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How Listening to Monstrous Beauty Improved My Reading Life

2013 July 30
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I have been a voracious reader since childhood, but somehow the world of reading challenges had passed me by until very recently. February 9, 2013 to be exact. I began YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge six days after the start date, but that was
not a deterrent. At the onset of this adventure, my goals were:

  • complete the challenge
  • read at least one book from each award category
  • read outside my comfort zone

Each of these goals was important and expanded my reading horizons. However, reading outside my comfort zone proved to be both the most difficult and most rewarding aspect of the challenge.

At the onset, I assumed that reading a book from each category would qualify as “outside my comfort zone.” Reading outside my comfort zone meant more than reading across genres … it meant not reading! Enter the oft-overlooked audiobook. Format, not genre or topic, was my personal comfort zone. I listened to four audiobooks for the challenge, and one of those books changed the way I approach reading.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth FamaI was told, “listening to a non-fiction audiobook is like listening to NPR.” I like listening to NPR; let’s give this a try. I quickly went through two nonfiction titles on the list, reading along while listening to the CD. Success! I then returned to reading print books without fanfare, and then I hit the wall. I tried to finish a book on the list that others had raved about, and it just wasn’t working for me. The deadline was approaching and I had one more book to read. I searched the catalog for a book I wanted to read that was on the list. Nothing. Okay, I am determined to finish this reading challenge. What should I do? I looked for books that were on the list and available. Monstrous Beauty!

I had actively been avoiding this book. The description did not appeal to me, and I simply wasn’t interested, but I did want to complete the reading challenge. I discovered that the audio version was the only available at the time. You see, up to this point, even when I listened to audiobooks, I read along with the print version. Time was short; I couldn’t wait for the title to arrive in print format. So, I listened. I listened and I was hooked.

The book I had actively been avoiding (I don’t do mermaids) was one of the most engaging books I read during the challenge. If not for the challenge, I may not have rediscovered the magic of having a story read to me. If not for the challenge I would not have discovered the joy of “reading” Monstrous Beauty. For the record, it is so much more than a mermaid tale. It is a murder mystery, a family history, and a love story. It is a wonderfully written journey of a young woman’s self discovery and so much more.

– Regina Renee Ward

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9 Responses
  1. Carol permalink
    July 30, 2013

    I haven’t listened to Monstrous Beauty. but I did read it despite not wanting to read another mermaid book. I love the way Fama incorporated history and the family story made complete sense of the plot, but I never saw it coming. Whoops, I’m getting into spoiler territory here.

  2. July 30, 2013

    You have made this book sound fascinating, fun and rewarding.

  3. July 30, 2013

    Katy Kellgren did a magnificent job–the Odyssey honor was so well deserved!

    • July 30, 2013

      You did a magnificent job. I was totally engrossed in the lives of the characters you created. Well done. Thank you for writing a book I can whole-heartedly suggest to teens/adults at my library who are looking for an unusual and complex read.

  4. MindyE permalink
    July 30, 2013

    I “read”/listened to Monstrous Beauty too! and absolutely loved it (and all the other audiobooks on the list) . The actors are wonderful on the audiobooks! I’ve read a lot of postings here and on other blogs about the validity of reading an audiobook and I think we need to remember that “reading” is decoding symbols into comprehension or meaning …doesn’t matter if the symbols are printed letters on a page, or auditory sensations, or even raised dots. There are many types of reading. Audiobooks are all I listen to on my Ipod. They have taken the place of music…especially with the eAudio you can borrow from the public libraries or purchase from Audible! Absolutely LOVE them!!

  5. Rosie Pena permalink
    July 30, 2013

    Thanks for reminding us that there are many ways to enjoy a good book. I, too, love the printed word, but I like how easy it is to listen to an audiobook when in the car, exercising, or simply lounging. Also, part of what I love about reading challenges is that they do open one’s eyes to new literature. I’ve been averse to reading certain books based on description, but when pushed to do so, have ended up loving several of those very books that I once avoided. I haven’t yet read MONSTROUS BEAUTY, but now I’m intrigued. I’ll be adding that to my to-read list.

  6. Connie Widney permalink
    August 2, 2013

    I listen to all kinds of audio books. The actors who read can make the experience even more delightful and meaningful. Who better to read To kill a mockingbird than Sissy Spacek? And if you haven’t heard British actor Jim Dale read the Harry Potter books, you are missing a real treat!
    And it makes the morning commute much more fun.

  7. Mary Pearl permalink
    August 8, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your comments, Regina! This is getting me even more excited to try my very first “reading challenge.” I know there’s much more to discover, and will encourage me to open up to new and entrancing stories. Monstrous Beauty is going on my list (after I finish rereading the Harry Potter series)!

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