Why I might give audiobooks another try

By | June 16, 2017

I’ve always read a lot, even back when I was a little kid. Now, at 49 years old, I’m usually in bed by 9 o’clock so I can read for an hour or two before falling asleep. Don’t get too excited, ladies – this wild man’s already taken!

Hands off, ladies

Lately I’ve been thinking about trying an audiobook. I attempted this once before, years ago, because a friend told me he’d listened to a couple of books while driving from Maine to Florida. What I discovered was that listening to a book may be perfect while driving several hours down 95 through the long, flat southern states, but it doesn’t work when you’re trying to make your way through traffic while throwing out the occasional cuss word or hand gesture to your fellow drivers.

Audiobooks require concentration

Listening to an audiobook is not like listening to the radio. Music is sort of the backing track to what’s happening around you and requires no thought whatsoever, but you really need to pay attention when listening to an audiobook. If you get distracted for even a few seconds, it’s like missing a paragraph while reading a book. And if you lose focus for a minute, you might as well have just ripped a page right out of that book.

My son started listening to the Harry Potter books on CD last year. We couldn’t get him to read the books, but once he started listening he was off to the races. He was listening, reading – he couldn’t consume them fast enough. Now he’s on to the Percy Jackson series. He listens almost every morning before school and every night. Sometimes he’ll read along in the book while listening to the audiobook, and other times he’ll play with his Legos or just sit and listen on headphones with his eyes closed, lost in the world of Percy Jackson.

The narrator is key

I’ve discovered that the narrator is very important with audiobooks, almost as important as the content. The guy who did the Harry Potter books was fantastic, doing great impersonations of the characters, while the Percy Jackson narrator is adequate but not great.

A friend of mine began listening to books on Audible because they offer two free books to start. He chose Burt Reynolds’ biography as his first book. In my opinion, 1970s Burt Reynolds was probably the coolest movie star ever. This is the Burt I remember.

Burt Reynolds in Deliverance

But the Burt Reynolds narrating his audiobook is something else. My friend found it a little sad and let me listen to some of the book so I could hear for myself. Burt’s voice is weak, he pauses a lot as if out of breath, and you can hear the pages rustle. Now, this is to be expected – he’s in his eighties, and nobody stays young forever. Most of us will be lucky if we’re still breathing at that point. And in a way, I suppose it’s good to hear the old stories told by an older man. But honestly, I think it would take some getting used to.

My friend listens to the books on headphones while he rakes. It’s a mindless chore and he can devote his full concentration to the book. So maybe I’ll try it. Raking hurts my back and shoulders (hooray for middle age!) but I could lie in bed and listen to an audiobook with headphones before falling asleep. Now comes the hard part – deciding which book to listen to first.

 

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