James hearts audiobooks

James writes: I had friends who were big audiobook fans, and I never quite got it. I could read faster than I could listen, right? So what’s the point?

And then I drove up to San Francisco and somebody lent me a book. (One of Steve Martin’s novels.) And, in one long, boring road trip, I was hooked. You can listen to a book while doing something else! It’s incredible!

I still read a lot (often in the bathtub, but that’s a different post), but now I listen to audiobooks all the time. They’re great for the treadmill at the gym; for doing laundry; for weeding the tomatoes in the garden. Ironically, I almost never listen to them while driving – I get caught up in the story and miss my exit, or worse. Even “The Hunger Games” isn’t worth dying for.

I’m in the Los Angeles area, and the library system here has audiobooks to download as well as thousands of books on CD. I load them up on my iPod, listen to them, and then erase them. (There’s a useful article about getting books into your iPod here.) And I’m sure most library systems have audiobook collections – it’s definitely worth checking out for your own area.

Good readers can make a good book even better. My favorite audiobook is probably Stephen King’s “The Shining” read by the actor Campbell Scott. Scott is quiet and a little chilly – he tamps down King’s sometimes overheated prose like the Colorado winter tightening its grip. It’s a great marriage of performer and material.

It’s also fun to hear a writer read his or her own work – a couple of months ago I listened to Madeleine L’Engle reading “A Wrinkle In Time.” She’s not polished, but she gives the audiobook a wonderful humanity.

Once in a while, a reader can ruin a book. Readers can be hammy, stilted, or just plain offensive: I remember starting (and not finishing) a novel where the reader read a gay character’s dialogue with a lisp for no reason at all.

But the bad ones are rare, and there are loads of wonderful ones. If you’re not already an audiobook fan, give them a try. Your ears will thank you.

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Posted on August 15, 2012, in Favorite Reads, This and That and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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