My library had a dozen reserves on Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I didn’t feel like waiting yet longer to read it, so I bought the audiobook from audible.com. (I can’t explain why in this case I got the audio instead of the physical book, but I did.) I hadn’t read many reviews of this book, so I didn’t know what to expect, as I explained in my review of it.
From the first moment of listening to this book, which was read by Allan Corduner, I knew it was going to be a good experience. The reader’s voice was pleasant and his intonation, rhythm, and speed were incredibly appropriate. I felt like I was listening to a poet presenting his work.
I was so intrigued by how it was read, I found the book and looked at it to see how it was laid out. It was published with bullets, titles, and facts; the reader had read it just like it was written.
If the reader hadn’t read it so well, I may have been turned off by the overdramatic prose in Zusak’s novel. I think I may have loved listening to it more than I’d have loved reading it, but I will never know; if I read it now, I’d hear the reader’s voice. My experience with this book has been changed forever. As it was, I loved it.
Is Listening to an Audiobook Reading?
When I was 12 and 13, I read the comics page of the Sunday newspaper. As I got older, I gradually began to search for more in the paper each week: the “magazine”, the political cartoons, the main page, and the headlines of the other sections. I became newspaper literate.
I believe that reading is anything that encourages literacy and understanding. Comics—even wordless political cartoons—encourage literacy and cultural understanding. I’ve never read a “graphic novel” but I imagine it is similar in its grasp. Although an individual may not physically hold a book (with covers and pages) between their hands, they may still be reading. I enjoy all varieties of reading: online/digital books via Project Gutenberg or Daily Reader, hardcover books, soft cover books, newspapers, magazines, and, yes, audiobooks.
Personally, I often choose the audio format because then I can experience my books while I’m cooking, ironing, driving, or doing any number of my daily tasks. I’ve listened to many audiobooks, although I usually listen to nonfiction. I choose nonfiction in audio because it’s often easier to stop and come back to, and often the reader’s voice is easier to ignore and doesn’t seem as integral to the words. I have had bad experiences with audiobooks: when the voice is horrid, I try to ignore it and listen to the words. The words are why I’m listening in the first place: I am listening to what the author has written. I should be able to ignore a voice just as I’d ignore the typeface of a physical book.
I consider listening to a book to be “reading” it, although I concede it is a different experience. I have just finished a great audiobook, so I’ll use it as an example.
Have you experienced audiobooks, and was your experience good or bad? Obviously, I’ve made it clear that I feel listening to a text is a form of reading it. Do you agree with me? If not, please explain why; I want to know why my reading of The Book Thief wasn’t. To me, it was more than reading it: it was experiencing it.