Whispering Willows

I have awfully random ideas from time to time. Last October I was grabbed by a particularly odd one. I’d been having a little trouble sleeping and so went searching for solutions. Amongst well-meaning lectures about not drinking caffeine after noon (no, really?!) and advice about room lighting levels were some fascinating YouTube relaxation videos. Here’s an example. I found them more than a little creepy, and not especially restful. But among them were several readings of Edgar Allan Poe. It seemed like such a surreal choice to ‘relax’ to, before sleeping. And the sound quality varied massively, too. ‘Why, I could do better than that,’ I thought.

And thus the stage was set. The idea snuggled into the back of my brain and percolated a while. Eventually what popped out was the urge to record a simple book, perhaps something for children but not so babyish that adults wouldn’t want to listen. I mulled over several before settling on The Wind in the Willows. We have some lovely versions of this in the catalogue already, so I wasn’t ‘cheating’ anyone by producing something that might be of very limited appeal.

LibriVox recordings are sometimes described as “like a friend sitting in an armchair reading to you.” I think that’s a lovely way to convey the warm-hearted amateur approach of many of the recordings. It’s a different ‘feel’ to listening to a professional audiobook or radio broadcast. I speculate that perhaps many listeners haven’t had that experience and are only familiar with being read at — which is why they then take against our recordings so strongly. Anyway, that’s a different topic.

So, I am working on a whispered version of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows. I’m aiming for that ‘torch under the blankets’ reading atmosphere. Although it must be said, some of the chapters, especially ones containing weasels, are probably not as restful as I’d hoped. The vocabulary has sent me to the dictionary for pronunciations more than once! I’ve been round and round angsting about volume, breathing, pacing, mouth noise and so on, often fretting myself into immobility. I most heartily wish I’d chosen a shorter book to begin with. That could have been released much more quickly, gaining a little feedback and either confidence in recording a longer work, or confirmation that this is a rather silly idea and I should just bash on with Dante. As a mid-ground, then, I’m releasing some chapters via ge.tt and if anyone wants to download and listen they are most welcome. Feedback is also appreciated. You won’t be able to listen to this in a car or train, it is far too quiet, and that is by design. I don’t know if I’ll put all the chapters up due to space constraints … but the book will eventually be in the LibriVox catalogue, so a little patience is all that’s needed.

I’d especially like to hear whether anyone really does find this sending them to sleep (I tried listening late at night but only found myself critical of the pace) — and also if this triggers ASMR. I haven’t had that experience (and it’d be rather narcissistic to set it off in myself anyway! 😉 But it seems commonly linked with whispering videos and so I’m rather interested.

Here’s the link for the chapters currently available: though I’ll update this post once the book is complete and publicly available at LibriVox. I really hope you enjoy it!

UPDATE: Download the full book here — http://librivox.org/the-wind-in-the-willows-by-kenneth-grahame-3/ or listen to it online at archive.org.


  • I am so thrilled you are doing The Wind and the Willows! I loved your reading of Love and Freindship so much and have reread it several times.

    I was a terrible insomniac until I discovered Librivox. Although I am a very light sleeper and the slightest noise awakens me, I found myself falling asleep while listening to certain Librivox readings. I have completely cured my life long insomnia by using the Librivox readings below to put me to sleep, although sometimes I wake two or three times during the night and have to use one or more listenings to get back to sleep.

    The only catch is that for me this requires that the reader’s voice be slowed which is easy on the ipod or iphone which gives you a choice of 1/2x (slower), x and 2x (faster) speeds. This is especially important for Philippa who usually reads quite quickly.

    I have to have listened to falling-asleep chapters previously before I can use them at night. The initial listen has me too interested in the book to use it to fall asleep. None of the books below are in any way boring and all are great and interesting reads for the daytime.

    A good falling-asleep reading needs enough detail to keep your mind engaged and not drifting off to any of your concerns that get the mind working. So somewhat intricate and detailed readings work best for me.

    To find these readings, just search the Librivox catelog under Titles.

    My best reading for falling asleep is Cottage Economy, Chapters 2 or 8 read by Philippa. Chapter 2 is on the Brewing of Beer and Chapter 8 is on making hats from straw. Chapter 3 on Baking Bread works too. Avoid Chapter 1 with its too exciting but marvelous rant against tea drinking, but read it during the day! The whole of Cobbett’s book is wonderful and all of it is fascinating. Chaps 2 & 8 are best for falling asleep–at slow speed.

    The last chapters of Philippa’s Life of Cicero vol 2 in which Trollope summarizes Cicero’s books on rhetoric and other subjects are very good for falling asleep. These start after the chapter on Cicero’s death. The last chapter, Scipio’s dream, is very drowsy-making.

    The Watsons, chapters 1 and 3, read by Gesine work wonderfully to put me to sleep. Everyone should listen to this book during the day. It is very short, alas, but a masterpiece and in some ways is the finest of Jane Austen’s novels, although only a fragment. Gesine reads it magnificently.

    The Secret Garden read by Kara Shallenberg (Kay Ray). This is the second Librivox reading listed, not “version 2.” Most of the chapters are good for sleep, except for chapter 1 and some other too-exciting ones.. I found chapter 2 especially good for drowsiness.

    The Shuttle read by tabithat, the early chapters before things get exciting, and especially chapter one, where the description of the shuttle moving back and forth is rhythmic and hypnotic. What a great novel for daytime listening, despite being marred by a few quirks.

    A Sicilian Romance, the first 2 or 3 chapters.

    A Sentimental Journey read by Martin Geson, chapters 1 & 2 and some others. A fabulous book. The first chapter is brilliant, an incredible tour de force.

    The Open Door, read by Katie Gibboney.

    I have some I use from Audible too, especially readings by Juliet Stevenson, but I use 90 pct Librivox. I would love to hear of any other readings people have found where relistening helps them to sleep. I hope these work for others as well as they do for me.

  • I have to admit, you have quickly become my favorite Librivox reader, bar none. I’ve listened to The Hound Of The Baskervilles multiple times, simply because I found your voice so relaxing and charming.

    I never thought that a whispered version of The Wind In The Willows would be a good idea, but you’ve made a believer out of me! Wonderful! Thank you for the endless hours of happy listening.

  • Cori, I must admit the hair-brushing asmr vids are seriously relaxing, particularly those by the same girl who reads the Poe extracts; I think the combination of one of these with your dulcet tones would result in the final death-knell for insomnia:)

  • Noticed the “Summary by” on the Librivox RSS and thought I hope that also means “Read by” in this case … have downloaded and can’t wait to listen.

    … yes, same old BIOTB you remember 🙂

  • Hey, I’ve just found your site from the Librivox main page – fantastic idea! I love this whispering thing you’re doing – I think Beatrix Potter stories would lend themselves fabulously to this! Maybe some of the longer more “story” ones like the Tailor of Gloucester. The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle would be perfect – it’s set up as a dream sequence anyway!

    Tangentially – such a shame Librivox can’t record the Narnia books. That’s what I’d *really* like to hear – probably as a full dramatized version with you narrating. Can’t imagine how long it would take to appear in the PD though. Sigh.

  • Hi Cori

    I am one of those people who publishes videos on line for relaxation, they aren’t ASMR’s though, just scenes of nature with natures soothing sounds. I wish I did have the recording equipment to produce ASMR’s.

    People are crying out for various ways to relax in this crazy world.

    Hundreds of parents asked me to create a video specifically for children. I thought of a reading of a children’s book I could mix with one of my videos. I could not believe it when I came across your whispered version of The Wind in the Willows, I immediately knew the video I wanted to put it with,one that in my mind is suggestive of where these wonderful little creatures would hang out.

    Your voice is perfect for this book, I hope many thousands of people will lose themselves in this beautiful whispered version of this classic.

    Kind regards
    Johnnie Lawson


  • You are amazing Cori Samuel !
    I love how you read books, i think i found the strenght to read books again, thank you very much
    Best wishes for you

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