Hear Moby Dick Read in Its Entirety by Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, John Waters & Others

"Moby-Dick is the great American novel. But it is also the great unread American novel. Sprawling, magnificent, deliriously digressive, it stands over and above all other works of fiction, since it is barely a work of fiction itself. Rather, it is an explosive exposition of one man’s investigation into the world of the whale, and the way humans have related to it. Yet it is so much more than that."

That's how Plymouth University introduces Herman Melville's classic tale from 1851. And it's what set the stage for their web project launched back in 2012. Called The Moby-Dick Big Read, the project featured celebrities and lesser known figures reading all 135 chapters from Moby-Dick -- chapters that you can start downloading (as free audio files) on iTunesSoundcloud, RSS Feed, or the Big Read web site itself.




The project started with the first chapters being read by Tilda Swinton (Chapter 1), Captain R.N. Hone (Chapter 2), Nigel Williams (Chapter 3), Caleb Crain (Chapter 4), Musa Okwonga (Chapter 5), and Mary Norris (Chapter 6). John WatersStephen Fry, Simon Callow, Mary Oliver and even Prime Minister David Cameron read later ones.

If you want to read the novel as you go along, find the text in our collection of Free eBooks. We also have versions read by one narrator in our Free Audio Books collection. And, as always, you can download a professionally read version of Moby-Dick (or most any other novel), if you want to take part in Audible.com's 30-Day Free Trial program.

Tilda Swinton's narration of Chapter 1 appears right below:

An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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Related Content:

An Illustration of Every Page of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

How Ray Bradbury Wrote the Script for John Huston’s Moby Dick (1956)

Hear a Complete 24-Hour Reading of Moby-Dick, Recorded at the Southbank Centre in London (2015)


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  • John Herman says:

    I taught Moby Dick to senior high school students for many years,and while my advanced students all believed Ahab was mad, my general students could relate to his intense feeling of being a victim.

    After I retired in 1995, I lectured on world religions and used Melville’s alliance with Fedallah as an example of Zoroastrian teaching. When, during the great storm, Ahab says, “No fearless fool now fronts thee, I own thy speechless, placeless power.” He reminds us of the dualism of two co-equal powers, and by allying himself and his crew, (representing mankind), with the force of evil, he believes he will triumph, yet only destroys himself and all who have followed him, save Ishmael.

    Melville and the other Transcendentalists wanted to place our democracy on a firm spiritual foundation. He writes: “The great God absolute, the center and circumference of all democracy. His omnipresence, our divine equality.”
    This understanding and belief in our in-dwelling unifying spiritual essence is something we are still in dire need of today.

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