I recently started using audiobooks. I’ve known people that have been listening to them for years, but for some reason I never jumped on the bandwagon. There’s something I romanticized about curling up in bed with a good book and a cup of tea. Of listening to the characters’ voices in my head, in the way I imagined them. Of letting their words and actions reveal unsaid words written between the lines in ways only I could interpret. I’d tried listening to an audiobook once, years ago, and my mind wandered–I heard the words but I couldn’t pin down exactly what was going on, so I gave up. I never gave audiobooks another fair chance, until now.
For my YA lit class, we were divided into groups and assigned a popular YA novel to do a project on. I chose the Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell group, because it’s been on my TBR list and I already own the book. It turned out that the other members of my group had already read it! So I was already woefully behind in the project planning. I knew I had to read it in about a week, on top of all the other reading an English major is assigned, so I was starting to sweat a little. Knowing that I had a lot of driving to do over the weekend, I decided to borrow the audiobook through my library’s ebook and audiobook service called Overdrive and listen to it in the car.
I spent about four hours in the car that day, and I fell in love not only with the story, but the way it was being told. I loved that the narrators did different voices for different characters. I loved that their tone was sassy or panicked or angry or flippant when it needed to be. And I loved, beyond all else, that I could do other things while reading. The next day, at work, I sat at my desk and stared at my email screen while listening to the rest of it (don’t tell my boss). I even put it on 1.25x mode because I wanted to hear it faster. I finished the book on the car ride home and I realized that for all these years I’d been wasting valuable reading time. Whenever I was in the car, or walking to class, or doing the laundry, or vacuuming, I could have been reading!
As soon as I finished Eleanor, I quickly checked out another audiobook. This time it’s The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, which I’m about halfway done with (and don’t worry, I’m not listening to it at work).
This new ability to absorb novels through audio is revolutionary to my way of life. I’m already thinking about books and story all the time. Every waking moment my head is filled with characters and stories, whether they’re ones I’ve read or ones I want to write. But taking five lit classes means I don’t have a lot of time for personal reading; I’ve been doing a lot of “good for me” reading, like Mark Twain and Shakespeare some dense theory articles, but not fun reading. But now, I can do fun reading! And I don’t even feel guilty about it, because I’m doing it when I wouldn’t otherwise be doing school reading, anyway.
One of my worst habits is that I’m bad about doing chores. Laundry piles up, stacks of paper go unorganized, the carpet is usually covered with toys and crumbs. But yesterday, I put on my headphones and went through life in a dreamlike state. I did the laundry, washed the dishes, vacuumed, organized, got gas, picked up some groceries–all while having The Raven Boys dictated to me in a smooth, Southern drawl. Before I dreaded the times when I had to put the book down, pull myself out of bed, and get the laundry in the washer. But now I don’t have to, because I can my stories with me.
There is one downside to audiobooks: close reading is nearly impossible. I get the story, but I might miss words here or there. I can’t go back and reread a sentence to see if there’s a deeper meaning. I can’t judge for myself the tone of a character; I’m completely dependent on a narrator to dictate it for me. For that reason, I don’t think audiobooks will work for most school work, especially where close analysis is involved. For novels that I read for fun, however, I think audiobooks are the perfect medium.