Listening to Good Books

I am now a big fan of audio books.  I just finished my third book.  I have a few observations:

1.  Libraries offer free audio book rentals.  Our local library allows audio books to be downloaded onto computers right from home.  You can choose your borrowing period.  A link to a free player is provided.  This is a wonderful service that I did not know about until a friend told me.  It is so much nicer than worrying about transporting a bunch of audio CDs.  When I finish a book, I can download and start another anytime of the day or night.  Free.

2.  It’s best to be moving or, at least, sitting up when listening to an audio book.  During recovery right after my vitrectomy, when I had to keep my head down, it was very difficult to stay awake while listening.  Even a great audio book can lull a person to sleep.  It’s really annoying to wake with a start and try to figure out where you drifted off.  I would sometimes replay an entire chapter, only to discover that I had missed just one sentence.

3.  There are a LOT of audio books out there.  I never imagined what a great variety of books have been transferred to an audio format.  There are lists and reviews all over the internet.

4.  Audio books are long.  It takes forever to listen through an entire book.  Even a book that I am loving and enjoying seems, by the tenth or eleventh hour, to be dragging. I now always check to see how long an audio book is before I start listening.  That way, I know what to expect.

5.  The voice reading the book is very important.  Obviously.  Before I learned about audio books, I had assumed that they are all narrated by famous “stars,” whose name recognition could help sell the book.  Instead, most books are narrated by skilled readers, actors whose names I don’t necessarily recognize but who excel at bringing a book to life.  I have found online reviews to be very accurate regarding the skill of the reader.  A few authors read their own books.  I was suspicious of this until I listened to David Sedaris read his book When You Are Engulfed In Flames.  He has great comedic timing and really does a wonderful job. Now, I can’t imagine his books being narrated by anyone else,

The three books I have listened to are:

  • Roses by Leila Meacham, Narrated by Coleen Marlo – This is a good fiction audio book, although extremely long.  It follows the twists and turns of a Texas family through several generations.  It was interesting and kept my attention.  The one thing that I did not like was the narrator’s “male voice” when a man was speaking.
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Narrated by Jeff Woodman – One of my favorite books ever.  The book is well written.  The narrator is wonderful.  The story is compelling.  This was highly recommended on several audio book lists online.  After listening to a couple of chapters, I had to double check how long ago the book was written (2001).  I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of it or read it already.  I listened to chapter 16 twice, because it was so beautiful.  I told my husband and children that they MUST get a copy of this book and read it.
  • When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris, Narrated by David Sedaris – If you like David Sedaris, you will love his reading of his own book.  This book is a series of stories from his life.  Some of the chapters are so funny that I laughed out loud.  Some of the chapters were kind of sad and full of pathos.  The book contains really foul language and raunchy sexual humor, so I would never recommend it to anyone that might be offended.  Sedaris’ book Me Talk Pretty One Day was more highly recommended, but there was a waiting list for that, so I thought I would try this while I waited.  I needed something humorous and this book really delivered.

I just downloaded Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori.  Several different lists rated it as the best audio book of all time, so I have high hopes for this book.  I will be starting it today.

Audio books have been a lifesaver for me since my surgery.  They allow me to “do something” while resting my eyes.  They have kept my mind active, and distracted me from thinking about being stuck in the house recuperating.  I am grateful for the library, which makes audio books so easily available to people with low vision.

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6 thoughts on “Listening to Good Books

  1. Hi, first of all, thanks for your kind words about my narration of The Life Of Pi. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    I was struck by your saying ” Before I learned about audio books, I had assumed that they are all narrated by actors. Instead, most books are not narrated by famous people.”

    I think you must have meant that you assumed they were all narrated by “stars.” I assure you, the vast majority of us audiobook narrators ARE actors, or we wouldn’t be able to play 40 or 50 different characters in a single book.

    While I’m hardly a star, I have acted on and off Broadway, and have a bunch of TV shows to my credit as well (thank heaven for the Law & Order franchise!).

    Narrating audiobooks is the most difficult acting I do. On stage or TV I have all my actor’s tools to draw upon to create a character; my face, my body, and my voice. In narration work, I have to create multiple characters with my voice alone. Believe me, that takes some acting!

    All best to you!

    • Mr Woodman, I was thrilled to see that you had commented on my blog post and then horrified to realize that I had offended you and other audio book narrators with my careless wording. I have thought about removing the offending sentences entirely, but thought that I would start by rewriting them. “Before I learned about audio books, I had assumed that they are all narrated by famous “stars,” whose name recognition could help sell the book. Instead, most books are narrated by skilled readers, actors whose names I don’t necessarily recognize but who excel at bringing a book to life.”

      I sincerely regret insulting your experience because of my ignorance of your many acting credits. As I said in my post, you did a wonderful job narrating The Life of Pi. Please accept my apology. Belinda

  2. LOL Belinda – I know what you mean about those “male voices.” But surprisingly, I came to recognize when she switched characters and who she switched to at what time. That was a tough one to narrate, I’m sure, especially with the southern accents.

    • I know it must have been hard. I can’t think of a better way to read it, but it took me a while to be able to listen to dialogue without being distracted. I probably should have added that I did get used to it eventually and could tell who was talking by the voice she was using.

  3. Hi. Glad you’ve discovered the joys of audiobooks. Be warned tho’ they are addictive ! I have a backlog of 100’s of gigabytes of them plus lectures and dramatisations to get through. I also love podcasts for keeping in the know as it were. I subscribe to Audible.com’s gold plan.
    I know how awful the posturing post-vitrectomy is. Ooh my neck

    • I can understand how the audio books could get addicting. So far, I am just downloading one at a time. I also like to listen to lectures, but I have never tried a podcast. If you could recommend a couple of good podcasts or a place to find good ones, I would like to give one a try.
      Head down posture – the memory will stay with me forever!

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