One big lesson we learned early on in the pandemic was how much we missed being together with other humans in those everyday social situations we once took for granted.
We are social animals, after all, and our main happiness in life comes from being together, sharing experiences with others.
Gone were Monday morning chats around the water cooler at the office, big family dinners, weddings and funerals, concerts and basketball games. Even daydreaming over a cup of coffee at the corner diner – alone, sure, but in the comforting gathering of others doing the same thing -- seemed like a lost luxury.
The only experience we all had in common was Covid, and griping about that got old, real fast.
What’s left? TV was mind-killing, Zoom a headache, surfing the radio dial was either boring or maddening. Smart phones and social media – tech tools meant to connect us -- had already developed bad habit of keeping people farther apart from each other in real life.
People turned to taking online classes. It was nourishment for the mind and offered a sense of community. Listening to podcasts in real time (as opposed to offline) also brought some of us together over a common interest like sports or humor.
Many lucky digital wanderers, however, found solace at AudioBookRadio.net, listening to a rich selection poetry, drama, author chats, and short story readings via daily broadcasts from London to literature lovers worldwide in real time.
The free indie radio station is the brainchild of actress, music producer, and bibliophile Ghizela Rowe and has been presenting literary programming, 24/7, since 2014.
The program lineup changes daily and features classic poetry and stories read aloud by voice actors, and new and vintage radio plays, woven together with one-on-one, conversations with writers, artists, thought leaders, and social activists selected from other leading alternative radio stations in the UK and US.
“I think we provide an audio experience rather like music radio," Rowe told Publishers Weekly in 2019, "where it's on in the background while doing emails, or checking Instagram, cooking, shopping. You might stop to listen more intently now and again, but like radio, it just keeps playing in the background.”
The playlist at Audio Book Radio is heavy on poetry, both popular modern pieces and classics, focusing on the rarely read -- or heard -- works of neglected women poets back to the Victorian era. A sister company, Deadtree Publishing, offers a vast collection of similar content available for purchase in ebook and audiobook editions.
The Telegraph has listed AudioBookRadio.net as one of the best internet radio stations out there. Critic Pete Naughton noted, “I approached this spoken-word radio station with a sense of trepidation. But, in a pleasing turn up for the books, it contains a rich and often brilliantly read selection of material – from Annie Proulx short stories to full Shakespeare plays and poems by Dylan Thomas and Oscar Wilde.”
Where else can you wake up (or go to work, or drift off to sleep) to the poetry of Katherine Mansfield, a conversation with novelist Margaret Atwood, or a story by Sherlock Holmes, and know that thousands of other listeners around the globe are relishing those audible delights right along with you?
Photos (from top): "Romeo & Juliet," Tulane Public Relations, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; author Naomi Klein (Kourosh Keshiri); "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'" Alma Classics, 2016; author and poet Radclyffe Hall.