Friday, June 30, 2017

Reading Books and "Reading" Audiobooks

Let's talk audiobooks.

I know some people have a bias against merely listening to a book, versus doing the work of reading a book, and all told, reading can be a much different experience. A poor reader, or a voice that doesn't quite fit the narrator can make an audiobook harder to get into, and of course, you're exercising a different part of your brain when you listen. But lately audiobooks have been my jam.

I've had to do a lot of driving recently, and when I was walking five miles a day, getting through a few chapters of the book I was listening to was great motivation (actually, after I finish this, I intend to walk my dogs and listen to more of Roxane Gay's new memoir, Hunger). 

I've always been a voracious reader, but with adulthood, parenthood, and all kinds of responsibilities, I find my reading time being sucked away until bedtime, where I inevitably fall asleep and have to track back over the last few pages I "read" before passing out. Audio has been a godsend in this regard. I have never been able to read two novels at once. I just can't do it. The narratives and voice get jumbled in my brain and I can't keep up with what is going on in both books and whatever writing project I'm working on.

This problem is somehow eliminated when I "read" an audiobook and a regular book at the same time. I mentioned listening to Roxane Gay reading Hunger on my drives. I got through Sharp Objects just recently, all while reading The Passenger by Lisa Lutz, and now, flying through Danny Gardner's A Negro and an Ofay, a book I've been excited to read for almost a year. It's renewed my love and energy for reading, even as time is short. I find myself eagerly pulling out my phone to read an ebook in a waiting room instead of turning to Facebook or, my favorite time waster, Tetris.

I've always been reticent to judge someone for what they read, how they read, or how much they read. To me, the important thing with reading is that people do it. Stories are important, the work is important. If you want to read Twilight in paperback, or Borges on your iPhone, what do I care? I mean, read my book, and the books I'm featured in. Clearly I care about that. But otherwise? Three cheers for the many ways we can consume great writing.

I keep hearing that audiobooks are the future, the big moneymakers, the thing to cling to in your contracts for rights. Maybe there's something to that. For me, the audiobook doesn't take the place of reading something great, but fills time I'd otherwise "waste" with good books, and fills me with the joy of reading that leads me to my paperbacks and e-books. It's a great way to sample new writers and reinvigorate when reading seems to always be pushed aside for chores and responsibilities. My family is getting used to me listening to books while I make dinner, a time I'd usually reserve for checking social media between stirring what's on the stove or pacing around the kitchen.

As writers we must read. We must read a lot. Audiobooks are providing me a great way to get those books in and motivation to read even more.



Steve Weddle said...

i listen to books if i think i'll dig the story, but not the sentences.

many of the books i read are "beautifully written" and i don't want those in my earholes, but in my eyes so i can linger and etc all over the sentences

if it's a story-teller, often i enjoy the audio -- beats listening to nearly anything else. thrillers are good for that, but cormac mccarthy is more for the eyes. in my opinion. your miles may be various

Alex Segura said...

I love audiobooks - listen to a book daily on my commute to and from work. With a newish kid, my time in the car is often the only time I have to just focus on a book aside from before bed, which, as you say can be tough because you're already wiped. I've become addicted to the Kindle Whispersync option, which lets you link your ebook with the audio and pick up wherever you left off. THE FUTURE IS NOW. But seriously - it's a different experience, for sure, but no matter what I'm listening to, I'm still "reading" - either the same book, or a different one at other times when I can sit and read.

Anonymous said...

I love audio books as well. I especially love to listen to books set outside the U.S. when they are read by a speaker from that area. For example, listening to Gerard Doyle read Adrian McKinty absolutely enhances the "reading" experience beyond what a printed book could do. I can't listen to books while I am driving (too distracted) or doing odd jobs. Instead I listen while I am running, well jogging, actually walking since it gets me out of the house not in a car. I also am more motivated to walk because I want to find out what happens next. I even splurged and bought a new player that I use just for audio book so I don't loose my place, and Bluetooth headphones so I look "cool."

Scott D. Parker said...

I'm an avid audiobook listener. I've been an Audible subscriber for over a decade. Heck, I'm not sure how long it's been. Audio is now probably my most preferr d means of consuming a story. I'm always jazzed when a narrator I love (Scott Brick is my fav) reads a book I wanna read.

Stringer Belle said...

YES! It doesn't matter HOW you read - what matters is that you get the words in, however best fits in with your life. There's so much snobbery around audiobooks, ebooks, whatever; and it does my head in.

Personally, I read faster than I listen. I don't drive, and my daily commute is about 20 minutes each way by bus, so I'm better off using my listening time for podcasts (which I can do while I write, something that I know isn't the case for many people, but that's how my brain works). So my reading time is better spent text-on-paper/text-on-Kindle. But that's what suits ME best.

I didn't realise Roxanne Gay read Hunger though, I suspect the audio version would actually be enhanced from the text for that.