The Joy of Audiobooks

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Whew! We’re moved! Friday the 13th turned out to be very lucky day for us — no problems at all before, during, or after the move.

In the past two weeks, there were three or four days when I did not read more than ten pages. I’ve been reading so much in the past few months, it was very strange. I was so busy packing up the house and then cleaning the new house, that I didn’t even read at the end of the day.

Then I remembered that I could listen to an audiobook.

My library has audiobooks for download, has audiobooks to download, and there’s always the old-fashioned way of going to the library and checking out a book on CD.

So in the past two weeks, despite the fact that I couldn’t finish many of the books I started in January, I did get through two and half audiobooks: Animal Farm by George Orwell, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and half of Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt (a biography of Shakespeare).

It was very nice to have something to listen to as I packed up boxes. My husband was out of town during much of the packing and I felt very overwhelmed. But as I followed Elizabeth and Darcy’s romance, for example, I didn’t mind the hours of chores. It was fun to hear the story as I worked.

I’ve decided I much prefer to read a book. Both Animal Farm and Pride and Prejudice were “rereads” for me (and I’ve been wanting to reread P&P for months) and so it was OK listening this time around. I also find listening to nonfiction (like the biography) to be easier on the ears — it’s easier to follow if I miss a few seconds.

However, the time I get to read is time cherished. Listening to a good book is not the same pleasure, although it still makes the chores bearable.

What’s the last audiobook you read? Which genre is easiest for you to listen to in audio?

I still have many boxes to unpack, so I suspect I’ll get through the biography in no time this week! I also have a few books I finished in January and the early days of the month that I need to review on Rebecca Reads, so be on the look out for some reviews in the coming days (assuming I have time to sit down and write them…).

Reviewed on February 16, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Sounds like everything’s been a bit hectic over there; hope you’re settling in okay ๐Ÿ˜€

    Personally, I’m not all that comfortable with audiobooks because it feels strange to listen to a book, particularly if I don’t like the narrator’s voice.
    Only exception is the Harry Potter audiobooks. Stephen Fry does the best job ever. It’s almost better than reading the books, hahah!

  • I’m glad your move went so well. We’ve moved a lot so I know how much work it is. The last audio book I listened to was Little Pink House and I loved it.

  • Tuesday, I’ve found that I often don’t mind odd narration: I even listen to computer-generated voices or Librivox (which is amateur narration) sometimes because that means I can listen to the books I want to get to. But I think audiobooks are an acquired taste. I’d just rather “read” a book by audio rather than watch tv or listen to music. So when I’m doing tedious things it’s worth going to an audiobook.

    I’d still much rather sit down and read a book!

  • I’ve long known that I’m someone who is very visual, so I find it a bit hard to get into an audiobook. I’ll find my attention wandering, and they’re definitely not my preferred means of connecting with a book. I did try listening to audiobooks on the treadmill, as I have had no luck actually reading while running, but I’ve definitely found that the best books for that are pretty simple ones such as the Twilight series (where the narration is so repetitive that it really doesn’t matter if I zone out for a bit!). I don’t want anything with complicated prose, because I need to be able to see that and have the chance to go back over dense passages. Like Tuesday, I’ve also enjoyed the Harry Potter audiobooks, as I know the stories so well and Jim Dale (for the North American versions) really goes all out. I think I’d probably enjoy listening to murder mysteries by Agatha Christie on tape too! They seem like they’d lend themselves well to the audio form.

    Also, I think Animal Farm, and P&P were probably great audiobook choices! I think I wouldn’t mind listening to those either, but again, I’ve had the firsthand visual experience with them first.

  • The first audio book I listened to was Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, which I liked a lot as an audiobook because it was easy to listen to. I tried Sideways by Rex Pickett, but that one didn’t hold me as much. I also tried Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose (I think), and that one was hard too — I think because she quotes a ton of beautiful passages and then tries to analyze them, which I just can’t follow on audiobook. I just got The Graveyard Book from the library, and so far I like it a lot!

  • I’m not so big of a fan of audiobooks, and tend only to listen to them if the book I want to read isn’t available in my library system or if the book I’m reading isn’t holding my attention and i have to finish it (for a book club or something). I’ve tried listening in the car or on the treadmill, and it doesn’t work out well for me. I think that’s probably because I listen to complicated books like classics, and generally get them from librivox, which as you point out is amateur narration. I’ve never listened to a professional audiobook, so maybe I’d feel differently about them, but as I’m rarely in the car and tend to enjoy watching movies while I’m on the treadmill, I probably won’t start, either.

    It doesn’t help that I can read a book much faster than I can listen to an audiobook. I get impatient and just want to be done.

  • I’m a HUGE audiobook fan, but I’m particular about my narrators. I’ve tried Libraryvox but I really don’t like them – I need a GOOD narrator, and a good story, in order to enjoy an audio book. The car is my favorite place to listen, but I also put them on when I’m making dinner, or cleaning the house, or taking a shower, or brushing my teeth, and sometimes even before bed.

    I think that there are some stories that are meant to be TOLD, or at least, that work well when they are told. THE THIRTEENTH TALE is one that comes to mind – a large part of the story is a woman telling her life story to another woman, so it really lent itself well to being an audio book.

    But there are others that don’t work out as well, that’s for sure (Bernard Cornwell’s STONEHENGE comes to mind).

    I’m glad you gave it a try, even it only works for you in specific situations – there’s lot to be said for getting to “read” a book while you’re in the process of packing/unpacking!

  • Steph, I think I’m a visual person too. That’s why it always surprises me to find that I’m loving listening to an audiobook. I do think it helps to already be familiar with a book when listening in audio — it’s not as confusing if you miss something for a moment.

    Kim, I think I’m going to turn to YA for audiobooks too. That’s a great idea!

    Amanda, listening to “professional” audiobooks is a completely different experience from Librivox. I can handle librivox — or even computer-generate audiobooks — but a professional narration is so much better! The Shakespeare biography I’m listening too is narrated by a Shakespeare actor — he is doing a great job and it’s like I’m listening to a play (kind of). I also can’t listen to books while exercising. Just doesn’t work for me. I get impatient too. But I get even more impatient with my chores/packing etc. when I’m not doing anything with my mind…

    Heather J., yes it was refreshing to enjoy *something* about packing!

  • I’ve tried to listen to two audiobooks:

    Hamlet – in the car (nearly crashed when I nearly fell asleep)

    All the Pretty Horses – in the bathtub (nearly drowned when I nearly fell asleep)

    Both attempts were aborted in favor of the actual book in hand.

    That said, I have 4 audio books now that I might try listening to next time my husband is driving the car on a longish trip.

  • I think Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was the last audiobook I let read to me. Unless you count the online videos of Neil Gaiman reading The Graveyard Book which I listened to.

  • In a non-hectic world, I would always choose to read a book over listening. But having four kids generates an amazing amount of laundry and housework (even though they help), and I would just go nuts if I didn’t have audiobooks to listen to while wasting my time cleaning up things that get messed up or dirty soon after! I had to really learn to listen well, it took my first few to get the hang of it. I have learned that I do not listen well in the car for some reason, so I do that less. When I signed up for goodreads which allows you to put books into categories, I realized that I’ve listened to about 50 books over the last couple of years. I’m still picky though–I won’t listen to something that I know is going to be really, really good because want the full experience of having the book in my hands and turning the pages.
    I could really go on and on about this topic! Three books that I rated five stars on good reads are Fast Food Nation, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Non-fiction and children’s books seem to be my favorite form of audio.
    Anyway, congrats on your new house!

  • Lenore, Ha Ha! Yeah, maybe don’t be in front of the wheel next time. I hope it works out for you.

    Ladytink, I think that counts. I imagine hearing the author read his own work would be super cool!!

    Chain Reader, I *loved* listening to my mother read me Mrs PiggleWiggle. That’s a great idea for an audiobook! I also prefer nonfiction to fiction, probably because of what you say: I want the pleasure of reading it myself, and I always look forward to fiction like that!

  • I’ve only just started listening to audio books, so now I can listen to a few extra books in the car. I much prefer reading actual books though, and try to limit audio books to lighter reads.

    I’m your partner for the Dewey mini challenge! Which sort of books are out of your comfort zone? I’d quite like to read the same thing as you, and compare notes. I’ve never read a graphic novel or a western, but am up for other suggestions.

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