Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tell Me a Story

I'm pretty sure humans have enjoyed oral storytelling ever since the first cave people gathered around the fire and started spinning yarns to amuse themselves. (Which predated actual yarn, but you know what I'm trying to say.) Judging from the exploding market for audiobooks, we haven't lost our taste for listening to great stories. According to Publisher's Weekly, for example, audiobook revenue jumped 22.7% in 2018. That's huge.

If you're old enough, you will remember Books on Tape--bulky collections of uncooperative cassette tapes, often abridged to make them light enough for one person to carry without risk of physical injury. The digital market changed all of that. Now, we can tote audiobooks around in our pockets without so much as a tweaked muscle. Technology for the win!

Despite the growing popularity, I don't have much experience with audiobooks. When my boys were younger, we listened to the Harry Potter series (voiced by the amazing Jim Dale) on road trips, and that's pretty much been it for me. So last week, I decided to jump in and see what I've been missing.

Using Hoopla, I was able to borrow and download the books free from my library. I chose one fiction (The Nightmare Room, by Chris Sorensen, narrated by the author) and one nonfiction (Heart: A History, by Sandeep Jauhar, narrated by Patrick Lawlor). Full disclosure: it was a busy week for me with a kid graduating from high school on Saturday, and I was not able to finish either of them. They are both very good, albeit very different, books, and I hope to get to the end at some point in the near future.

From a convenience standpoint, audiobooks beat print books hands-down. I could listen while I did laundry, washed dishes, or worked in the garden. (I know many people like to listen in their cars, but I didn't try that this time around.) And there's an engaging performance aspect to audiobooks; a good narrator really does make for a fun experience. I enjoyed the time I spent with both.


As a writer, I find myself taking sentences apart to examine what worked or what I would do differently, and I missed seeing the words on the page. I also missed the ability to reread passages that resonated with me; they went in one ear and out the other, as the expression goes. If my mind wandered a bit, I couldn't just glance back to catch up. And I kind of missed the sound of my own voice reading in my head, if that makes sense.

All in all, one week wasn't enough to make an immediate audiobook convert out of me, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel. There are so many books I want to read--and so little time to read them--that multitasking with an audiobook makes sense.

So I will Take It...and any recommendations you may have for my listening pleasure!

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