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Extended Audio Sample An American Childhood Audiobook, by Annie Dillard Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.215 out of 54.215 out of 54.215 out of 54.215 out of 54.215 out of 5 4.22 (30 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Annie Dillard Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2011 ISBN: 9781470800536
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A memoir about parents, the world of science, and consciousness

A book that instantly captured the hearts of readers across the country, An American Childhood is Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Dillard’s poignant, vivid memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s.

“Dillard’s luminous prose painlessly captures the pain of growing up in this wonderful evocation of childhood. Her memoir is partly a hymn to Pittsburgh, where orange streetcars ran on Penn Avenue in 1953 when she was eight, and where the Pirates were always in the cellar. Dillard’s mother, an unstoppable force, had energies too vast for the bridge games and household chores that stymied her. Her father made low-budget horror movies, loved Dixieland jazz, told endless jokes and sight-gags, and took lonesome river trips down to New Orleans to get away. From this slightly odd couple, Dillard acquired her love of nature and taut sensitivity.”—Publishers Weekly

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Quotes & Awards

  • “With…An American Childhood…Dillard helped usher in the age of memoirs…[and] defined a literary genre.”

    Washington Post

  • “An exceptionally interesting account…A remarkable work.”

    New York Times

  • “A vivid and thoughtful evocation of particular personal experiences that have an exuberantly timeless appeal.”

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “The reader who can’t find something to whoop about in this book is not alive. An American Childhood is perhaps the best American autobiography since Russell Baker’s Growing Up.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Loving and lyrical, nostalgic without being wistful, this is a book about the capacity for joy.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “By turns wry, provocative, and sometimes breathtaking…This is a work marked by exquisite insight.”

    Boston Globe

  • An American Childhood is a charming and delightful reminiscence that helps cement Annie Dillard’s reputation as one of our major writers.”

    San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

  • “With the publication of An American Childhood in 1987, poet, essayist, naturalist, novelist, and critic Annie Dillard helped usher in the age of memoirs. Following by only a few years the groundbreaking memoirs of Russell Baker and Eudora Welty, Childhood, like these predecessors, defined a literary genre…With good reason, An American Childhood was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as a bestseller. It’s easy reading—happy reading, even—and, at least for me, it’s lively and whimsical, but serious enough so that it doesn’t creep over into the saccharine.”

    Washington Post

  • “Dillard’s luminous prose painlessly captures the pain of growing up in this wonderful evocation of childhood…The events of childhood often loom larger than life; the magic of Dillard’s writing is that she sets down typical childhood happenings with their original immediacy and force.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • An American Childhood does all this so consummately with Annie Dillard’s ’50s childhood in Pittsburgh that it more than takes the reader’s breath away. It consumes you as you consume it, so that, when you have put down this book, you’re a different person, one who has virtually experienced another childhood.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Every paragraph Dillard writes is full of information, presenting the mundane with inventive freshness and offering exotic surprises as dessert…[Annie Dillard] is one of nature’s prize wonders herself—an example of sentient homo sapiens pushing the limits of the creative imagination. She deserves our close attention.”

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • An American Childhood shimmers with the same rich detail, the same keen and often wry observations as her first book [Pilgrim at Tinker Creek].”

    Charlotte Observer

  • “[An American Childhood] combines the child’s sense of wonder with the adult’s intelligence and is written in some of the finest prose that exists in contemporary America. It is a special sort of memoir that is entirely successful…This new book is [Annie Dillard’s] best, a joyous ode to her own happy childhood.”

    Newark Star-Ledger

  • “Tavia Gilbert delivers the poetic words with all the meaning and emotion that Dillard invested in them. It would be easy for a narrator to lull the listener to sleep with the microscopic details of the memoir, but Gilbert’s portrayal of a quiet yet vital life captures the listener’s attention. Listeners will hear Dillard’s respect for life, nature, and family clearly in Gilbert’s careful delivery.”

    AudioFile

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Aileen Shara | 2/16/2014

    " It was okay but we had to read it for Honors English so....it wasn't very enjoyable to read (most assigned books aren't), but it was well written. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ronette | 2/14/2014

    " While Dillard does an excellent job painting a picture of childhood in a way that I strongly related to, for some reason I had a difficult time getting into this book. The lack of plot left me bored after a while. Beautiful descriptions, but I needed more than that to keep me involved. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julia | 2/12/2014

    " This is my all-time favorite book. And not because it takes place in Pittsburgh. Because I love how it talks about awakening over and over through life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amelia | 1/31/2014

    " This book was delightful! I randomly picked it up out of a box of books my cousin was giving away several months back, not knowing anything about it, and I am so glad that I did! I look forward to reading more Annie Dillard. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel Metz | 1/30/2014

    " Stellar autobiography by a gifted writer and observer of life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patti | 1/24/2014

    " Absolutely lovely. Recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 1/20/2014

    " It was amazing that Dillard was able to capture the innocence and wonder of childhood through the voice of a child, but with the grace of an adult. There wasn't a plot, it was more just someone telling their life story, which ordinarily would bother me, but in this case it didn't. Dillard's beautiful, poetic, articulate writing more than made up for what the story lacked in plot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Theresa | 1/15/2014

    " This was the perfect read for the beginning of summer. Annie Dillard chooses her words so carefully and in doing so constructs vivid images, memories, and little philosophical pearls. One of my favorite lines (one of many) in this book is: "Private life, book life, took place where words met imagination without passing through world." Then she goes on to talk about how as a child she would spend hours up in her bedroom, sometimes rereading the same passage over and over again. She captures the magic of childhood, the allure of the 1950s, and what it's like to grow-up and look back. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 1/13/2014

    " There were two paragraphs that totally sold this book for me. One was about how ugly adult hands are and one was about a dog who got distemper and had to be put down. THUMBS UP! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marilee | 1/13/2014

    " Annie Dillard is an amazing writer. You'll love these stories about her childhood. Her writing inspires others to investigate their own lives. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eric | 1/8/2014

    " Read it in high school - I remember particularly the incredibly apt descriptions of the awakening of self-awareness. An enlightening book for triggering and empowering a person's (a teen's?) self-awareness. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg Huntington | 12/12/2013

    " Great writing about emerging self-hood and suburbia. Useful for teaching memoir (at least that's what I'm going to try to do with it) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 11/14/2013

    " I was born the same year as Dillard, so many of her childhood references brought back fond memories (Katy Keene comics, "The Wayward Wind," capguns, green stamps, the Cold War, spaghetti strap dresses, etc.) Her writing in this coming-of-age biography is amazing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Adriel | 11/13/2013

    " This is a book I read over and over again. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Caitlin | 10/10/2013

    " Wonderful, loved this one. Some of the best description of a childhood joy of reading i've read. highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 tana | 6/28/2013

    " This book is the quintessential autobiography, I found there was someone else who felt odd and ill suited to childhood as it was supposed to be played out in the middle of the twentieth century. She is a master writer. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Morgan | 6/21/2013

    " Her childhood wasn't more interesting than yours, but her memoirs certainly are. Annie Dillard, I love you. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jan | 1/9/2013

    " She reminds me of how it felt to do thing for the first time as a child. Everyday activities become almost magical when seen from the other side of age... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kerri Sandberg | 3/21/2012

    " This is what a memoir of childhood should be about and so few are - the dawning of consciousness, the process of becoming a person. It's rich with detail and although not fast-moving, very enjoyable to read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Liz | 3/1/2012

    " One of my favorites - a classic. Reflective and intelligent writing. It is the author's memories of childhood summers. I have read it probably three times and will read it again and again... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 10/16/2011

    " It was only getting three stars until the epilogue - but then the epilogue nearly made me cry, so four stars it is. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judy | 7/6/2011

    " This was a thought-provoking look at a budding writer's coming-of-age in Pittsburgh. Annie Dillard has a bit of scientist and artist in her. Great. A romp through childhood. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doug | 6/25/2011

    " gorgeously written, a sweet, poignant story of a precocious, bright girl coming of age in Pittsburgh! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna | 6/16/2011

    " A wonderful memoir with evocative details--traces the shape of a writer's life from the inside out.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wendy | 6/11/2011

    " Hmmm. This is beautifully written. I enjoyed it...but I think it is to be savored at 40 versus skimmed at 17. I'm not sure how it will go over for 11th grade AP summer reading. All in all, glad I read it. She is one of my father's favorite authors. I can see why. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 6/8/2011

    " A brilliant autobiographical work. Poignantly innocent while surprisingly perceptive. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judy | 5/31/2011

    " This was a thought-provoking look at a budding writer's coming-of-age in Pittsburgh. Annie Dillard has a bit of scientist and artist in her. Great. A romp through childhood. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Penny | 2/20/2011

    " As title implies, a memoir looking back at her childhood in Pittsburgh -- done in a bit of an unorthodox way -- sort of through snatches describing her feelings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brownshoebrian | 1/14/2011

    " A great coming of age book. This was a big book for me in college but its been a while. "

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About the Author
Author Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and numerous other works of nonfiction, including An American Childhood and For the Time Being. Her novels include The Living and, most recently, The Maytrees.

About the Narrator

Tavia Gilbert, an acclaimed narrator of more than four hundred full-cast and multivoice audiobooks for virtually every publisher in the industry, is an eight-time Audie nominee and the recipient of thirteen Earphones Awards, a Voice Arts Award, and a Listen-Up Award. With frequent inclusion on best of year and annual top ten lists, Tavia is a trusted and increasingly sought-after actress for work across every genre, from children’s and YA, to literary fiction, nonfiction, and genre fiction. Audible recently named her a Genre-Defining Narrator: Master of Memoir, and Library Journal said of this highly acclaimed actress, “as close as you can get to a full cast narration with a solo voice.” Tavia is a producer, singer, photographer, and a writer, as well as the cofounder of a feminist publishing company, Animal Mineral, with fiction and nonfiction focusing on relationships, love, and identity.