On audiobooks

About four years ago, I made a terrible discovery: I can no longer read in a car or on a bus.  I didn’t have a problem with car-sickness when I was a kid, but now that I’ve hit 30, trying to read in a moving vehicle is a surefire recipe for nausea.  Since I commute to work on the bus, this discovery was a blow.

Fortunately, I’ve found help: Audiobooks.

I had listened to audiobooks before, but only on really long road trips where I would be driving.  Now they’re an essential part of my entertainment.  I try to always have one fresh audiobook in my listening queue.  Not only are they great for the bus, but they also make the gym much more enjoyable.

Listening to books has done interesting things to my reading habits.  I’ve become much more attentive to the rhythm and structure of prose.  I pay more attention to descriptions of places and I’m more attuned to whether dialogue “sounds” real.  I’ve also often wondered if I would have reacted to an audiobook differently if I had just read it on my own.  For example, this spring I listened to two of Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr books (The Better Part of Valor and The Heart of Valor), read by Marguerite Gavin.  In that case I think I liked the audiobooks more than I would have liked the books on their own.  They’re fairly standard-issue military sci-fi and both books had some plotting and pacing problems, but Gavin’s voice breathes life into Torin Kerr and made me care about the character in a way that I’m not sure the prose alone would have.

There are times, however, when an audiobook just won’t do.  Like most people, I read much more quickly than an audiobook reads to me.  A few months ago I checked out Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign, read by Grover Gardner.  I’d been wanting to read it for a long time so I thought I would give it a try as my next audiobook.  I liked Gardner’s wry tone (and the phrase “butter bug” uttered aloud is pure alliterative comic gold), but as the plot thickened, I found I couldn’t stand waiting to find out what happened. I gave up on the audiobook and downloaded the Kindle version to finish it quickly.

Does anyone else listen to audiobooks?  Any favorites to recommend?


2 comments on “On audiobooks

  1. kerry says:

    I’ve listened to “The Piano Teacher” by Janice Lee on audiobook several times on car trips (after first reading it in print). I’m slightly obsessed with the reader’s voice – which can make or break an audiobook. Sometimes I find it disappointing to listen to books read in the author’s voice – it’s never quite the way you expected them to sound. Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris come to mind.

  2. Trisha says:

    I listen to audio books while doing cardio, but only while doing cardio. It really helps with motivation, because I hate leaving the book.

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