American Childhood
Annie Dillard, Janet Stevens

Book cover image

Narrated By: Tavia Gilbert

Duration: 8 hours and 29 minutes

What to expect

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


Biography: general, Biography: writers, Memoirs

Listen to a sample

“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.”