Audio books have been around for a long time. In the past they were expensive and even if you accessed them through your public library, CDs were cumbersome…clunky. But since the advent of subscription based sites such as Audible or their free counterparts like LibriVox or OpenCulture audio books have become more accessible. My sister L got me hooked. She spends quite a lot of time in the car and she’s as avid a reader as I am. She also likes New Things. Eventually she wore me down and I signed up.
I love to potter around the house at the weekend, occupying myself with minor DIY tasks or cooking. Audible allows you to be productive while being entertained. So for the last 12 months or so I’ve been pretty much addicted to audio books. While L still had at least one proper book on the go, I ashamedly, did not. I embraced the listening to books wholeheartedly. I’m so busy I don’t have time to read! I can read all of those books I never got around to, without actually having to read them! Look at me I’m reading Dostoevsky! But….after a while I found it difficult to remember the details of books or even if I enjoyed it or not. I found that I had started listening passively, to the point where I was tuning out completely at times. Audio books had become background noise for me. I realised I was listening to audio books when I should have been listening to the radio or music.
I was doing a disservice to the written word. So when I went on holidays in July, I grabbed a few from the dusty pile beside my bed and vowed to stay away from the audio books. I was worried that my attention span could no longer hack a full length book. But to my delight and relief I remembered the art of reading and it has been glorious! That something extra, that something hard to define thing that a book read by your own eyes, in your own internal voice gives you is back (it’s your imagination stretching out in front of you). I had forgotten that books swallow you up to such an extent that your environment seems to change. I had forgotten how much the characters give you, and yes, how much you give them. Be still my beating heart. I’ve had a good dose of fiction and am currently reading The Basque History of the World and rereading How To Be a Woman, cos, you know, Caitlin Moran.
There is still a place for audio books in my life and I want to take a brief moment to offer a Top Audio Book Tip . You can listen to a small snippet first to make sure the narrator is comparable with your ears. You might not think this is important, but it is. A good narrator can make a lame book enjoyable and a bad one can make it an exercise in audible torture. I have an example, course I do! I had previously read Bad Men by John Connolly. He’s one of my favourite writers. Th title came up in an audio book sale I didn’t even bother listening to the clip. Mistake. The male narrator had a terrible time with the female characters, he tried too hard to make them sound ‘feminine’ and instead they all sounded like lazy bimbos. Connolly writes strong, real, complex female characters, but they came off all sounding like the same gangster mols. In comparison my favourite audio is Stephen King’s The Stand. At over 47 hours long, it is something you can get your teeth into. The narrator hits the right balance with enough characterisation to differentiate between different people, but not so much it’s distracting. Now armed with this knowledge go forth and listen…but everything in moderation, right?