Before the holidays I started reading The Hobbit aloud to my little boy as part of our bed time ritual. Sure, at just under six months old he's too young to understand English, but I'm keen to start early in helping him to develop a decent vocabulary, attention span, and taste for storytelling. Before The Hobbit he got a good taste of Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, and Jack Vance too. Bed time has been a good excuse for me to re-re-read some of my favorite short stories.
Shortly after the new year we finished The Hobbit and now we're reading Wind in the Willows. I must say that finishing The Hobbit felt like somewhat of an accomplishment. I've never read an entire novel aloud before, and I feel like it improved me in some way. It was certainly good practice for DMing; if anything, it was consistent, repeated study in using my voice to control pacing and evoke atmosphere. And, yes, it was fine practice for speaking in character, which I do as a DM fairly regularly (my family is saturated with thespians, I can't help it). By the end of The Hobbit I had developed a different voice for each dwarf. I was kind of proud of myself, actually!
The experience also intensified my visualization of the The Hobbit quite a bit. I usually read pretty fast, but slowing down and giving every word a chance to breath resulted in my practically memorizing the story - all the characters, the plot, the chapters, everything. In this sense it's also been great reading aloud a lot of my favorite C.A.S. and Vance stories as well. I'd love to re-read Vance's Planet of Adventure series aloud some time, although the prospect of reading a whole series of novels still seems a little daunting. After we're done with Wind in the Willows we are going to do Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong, which is a very sweet little book, and one of a sadly small number of fantasies with a compelling female protagonist.
People tell me I have a pretty good reading voice. I've been toying with the idea of reading some classic short stories for podcasts. Maybe I'll give it a try!