Audiobooks: Fact and Fiction

photo by flickr user dano
photo by flickr user dano

I wish I could be reading constantly.  I really don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. Audiobooks have helped me out with this a lot. Three years ago, I associated audiobooks with being forced to listen to a boring biography of Walt Disney on a road trip that took about 200 hours, not to mention about 200 cassette tapes. But, when I started grad school I drove forty-five minutes one way for school and thirty-five minutes the other way for work, and it was putting a serious dent in my reading time. When I rediscovered audiobooks, my number of books read per year easily doubled and I was hooked. Now I will talk about audiobooks with anyone who will listen (pun intended).  If audiobooks strike fear in your heart too, keep reading, and you might want to give them another chance.

  1. Fiction: Audiobooks are outdated and expensive.
    Fact: Audiobooks are up and coming and affordable (or free!)While it is true that purchasing audiobooks on CD can still set you back around fifty dollars, digital audiobook downloads usually cost about the same as a digital music CD download.  And of course, most libraries circulate audiobooks on CD and for downloading straight to your smartphone for free.
  2. Fiction: You do not have time for audiobooks.
    Fact: You wouldn’t believe the time you have for audiobooks!Very rarely do I sit down on my couch, crank up the audiobook, and stare into space awkwardly (maybe if I’m really sleepy). Usually I listen to my audiobook when I’m driving, cleaning, cooking, knitting, crafting, standing in line, etc. etc.  If you are a really avid reader, I think it’s safe to say that you have been cleaning your bathroom and wishing you could be reading instead.  Or maybe you love crafting but find that your crafting hobby is seriously cutting into your reading time. Perhaps your local librarian has given you a talking-to about not taking new hardbacks into the bubble bath with you. Just download the book on your phone, and set it atop the toilet!
  3. Fiction: Audiobooks are ONLY books.
    Fact: Audiobooks have special features!Kind of like DVDs, some audiobooks come with extras that you can’t find in the print book. For example, at the end of the audio version of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, the author gives an interview about the process of writing her other novel, Beauty Queens. Maggie Stiefvater composes and performs music to pair with her audiobooks.  Sometimes a song might feature prominently in book.  For example, in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, a song called “Sixteen Moons” mysteriously appears on the main character’s iPod. Audiobook listeners hear the song instead of just reading it. Actually hearing the haunting music makes the story all the more intriguing.
  4. Fiction: Audiobooks will come between you and the characters.
    Fact: A good narrator will bring you closer to the characters.Sometimes, as readers, we feel possessive of the way we imagine characters.  While it is true that a bad audio narrator may keep you from liking a character, a good audio narrator can show you their essence.  Good narrators who have made a real effort to understand their character, to consider their past and their current circumstances, and, most importantly to empathize with their joys and sorrows can make a character come to life.  This can make you feel as if the character is speaking directly to you as a confidante, as if you are important enough to hear all their secrets.  If you don’t believe me listen to Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra read the title roles in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (2014 Odyssey Honor).
  5. Fiction: Audiobooks are not “real reading.”
    Fact: “Real reading” lies in the eyes and ears of the reader.It is 2014. Readers are exceedingly fortunate to have access to various formats. Just as there are different learning styles, there are also different reading styles.  Those that respect the right to read should also respect the right to read what and how the reader chooses.

With that in mind, go forth and listen! Here are some recommendations to get you started:

  • If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, read by Negin Farsad (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, read by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podhel (2011 Odyssey Honor)
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer, read by Kate Reading
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton
  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, read by Jorjeana Marie

-Emily Childress-Campbell, currently listening to Wildlife by Fiona Wood

6 thoughts on “Audiobooks: Fact and Fiction”

  1. I completely agree! Some books are better on audio because of fantastic narration and/or sound effects (Will Grayson, Will Grayson); though I have sometimes given up on one due to poor narration.

    I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that I could get a lot of “reading” done while commuting to work and it took me even longer to realize that I could listen to a book on CD at my work computer (school library) while I still worked (check e-mail, catalog, etc.).

    I’ve never been one of those people who needed white noise to study, do homework, etc. I get easily distracted and always preferred silence, but now I really do focus better when I catalog, if I’m listening to a book (it helps me block out extraneous noise). I sometimes have to repeat tracks and/or pause the CD during the day, but that’s O.K. and students usually ask which book it is or they sometimes recognize the book, if they’ve already read it!

  2. LOVE Audiobooks! Some narrators have led me to other great reads because through their voice the story comes alive so I have specifically looked for them as a narrator. I love the website (an Amazon spin-off) which helps keep audiobooks reasonably priced for me.
    It amazes me how many voices/accents one person can perform. Katherine Kellgren narrator for the Bloody Jack series is one of the best in my opinion. I preferred this series on Audio because her voice is better than the individual character voices I can imagine on my own.
    Our library also offers a huge selection of audiobooks online as well as on CD. Always support your library!! Go in & see what your library district has to offer.

  3. Oh. My. Gosh. THANK YOU for this post! I’m someone who reads ferociously; I, like you, have zero patience for anything that comes between me & my books. So no matter what’s on my Kindle or which book I have in my hand, I have an audio book to fall back on when I’m doing those things that don’t allow for simultaneous reading!

    I agree wholeheartedly that a good narrator only adds depth to the story & the characters. Listening to a book should absolutely qualify as reading & I say for those who disagree…really I’m not sure that I care much! I’m happy with it so that’s what matters; just another form of multi-tasking!

    Definitely The Raven Boys series is wonderful – Will Patton as narrator…it doesn’t get much better! Another one by Maggie S. that I HIGHLY recommend on audio is The Scorpio Races- magnificent!

  4. All my life I’ve only read one book at a time, but now with audiobooks on my phone, I can listen in the car, while I exercise, or when I’m sewing, and have my regular print book to read at my regular reading times. It has greatly increased my reading for which I am truly grateful. Like you I am picky about the narrator, and will generally not continue with a book if they are not good, or whiny. I agree with you on Katherine Kellgren, I look for her books! And The Scorpio Races was riveting as was Code Name, Verity.

  5. Glad to hear from the comments that I am not alone in my audio dedication! I absolutely agree about Katherine Kellgren. For those of you who love The Raven Boys and Will Patton, you will be excited to hear that he is also narrating the third book Blue Lily, Lily Blue, which is being released on Oct.21st! I am relistening to the series right now in preparation.

  6. Chiming in with the adoring crowds of audiobooks. I discovered them during a long commute job, also, and the only difficulty I have is that now that I have small children around, I have to be able to hear what they are up to while I’m doing other things…so “my” audiobooks get relegated to evening or nap time chore or knitting time. On the other hand, I enjoy listening to kids’ audiobooks with them in the car!

Comments are closed.