taps Nicole Kidman, Samuel L. Jackson, Anne Hathaway, and more read the classics

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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Remember that warm feeling you’d get as a child when your parents read you to sleep? Well, has that beat by a mile, considering that your dad almost certainly isn’t Samuel L. Jackson. In an effort to promote its line of downloadable audiobooks, the website has enlisted celebrities — including Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, and Dustin Hoffman — to narrate their own favorite works. We chatted with some stars about their picks.

Nicole Kidman
To the Lighthouse
By Virginia Woolf
Nicole Kidman wasn’t afraid of Virginia Woolf when she won an Oscar for portraying the author in 2002’s The Hours, so it was only natural that the actress read Woolf’s 1927 novel. ”It’s such a lovely book,” says Kidman, ”but I had forgotten how dense it is and how long the sentences are. Hemingway has nice short sentences, but I don’t know if they’d let me do Hemingway. Would they let a female do Hemingway? I don’t think I have the beard for it.”

Anne Hathaway
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
By L. Frank Baum
Though she once played Jane Austen on screen, Anne Hathaway opted for the work of another cherished author. She found reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz almost relaxing. ”With acting, you try to find a place of freedom, but there’s always a ton of people around,” says Hathaway. ”But when you’re in a recording booth and you’re in sweatpants and you can make your face look as grotesque as you want to get a sound, it’s very liberating.”

Samuel L. Jackson
A Rage in Harlem
By Chester Himes
Nobody can deliver a line — at least not one bursting with profanity — quite like Samuel L. Jackson. Last year, he was asked to narrate the ”sleeper” hit Go the F–k to Sleep. For Audible’s new project, the actor chose Himes’ grade-A pulp detective novel. ”It’s colorful in a different way,” laughs Jackson. ”I had actually done a play about Himes years and years ago when I was a young actor and this book played a big role in it, so I thought it’d be fun to revisit it.”

Annette Bening
Mrs. Dalloway
By Virginia Woolf
This project was the first time many of the celebrities, including Annette Bening, tried their hand at audiobooks. ”The only similar experience I’ve ever had to this was when I was in college — I used to read business textbooks to a student who was partially sighted,” says the actress. ”And I can tell you, Woolf’s writing was a lot better.”

Hilary Swank
Pack of Two
By Caroline Knapp
Knapp’s nonfiction book about people’s relationships with their dogs struck a chord with Hilary Swank, who had recently lost a pet of her own. ”When they asked me what I wanted to read, it was around when my beloved dog Karoo died,” says the two-time Oscar winner. ”I think the experience helped me keep connected to her. And I hope this audiobook will do the same for people listening to it.”

Susan Sarandon
The Member of the Wedding
By Carson McCullers
Susan Sarandon may have an Oscar and an impressive filmography, but that doesn’t mean recording her version of McCullers’ Southern classic was a cakewalk. ”I get lonely even when I do close-ups in movies and there’s nobody else on screen,” she laughs. ”When you’re in the booth by yourself, everything has to come from you. So in many ways, it’s a lot harder than you’d think.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
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