Audio Books

Ears

I’m slightly horrified thinking about the fact that we’re nearly a third of the way through the year already (!!! How has this happened?!) and so far I’ve only reviewed one book. There’s been a lot of (mostly) horrifyingly dull ‘stuff’ keeping me occupied, which has slowed down the reviews somewhat, but I’ve been reading pretty much constantly and I have a hearty backlog to whack up on here at some point in the near future (hopefully). At the moment I’m just trying to get to the end of all the bits and pieces I’m currently reading. I was hoping to finish them all by the end of March so I could read A Song of Ice and Fire (my poll winner) throughout April, but that hasn’t happened and it looks unlikely I’ll have finished them by May either because I keep sneaking new books into the pile. Anyway! Stuff is coming, just watch this space.

In the meantime, I have some questions about audio books and I would appreciate any thoughts/opinions. Basically, the powers that be have somehow managed to make my day job even more boring. I didn’t think it was possible, but they’ve achieved it! At the moment I’m whiling away the daily grind with the help of my mp3 player, sometimes for up to seven hours a day, so I thought it might be a good idea to invest in some audio books to keep me entertained. (I don’t have the sort of job that requires any thought or concentration, so it shouldn’t be too hard to pay attention to the book and key things mindlessly at the same time). I do have some doubts about audio books though, which is why I’d appreciate some feedback.

The first thing that concerns me is pacing. I’m a pretty quick reader (depending on the book itself, obviously), and I do think listening to an audio book will be a much slower process than reading the book myself, although that doesn’t really bother me. What I’m worried about is whether the pacing can keep up with the book. I usually find that I read quicker in scenes where there’s a lot of drama and action, or if there’s suspense, strong emotions and the like. My reading pace adjusts to the content, and that’s something that happens automatically, it’s not something I do consciously. I think it does have an effect on my connection with the story though, which sounds like a weird thing to say and I can’t really explain it very well at all, but pacing is quite important for the way I read so audio books might take a bit of getting used to.

My other worry is whether the story will be as powerful. Again, that seems like a strange thing to say, but I don’t think stories resonate as much if I’m listening to them rather than reading them myself. You might say that it’s no different to a parent reading aloud to a child, but here I have a confession: I can’t remember my parents ever reading to me. Obviously they must have done because they taught me to read from a very young age, which clearly must have involved them reading aloud to me, but I don’t have any memories of that at all. I can remember reading aloud to them though, to practise my reading. It was a Rosie and Jim book that I really didn’t want to read, and I was sat with my mum on our old brown sofa under the living room window. I wasn’t allowed to have my bath until I’d finished reading it, and I kicked up a fuss but I did it. I remember that quite vividly, but I can’t remember them reading to me because they fairly quickly got me to a level where I could quite happily read independently and fluidly, and then they kept up a constant supply of books for me to work my way through. Happy days! But again, I can’t really relate to audio books on that level.

My favourite primary school teacher used to read aloud to us though, he introduced me to Harry Potter and another of my childhood fantasy favourites, Beyond the Deepwoods, and I did enjoy those parts of class. But once he’d finished reading them to us at school, I went out and got my own copies to read by myself, and I got far more emotionally involved and wept over a banderbear, whereas before I was relatively unfazed by his fate (although obviously I wouldn’t want to have been seen crying over a book in school). Everything seemed far more vivid and real to me when I read it for myself, in my own time, and I was able to stop whenever I wanted to picture a scene or speed to a dramatic climax. At the risk of sounding a bit new-agey, I don’t think I connect on the same emotional level if I’m not physically reading the text myself. It’s all these little, personal things about reading books that I worry will be lost in audio book medium.

Of course, there’s no point whingeing and moaning without actually giving it a go, and so I have tried to listen to some on youtube, but the main problem I have in that regard is that if I’m listening without really doing anything else, I tend to just fall asleep. I can’t help it, I’m such an accidental napper these days, I can rarely make it through a tv show with my eyes open. In theory, I’m less likely to fall asleep when I’m working at the same time as listening though. (I say in theory, but I have been known to fall asleep at my desk on more than one occasion. It’s a VERY dull job).

So you see, this very long, waffley ramble is really to say that I’m in a bit of a(n incredibly silly) dilemma, and I’d like to know of other people’s audio book experiences and opinions. Am I just being completely ridiculous? (You’re allowed to say yes if I am, and I probably am). Do you have any of these strange problems with audio books, or is it just something I need to get used to? Is it the same as reading a book for yourself, or does it detract from the ‘reading experience’? Are there any particular audio books you’d recommend to someone who’s never listened to any before? I expect choice of narrator plays a large part in this, so are there any you’d particularly recommend, or any I should avoid? Basically, I’d love to know any and all thoughts on everything audio book related, if you’d be so kind. (And keep an eye out for hopefully less rambling reviews coming soon).

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