John Steinbeck Reads Two Short Stories, “The Snake” and “Johnny Bear” in 1953


Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In an arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in book collector’s jour­nal Firsts Mag­a­zine, book­seller James M. Dour­gar­i­an includes a set of records called “The Colum­bia Lit­er­ary Series” (1953) as an essen­tial part of the “completist’s Stein­beck col­lec­tion.” Dour­gar­i­an describes the set, val­ued at $1,500 in 2007 thus:

The Colum­bia Lit­er­ary Series is a great item, a set of 12 12-inch records with a vari­ety of authors read­ing selec­tions from their works. It was issued in an edu­ca­tion­al edi­tion with a dou­ble slid­ing case, and a deluxe edi­tion housed in a black leather attaché case with snaps. Both issues includ­ed a book­let about the mak­ing of the series, which was edit­ed by God­dard Lieber­son. The Stein­beck record has the author him­self read­ing two of his most famous short sto­ries, “The Snake” and “John­ny Bear.” Oth­er authors in the series are William Saroy­an, the three Sitwells, John Col­lier, Edna Fer­ber, Tru­man Capote, W. Som­er­set Maugh­am, Christo­pher Ish­er­wood, Kather­ine Anne Porter and Aldous Hux­ley.

You can hear Steinbeck’s A‑side con­tri­bu­tion to this illus­tri­ous series below, where he reads “The Snake,” a sto­ry he says “isn’t a sto­ry at all. It’s just some­thing that hap­pened.” Also in his brief intro­duc­tion, the author describes his favorite piece of fan mail ever, from a small-town librar­i­an who wrote that “The Snake” was “the worst sto­ry she had ever read any­where. She was quite upset at its bad­ness.”

On the B‑side, above, Stein­beck reads “John­ny Bear,” a sto­ry about “a mon­ster,” who “real­ly lived in cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia.”

The sto­ries are now added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Look­ing for free, pro­fes­sion­al­ly-read audio books from Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free tri­al with, you can down­load two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“Noth­ing Good Gets Away”: John Stein­beck Offers Love Advice in a Let­ter to His Son (1958)

John Steinbeck’s Six Tips for the Aspir­ing Writer and His Nobel Prize Speech

Rare 1959 Audio: Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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