This year started off rather stressful. As a result, I was in a major reading slump for the first 6-weeks of 2019. I finished exactly 1 book and that was on January 1.
I had my Goodreads 2019 reading challenge set at 78 books (1.5 books per week).
By February 15, I was 11 books behind with no relief in sight.
If you know me at all, you know that reading is a major part of my life. I love all things books. I love literary places, literary nick-knacks, literary prints, bags, shirts, and literary references. Bookstores are a second home (and maybe my primary if I ever get around to developing my bookstore idea). And libraries are my haven.
So to go over a month and a half without reading, well let’s just say it didn’t help the funk I was already in.
And in the midst of my reading funk, I had to move cross-country from Virginia to Washington. A 40+ hour drive, by myself, in a car.
Now I can keep myself fairly well entertained on car rides. I have an impressive library of music, including most of the Disney soundtracks. I love to sing and there’s nothing like singing in the car.
But I have driven cross-country before. Twice in fact. And I can tell you that after a while, music gets tiring. So does NPR and other talk radio.
I have long had mixed feelings about audiobooks.
On the one hand, audiobooks open the door of stories to those who are not able to read. I appreciate that. I believe books and stories should be accessible by anyone and everyone. And audiobooks provide another option, another path to stories.
But on the other, audiobooks are not books. There’s no actual reading. Different parts of the brain are engaged for reading versus listening.
Reading also has a tactile experience (holding the book, turning the pages, feeling the paper) that audio lacks. Audio, like e-books, is a much more sterile experience. An experience I hadn’t particularly cared for.
I admit, I was
a bit rather prejudiced against audiobooks. If given a choice, I’ll choose a physical book every time (and my overflowing bookshelves will attest to that).
Okay, I’ll say it. I’m a book snob. Oh, I have a Kindle, and I’ll carry it when I travel (let’s face it, books get heavy and take up space, so I can only take so many). But I much prefer a physical book. I mean, c’mon, I get no joy, no excitement over holding the Kindle (who’s name is Joyce, by the way).
But when faced with being stuck in a car, by yourself, for a week, well . . . I decided to give audiobooks another try.
Yes, despite my snobbery I have tried audiobooks before. But trying to listen to an audiobook while sitting in my apartment didn’t work. I quickly got distracted by other things and before I knew it, I had no idea what had happened in the story.
But I decided that a long car ride would be a good time to give audiobooks another go. On the advice of some fellow Littens, I opted to start with some audiobooks that I had read. Some favorites. And so I decided to try one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.
Neil Gaiman is one of my top 5 favorite authors. If he writes it, I’ll buy it. Doesn’t matter what it’s about. I preorder everything he writes. And the great thing about Gaiman’s audiobooks—he reads them himself.
If you don’t know Neil Gaiman, well, you must live in a cave and we probably can’t be friends. But for those who are not familiar with him, Neil Gaiman is British and has a lovely, lilting English voice. The man could read the Cheesecake Factory menu and it would be amazing. Seriously, he should do a meditation series. It’d be brilliant and everyone would be relaxed.
But I digress. Back to audiobooks.
Given that Gaiman is one of my faves, I opted to try two of his audiobooks—Coraline and Fragile Things. The added bonus is that Gaiman reads his own work, and so he knows the exact inflections and emphasis to place. He knows the story because it’s his.
Since I remained doubtful about audiobooks, I opted to use Libby, a free app that allows you to check-out e- and audiobooks from your local library. (Support your local library!) You must have a library card (you have to enter the number to connect). But once you do, you can check-out books from your library no matter where you are.
Well, 40+ hours later, I found that audiobooks are awesome in the car. After finishing Coraline and Fragile Things, I started checking out more of my faves and some I have never read.
To date, I’ve listened to 43 audiobooks. A lot of “rereads,” including about half of Gaiman’s collection, but some new stories too. I found I do better with ones less than 15 hours. And I still have to be in the car or walking to listen to them. If I try to listen to them at home, my mind still wanders. But that’s okay, because at home I have all my physical books.
I’ve also found that the narrator makes a lot of difference. I stopped listening to a couple audiobooks simply because I didn’t care for the narrator’s voice. And one or two, I did finish, but I didn’t care for how they read the book. Some of my favorite narrators in addition to Gaiman are Jim Dale, Wil Wheaton, Marin Ireland, Sophie Thompson, and Eden Riegel.
While audiobooks won’t ever be my preferred way to read a story, like e-books, I’ve found audiobooks are convenient.
And thanks to audiobooks, I got out of my reading slump and back on the reading wagon. As of today, I’m currently at 72 books for the year—28 books ahead of schedule! So I decided to up my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to 104 (2 books per week) , which still leaves me 13 books ahead of schedule. (I’ll leave it at 104 for now and revisit my goal in another couple months.)
If you haven’t tried audiobooks and want to, I recommend doing what I did—listening to them in your car or while taking a walk. And let me know how it worked for you.
If you do listen to audiobooks, what are some of your faves?