare and understated; very Scandinavian. Loaded with meaning, but the reader and listener have to do some mental work.-- Beverly Anderson, Minneapolis
My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Aronson in Brooklyn Park, read to us every afternoon. The book that has stuck with me all these years is “Doctor Dolittle,” by Hugh Lofting. For grown-ups: Richard Paul Evans’ books — any or all of them — are perfect for reading aloud. William Kent Krueger, Erik Larson, Fannie Flagg, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Hiding Place,” “A Man Called Ove.” I’ve read excerpts of all of the above out loud to whomever might be within hearing distance, and never heard, “Please stop.” -- Elaine Morris, Osseo
“A Walk in the Woods,” by Bill Bryson. “Safe From the Sea,” “The Lighthouse Road,” “Wintering,” all by Peter Geye. “Giants in the Earth” by Ole Rolvaag. (This must be read in the summer. The wife loses her sanity when shut in during the winter in a sod house.) I had a wonderful fourth-grade teacher named Mrs. Anne Pagnucco. She taught hundreds and hundreds of children the love of reading and opened our horizons immeasurably. What a legacy. -- Sue LaTendresse, Minneapolis
I thoroughly enjoyed reading aloud “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” by Beverly Cleary, “How to Eat Fried Worms,” by Thomas Rockwell and “Because of Winn-Dixie,” by Kate DiCamillo. Even though these are junior fiction, they are excellent read-alouds for adults as well. Any guy will definitely enjoy the yuckiness of eating worms. Adult read-alouds are “Odd Thomas” by Dean R. Koontz, “Back of Beyond” by C.J. Box. “Odd Thomas” is a ghost story, although you don’t find that out until much later. “Back of Beyond” is a mystery and adventure of a weeklong trail ride in Yellowstone. -- Kathy Mentjes, LeCenter, Minn.
My vote for a good book to read aloud would be “Driftless,” by David Rhodes. Beautiful imagery and a great story! -- P.J. Pearson, Alexandria, Minn.
“How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn and “A Death in the Family” by James Agee. Although both are prose, each is written in a style that is almost like poetry. The use of language is exceptionally beautiful and would certainly lend itself to being read aloud.-- Virginia Schuster, Minneapolis
My husband and I have been sharing this pleasure since we were first married 33 years ago. We started with Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” It doesn’t get better than that. I would also recommend Sarah Vowell’s “The Wordy Shipmates.” Because we had listened to Vowell read “Assassination Vacation” on tape, we were familiar with her delightful, distinctly nasal intonation, and sometimes brought it into our own reading. We’re currently really enjoying short stories by Sholem Aleichem. They are delicious — sometimes hilarious, usually poignant. We have managed to skip the very saddest ones. -- Nina Samuels, Falcon Heights
I’m the “designated reader” on road trips. Years ago, headed for Michigan, I was reading “Charlotte’s Web,” and got to the part where Charlotte died just as we neared O’Hare. My spouse (the driver), captivated by the story (she’d never read it), weeping copiously, wouldn’t let me quit reading. Later, on other trips, we became enthralled with Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series, especially those involving the witches, and the Tiffany Aching books. These stories are hilarious, and loaded with literary references. -- Gwen Goldsmith, Minneapolis
George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo” absolutely should be read aloud. Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, too, if you’d like to play with a Southern accent. I’ve read E.B. White’s essays aloud to my fiancée. His words are precise and lyrical, he makes us laugh, and I’ve always admired just how fussy he must have been about his words. I return to Leif Enger’s “Peace Like a River” again and again. Strong images, tremendous empathy, well-formed characters, and just a bit of magic. I wish he’d write another book. -- Brendan Kennealy, Bloomington
“The Man in the Ceiling” by Jules Feiffer, and “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Ray Bradbury’s short stories are good to read aloud, and were probably one of the foundations for “The Twilight Zone.” An excellent series to read is Edith Pargeter’s “The Heaven Tree Trilogy,” about a medieval sculptor and his life experiences.-- Roxi Julian, Eagan
Minnesota author Catherine Friend’s entertaining “Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn” (very funny). “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline (very touching historical novel). “LaRose” by Louise Erdrich (amazing story; good pace). And “The Summer of the Bear” by Bella Pollen — intriguing, mystical and touching about family connections and the love that keeps us together. -- Carol-Ann Bloom, Apple Valley
A few years ago, I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” to our daughters, who were about 8 and 11 at the time. They loved that the story was told through Scout’s perspective. The scenes where Jem loses his pants on the fence and Scout’s entrance as the ham during the play had them rolling with laughter. To this day, they quote their favorite lines. The more challenging topics in the book gave us an entry point for conversations. I treasure the memory of being cozied up with them on the couch. -- Diane Mancini, St. Paul
We were in our early 50s when we married. My husband couldn’t recall being read to as a child, and he didn’t know E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web.” I read that book to him, aloud, chapter by chapter before we went to sleep at night. When Charlotte the spider died, my husband wept. I knew I had married the right guy. -- Lucia Wilkes Smith, Minneapolis
I read to my children up through their high school graduations, but it never occurred to me to see if my husband would enjoy it. So I will see what he says. Most of my suggestions are the classics: “Winnie-the-Pooh,” The “Little House” series, anything by E.B. White. Grown-up books that may be interesting might include titles by Tana French or Lisa Genova.-- Ronalee Haugen, Champlin
For the past two years, we’ve been reading aloud to one another at home nearly every evening for a half-hour to an hour before dinner. Presently, we’re reading P.F. Kluge’s “Biggest Elvis” — wonderfully quirky! Some additional favorites: “The Jesus Cow” (Michael Perry), “Last Night at the Lobster” (Stewart O’Nan), “Telling the Bees” (Peggy Hesketh), “Sous Chef” (Michael Gibney). -- Dan and Sandy Thimgan, Battle Lake, Minn.
Though certainly not new, my go-to book when asked for suggestions is “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr. I think it would be tremendous read aloud! Oh, how my family loves books! -- Betsy Hovland, Bloomington
Some of my fondest childhood memories involve sitting with my mother on the couch, drinking Red Rose tea and listening to her read the “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” books. Way beyond the time that my own children could read to themselves, I read aloud to them the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy plus “The Hobbit.” My kids were 15, 10 and 8, and we were all captivated. As was their 40-year-old dad. -- Susan Waananen, Maple Grove