Spoken Word

<i>Endurance</i> Read by Tim Pigott-Smith | <i>The Flight of the Falcon</i> Read by James Callis
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The Independent Culture

Endurance Read by Tim Pigott-Smith (Orion, 6hrs, £12.99)

Endurance Read by Tim Pigott-Smith (Orion, 6hrs, £12.99)

This is a mesmeric audiobook that stops normal life and makes you positively contrive opportunities to listen to it uninterrupted. Tim Pigott-Smith's laconic but intense delivery is perfectly suited to Alfred Lansing's epic account of Ernest Shackleton's "audacious" trans-Antarctic expedition's astonishing survival. The immediacy of the story is explained by the fact that Lansing not only leafed through the blubber-stained diaries kept by the men; he also interviewed anyone still alive. Published in 1959, his book has sold over 300,000 copies and is still in print. The Endurance was crushed in pack-ice in the Weddell Sea in October 1915. For five months, the 27 men hauled boats across breaking ice-floes until they reached the savage and remote Elephant Island. Shackleton's only option was to leave most of the men there and sail some 700 miles in a 21ft boat across the gale-torn Southern Ocean to South Georgia in order to get help. Shackleton emerges as a brilliant expedition leader, richly deserving the famous tribute to him: "For scientific leadership, give me Scott, for swift and efficient travel Amundsen, but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."

The Flight of the Falcon Read by James Callis (Chivers, 9hrs 50mins, £15.95 by mail order ABC freephone 0800136919)

The Flight of the Falcon is one of Daphne du Maurier's less famous books, but addicts of her thrillers with lots of drivetime in their life will be delighted to see it released unabridged on audio. Set in a Tuscan hill-town once dominated by an aristocratic and perverted family, and still threatened by its descendants, it lacks the macabre brilliance of Jamaica Inn or My Cousin Rachel (also available from Chivers), but is still compelling. Other lesser-known du Mauriers published by Chivers are The King's General and The Scapegoat. The comprehensive coverage of popular middlebrow authors like du Maurier and Neville Shute by companies like Chivers and Isis, and of literary classics by Cover to Cover, is a treasure trove for the rapidly escalating number of audiobook listeners. For although around 100 new titles are published every month, "new" does not always mean "best" in the spoken-word world, and some 16,000 titles lurk in publishers' backlists.

How to find out what's available? Try London's Talking Bookshop (11 Wigmore St, WI, 020 7491 4117 or www.talking books.co.uk) and the Audio Book Collection (0800 136919 or www.audiobookcollection.com).

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