Usually when I say "I'm reading a book", people think I'm reading the ink on paper kind of book, or even an ebook. But I also like to listen to books, both the CD kind and the downloadable kind. I like listening to audiobooks while driving – No commercials! No radio dead spots! If I pick a book everybody in the family likes, we can listen to it together, and have something to do and talk about together on long trips. I like listening to audiobooks while exercising – it makes the time go faster when I don’t have to think about how much I'm sweating and how much longer I have to continue. I have even started listening to audiobooks while puttering about the house. Who really wants to think about chores, even when you’re in the middle of doing them? The audiobooks transport me out of the mundane even while I get things done.
Listening to a book adds a whole different layer to a book experience, and this different layer can really add to the reading experience when well done, or on the other hand, take away from your enjoyment of an otherwise perfectly good book.
What do I mean? One time I listened to an award-winning book told from a young boy’s point of view, yet the reader was an elderly man. That was distracting! Another time I listened to a book where one character was from Colorado Springs, yet the reader gave her a Southern accent. What?! When the reader mispronounces a place name, a friend of mine finds herself yelling at the reader, “It’s Puerto *Va-YAR-ta*, not Puerto *Va-LAR-ta*!” It's hard to be transported by a story when you're yelling at your CD player. And finally, some books just don’t work as well as audiobooks; if the language is luscious and complex, you can’t go back and reread a sentence like with a print book, just to enjoy how well it was written.
But when an audiobook is well done, it can transport you into its world even better than a print book can. Here are some examples of books that I found even better as an audiobook than I would have as a print book:
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, read (and sung) by a full cast. In a book about a society where music and singing are extremely important, where Asa must reconcile her voice with her appearance, hearing the full cast singing original music was a much deeper experience than just reading about the music. If you like listening to a full cast audiobook like this, do a Keyword search for “Full Cast Audio”.
Bloody Jack [being an account of the curious adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy] by L.A.Meyer, read by Katherine Kellgren. Reduced to begging and thievery in the streets of London, a thirteen-year-old orphan disguises herself as a boy and connives her way onto a British warship set for high sea adventure in search of pirates. What makes the audiobook so good is that the reader does all of the different British accents (gutter, Cockney, Dorsett, etc) much better than I could do in my head if I were just reading it.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, as read by the author himself. It is a wonderfully spooky, eerie story about Nobody Owens, a normal boy who has been raised by ghosts and other denizens of a graveyard. Neil Gaiman has the deep, gravelly voice to make it even spookier. Maybe I hear my own voice when I read a print book, but Neil Gaiman’s voice works better.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, read by Sandra Burr. This is another book where I wouldn’t hear in my head the Maine accents nearly as well as the reader does them. This character book about an unpleasant retired teacher in small-town Maine made me wonder how much we judge characters by their voice.
So pull out your CD player or put on your MP3 player ear buds, and borrow or download an audiobook from Sno-Isle. Happy listening!