Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Audiobooks

I’ve always loved the physical act of reading and the feel of a sturdy, paper and ink book in my hands. This is one reason why I haven’t bought a Kindle or a Nook yet, much as it would help my overstuffed bookshelves. So it might be surprising that I am also an audiobook addict. 

It wasn’t always this way. I can vaguely remember a time when I had no interest in audiobooks and thought they were only for the lazy, the blind, and the elderly. But after college I found myself facing two conundrums: I had a dull 45 minute commute and not nearly enough time to study for the Literature GREs. So I turned to audiobooks. 

First it was just lectures from the Great Courses series, but then I started to tentatively branch out to actual books – those classics that I never got around to reading. There were many books that I still felt like I MUST read as a PHYSICAL TEXT, either because they required more careful analysis or because I thought they would put me to sleep while I was driving (I’m looking at you, Mayor of Casterbridge). But a few worked well on audio, especially when the readers were well-chosen. 

When I was finally free of the GRE, I indulged myself for several months with the most anti-GRE audiobooks I could find. (The Nanny Diaries narrated by Julia Roberts? Surprisingly good.) When I got into grad school and moved many hours away from my boyfriend and family, audiobooks filled the long trips to and fro on breaks. As an added bonus, I discovered that as long as the book was relatively fast paced, I could listen to it while working out. So I became the only person at the gym using a Discman. Library books on tape are also the reason that I kept the tape deck in my car and my colorful My First Sony Walkman, so clearly audiobooks have made me cool and hip beyond my wildest dreams.

Anyway, the point is I became an audio book addict in less than a year, and I continue to listen to them even though my two commutes are blessedly short now. I do pick carefully – many books just aren’t the same on audio – and I certain do far more physical reading of books than listening, but audiobooks will always have a special place in my heart. Some aspiring authors fantasize about what actors will play their characters in the movie version; I more often dream about choosing an audio reader for mine.  

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