I think this post has been somewhat overdue. I mentioned here a while ago that I found the audio format difficult; but in the last several months, I’ve gradually found audiobooks to be a useful addition to my life. I spend about an hour a day in the car just getting to and from work – which I believe is well below average for here in Houston, but is still a good amount of time. I started listening to audiobooks in the car, and never looked back.
So first, the audiobook format. I guess my greatest difficulty at first was just with getting used to somebody else filling in some of the holes that I’m used to filling in for myself: inflections, pace at which characters talk, what their voices sound like. I still find myself taking issue, occasionally, with a reader’s interpretation of a line of dialogue. My other real problem is with the inability to pause and reread. I mean, yes, I can pause and rewind my cd player – but I’m trying to drive, and anyway it breaks up the momentum and flow of a story in a much different way than it does when I’m reading. I like to pause and contemplate while reading, and the audio format is just plain old less tolerant of this habit.
These quibbles aside, however, I’ve come to really enjoy the time I spend listening to books in my car. What used to feel like lost time now is time spent… reading! The reading time I gain is worth my little complaints.
But that said, there are books that are appropriate for audio, and those that aren’t. I like to listen to genre fiction – like murder mysteries – good, fast-paced, entertaining books. For example, I have fully embraced Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series on audio. The reader, Dick Hill, is great; his Reacher voice feels right to me (and what a deal-breaker it would be if it didn’t!), and even if I differ with his timing or inflection occasionally (am I an outrageously picker listener? do you do this too?), I consistently enjoy his work.
I use the audio format to try out new genre authors, too. For my job as a librarian, I like to broaden my horizons when possible; I won’t like every author I encounter, but at least I can better understand what my patrons want when they request something like Stuart Woods (ugh). I intend to pick up some romance on audio soon; I have many dedicated romance readers as my patrons, and although it’s not my genre of choice, I should stay abreast. For that matter, I haven’t really hated any of the few romance novels I have read. I’ll pick a short one. :)
On the other hand, there are books I wouldn’t so much want to listen to on audio. For example, the book I’m reading right now, Fire Season, is a beautiful, lyrical meditation on the outdoors, the natural history of the American Southwest, and much more. I’m relishing each line slowly, and I need the option of flipping back a few pages here and there. It just wouldn’t be enjoyable for me to try to follow it at a reader’s relentless pace, with the necessity of rewinding to try and find that sentence I wanted to hear again. Audiobooks have their place – in my life at least, and there’s a limit to that place.
Now to answer Sheila’s questions! Her post is about the problem of becoming engrossed in an audiobook and having to take it inside. I have SO done that! (See above re: my preference for fast-paced, suspenseful mystery/action audiobooks.) And then I discover a new problem: audiobooks really do belong in the car, for me. Even the most exciting one puts me to sleep eventually if I take it inside to listen to from the couch, lol. No, I have found some utility for them in the house, for doing chores like washing dishes. But mostly, they need to stay in the car. I definitely can NOT do like Sheila and listen to several at one time. I read one book and listen to one audiobook at a time, in general; of course I do pick up and put down books from time to time, so that I sometimes have more than one going at once. I think most of us do that. But as a general rule, I like to stay more or less faithful. It helps keep my thoughts in order so I can write a cogent review for you here! Plus, if I were to have 5 or 6 books going at a time, it would take so long to finish one!
I guess I’ve rambled on. Thanks Sheila for the inspiration for this post. My conclusion is, I do have an appreciation for the audio format. I think I’d prefer to read print books exclusively if I had my way, but at certain times (which for me means driving and little else, but to each her own) the audio version is a great solution.
You can see ALL the audiobooks I’ve read recently here.