Something we’ve started to notice in our discussions is the way people react differently to certain scenes, or even books in general, if they read an audiobook. So, I suppose we should discuss audiobooks a bit: do you listen to them? How do they impact your reading experience?
I have only one thing to say on this topic. I’ve never listened to an audiobook in my life. I’ll just be over here in my shame corner. Carry on….
I could count on one hand how many I’d listened to before having C. We’ve been listening to them more and more now that she enjoys longer stories but can’t yet read them herself. Charlotte’s Web was read by E.B. White himself, which was pretty cool. And we just finished up Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which was read with great enthusiasm by David Walliams. I enjoyed hearing their voices far more than I enjoyed hearing my own; I’m sure C would agree! The bulk of my audiobook enjoyment lately has been children’s books. But hey, they’re high quality reads, so I’m not going to complain too much!
For years audiobooks were only for the purposes of long car trips and were relegated to only what I could find at Cracker Barrel or the library (which meant a lot of trashy novels), but in recent years with the rise of Audible I’ve found myself listening to more and different types of audiobooks.
For a period of time, I would listen to the ‘hard’ books on audio, things that I knew I’d never be able to get through sitting down and reading it. But, the past few months especially, I’ve been using audio to ‘re-read’. I listened to the MaddAddam trilogy, I can’t tell you how many times (at least five full listens of those books… ) I’ve listened to Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle to help me drift off to sleep at night. Now I’m taking on ‘re-reading’ The Dark Tower series by Stephen King on audio, mostly at night before I go to bed.
For years I was a huge fan of audiobooks because of my various commutes to work. They were all that saved me from being on the eleven o’clock news in a road rage incident. I listened to everything but where they worked best for me is nonfiction. I’m not drawn to reading it but listening to someone talk about real events or people was fascinating- kind of like being back in college but without the exams or pressure.
Several years ago, my spouse listened to the unabridged version of Dante’s The Divine Comedy during the daily work commute. Speaking of “hard” books, ha!
Listening is more passive to me than actually reading, so I think people who only ‘read’ audio-books are doing themselves a great disservice. But some books almost require audio. I listened to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please on audio and I think it was probably a fuller experience than reading the book, just because of who Poehler is, the way she chose to record (using other actors to ‘act out’ certain scenes in the book) and there is probably an element of improv in the recording that you’re just not going to find in the book. But outside that very special type of memoir, there’s nothing that’s going to be better on audio. Not to say that it will be worse, just different.
I fit into the audiobooks on car trips category (and even that has started to decrease over time as I’ve upped my podcast game), but I very rarely listen to fiction. I find that I have a hard time staying focused on the narration and drift off, which usually leaves me missing parts of the story.
I hear ya on the drifting off! By the time I have a chance to put headphones on at home, I’m so tired I usually end up falling asleep while listening. Then there’s the frustration of figuring out exactly where that happened. I’m rarely alone in the car, and often when I am I find I just want silence. Listening to my own audiobook choices on a regular basis hasn’t seemed to happen yet, but I keep trying.
I did have one oddball case where I was reading Where’d You Go Bernadette for my book club and could only get an audio version from the library. It ended up being so great! I think it’s similar to the case with Yes Please, maybe having those comedic elements—the way the narrator acted out certain scenes was absolutely hilarious and I’m not sure I would have found them as funny if I was reading on my own.
For me, listening is more active than reading, in that it feels like more effort. I have to really work to pay attention for long periods of time like that. Unless, as you two have mentioned, there’s an element of comedy or a distinct voice I want to hear (as in the case of a memoir). Thinking more about the latter, does anyone else find it jarring when a memoir is narrated by someone other than the author, in the case of a famous personality?
The narrator can make or break a book. I do think it would be odd to hear a memoir read by someone other than the author except…if they had a very poor reading voice. When I was listening to tons of books there were narrators I would not listen to- which puts audiobooks under a tougher standard—not just the content but the sound. In reading the voice is yours.
How many of you are big on audiobooks? Does the narrator impact your enjoyment of the book? Or can you power through a bad narrator if the story is good? Do you think you gain or lose anything by listening to a book instead of reading it in print?