On Audiobooks

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

(My stockpiled audio cassettes from the library)

On thing I've rarely talked about on this blog is my deep and abounding love of audiobooks. In honor of Audiobook Week, hosted by the wonderful Jen at Devourer of Books, I thought I expound on the topic.

I started listening to audiobooks sometime in high school and have been a devoted listener for the past decade. I quickly found that I could double my reading time by listening to audiobooks while driving, cleaning, showering, cooking, etc. I've also found that listening to a favorite book, instead of re-reading a hard copy, adds a new layer of depth. It draws my attention to different aspects and makes me notice things I may have missed before.

(One of the last audio cassette players I've been able to find)

There are some genres I prefer to listen to in audiobook format. I love listening to nonfiction because a huge tome on WWI or a massive biography on a dead president might be daunting to pick up if it's a hardback, but listening to it makes the book fly by. I also prefer light mysteries, like the Kinsey Millhone series, in audio format, because they're easy to dive into while doing something else and I never want to write down quotes or highlight passages. Audiobooks are a great way to introduce yourself to new series or different genres. You don't look at a cover every time you pick it up to read, so it's easier to set aside preconceived notions and try out a western of sci-fi book for the first time.

My brother LOVES to tease me about my obsession. He'll ask "Oh did you read that book or just listen to it, because that's not really reading." He only does it because he knows it drives me nuts. I actually pay more attention to a book when I listen to it than when I read a hard copy. It forces you to listen to every single word instead of skimming a paragraph and pulling out all of the major ideas. I often take more from the book when I listen to it, because I spend more time with it. The narrator will never speak as fast as I can read.

(My record player, which also has a CD and cassette player for my beloved audiobooks)

I've been incredibly lucky with the wide selection of audiobooks my library offers. I've only used audible once or twice. It's great, but I go through too many books to be able to afford it. I pick new audiobooks each week. I listen to mps on my iPod while walking the dog and cleaning. I listen to a CD audiobook in my car. And I may be the last person alive to do this, but I also listen to cassette tapes at home. I love being able to turn them on while getting ready for work and then hitting stop and knowing I won't lose my place. The technology is faulty and the reels often get caught, but I still love them. I buy them whenever I find them online or at yard sales. My library has been getting rid of all of its audiobook cassettes and so I've been stocking up at every book sale they hold. I'm not sure what I'll do when I run out.

If you've never read an audiobook before I'd encourage you to give it a shot. Maybe listening to it in the car won't work for you, instead you can try listen to a book while going on a walk and give it your full attention. Try starting with a book you've already read. The Harry Potter books (narrated by Jim Dale) are fantastic. I also loved The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. Audiobooks narrators are as diverse as the authors themselves and if you find one that doesn't work for you, just put it down and try another.

Happy listening!

Photos by moi.


Jillian said...

I have never actually tried an audiobook before - kind of shameful now that I think about it! But I should try that. I have been hearing great things about listening to the HP series. It'd be interesting, I think. I might give it a try.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

You already love HP, so it's a great place to start. I've re-read all those books on audio in previous years and they're so much fun.

B said...

I've only tried audiobooks in the car (twice) while I was driving and it's really hard for me to concentrate on them. You're probably right - I need to give them a shot when I can give it my full attention.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brenna - Maybe give them a shot while doing something else, cleaning or going for a walk. They're wonderful if you can find a way to make them work for you.

Wallace said...

I can't even listen to music in the car anymore. If I'm in between books, I listen to talk radio. Books just make the traffic disappear, so I'm all for having them in the car!

I also listen to them when i work out. I find it distracts me more than music does.

(And P.S. listening DOES count as reading. Otherwise we couldn't say that we "read" the books we loved as a little kid just because our parents or teachers read them to us, right?) ;)

Kwee Cats and Art said...

I am enjoying a reunion of sorts with audio books. I really connected when you mentioned the listening to books is not really reading them attitude. I got that a lot for a while. When I was younger, I loved audiobooks. Then fell prey to that mindset. Now, I do the Audible.com thing just for convenience, and just make myself stay within my limits because, yes, they are expensive. For me, I love the feeling that I am being told a story. And I love the emotion the voice just adds to the story. Good article. Thank you.

mari said...

I recently got a membership with audible.com and downloaded a few books. I've found that non-fiction is easy to listen to, but I just can't listen to fiction. I'm not sure why. I just listened to Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment.

And you still listen to cassettes? That's just...cute!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I love audio books as well. Our library no longer carries cassettes, of VHS videos either for that matter. My car which is a 2007 doesn't even have a cassette player, but does have cd and iPod jack.

Kristi said...

I've never listened to an audio book. I need to try it at some point, but I'm afraid my mind will wander and I'll lose the thread of the story. Maybe someday I'll be brave enough. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Wallace – I love listening to audio while working out too. It’s awful no matter what, but books make it bearable. I love your thought about having books read to you as a kid. Between that and the fact that most stories we passed down through oral tellings for centuries, I feel like audiobooks aren’t just valid, they’re the roots of storytelling.

Kwee Lewis – I find myself so involved in some audiobooks that I don’t want to get out of my car when I get where I’m going. I need just one more minute to find out what happens next. How can people think that’s not “reading” a book!

mari – Cute, sad, whatever it is, it still works for me!

Diane - My car is so old that it still has a tape deck.

Unruly Reader said...

What a lovely ode to audiobooks! I agree completely that they're a great way to try a book I'd never actually sit down to read.

Heather said...

Oh my but I adore this post. Especially the pictures! They go with this post perfectly.

I remember when I first started getting audiobooks out of the library. I was driving a Toyota 4Runner and it had both a tape deck and a CD player. I was in HEAVEN. It was the only thing I loved about that car!

And I totally agree with you about Jim Dale. NO ONE could have done it better.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Unruly - They are perfect for that. I never would have read some of the nonfiction books I've picked up if it hadn't been for the audio versions.

Heather - Thanks! I'm so with you on the tape deck and CD player. My car has both and though the car itself is certainly not heaven, I do love that aspect.

Audiobookchick said...

I love audiobooks!! I listen to 1 or 2 per month in the car to and from work. They take time to get used to but once you are through your first one they become addictive.

Alyce said...

I think that's great! I got rid of our last tape player a few years ago, but I never listened to books on tape prior to blogging. I do love to listen to audiobooks though, but my experience has been entirely on cds & my mp3 player. I love all of the extra reading time I get with the audios, and also find that I enjoy spending more time with the audio versions (for the most part).

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Audiobookchick - Agreed, they're so addictive! It feels strange to not have one going at all times.

Alyce - That's exactly why I love them too, so much more time to read!