Friday, September 11, 2009

20 Years Later: Dipping An Ear Back Into Audiobooks

No one could have been more shocked than I was. When audiobooks first made their appearance at my hometown library (where I was working at the time) around 20 years ago, I was positive that I'd love them. I checked out several and listened to them while I was driving both on short trips and long. No love -- only a mixed feeling of impatience and weariness. The only exception was Thinner. Not enough to keep me in the audiobook game.


I used to enjoy being read to so much. What happened? After years of pondering, I finally have a theory: It's Mrs. Betty Lemmon's fault. We only knew each other for 3 books during the fall of 1972, but her reading was so sublime that she ruined me for any other reader. If Mrs. Lemmon showed up in Korea right this very minute and said, "Sue, sit down and listen to this story," I'd be right there, leaning forward, my elbows resting on my desk. Mrs. Lemmon was perfection. She was everything a bookworm could possibly want in a reader. I just hope subsequent generations have appreciated her talent. I'd hate to make a trip to mid-Missouri just to kick some elementary school ass.

After my initial foray into audiobooks, I had a strong aversion to that format. I finally began to turn around a while back when Isabella mentioned that she was audiobooking Great Expectations, read by Hugh Laurie. I presume that he uses his original accent, not that it matters. Love 'em all. (Speaking of dear darling Hugh, a teacher who lives upstairs from me has an audiobook of Three Men In A Boat read by Mr. Laurie that's making the rounds.) The tide was turning, and yes, I was stopping by the audiobook sections of bookstores everywhere I went, but still no purchase.

That ended 2 weeks ago. While I was at Bandi & Luni gathering madly for the Canadian Challenge 3, I found an audiobook of Black Boy, Richard Wright's autobiography. I'd just devoured Native Son the week before. Big decision time. Then I saw that Black Boy was read by Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird. Peters' voice seemed like a perfect fit for Wright's writing. Sold.

I brought home my first audiobook, but now I'm at a loss about how to listen. I don't want to be reading something else or grading papers or messing around on the computer or anything else that might take a portion of my concentration away from the book. I don't drive over here, so no car. I don't sew, crochet or knit, but I feel as if I should be doing something. What about cleaning? Mrs. Lemmon wanted all of us to sit quietly and concentrate, but it doesn't feel right anymore. Too many years of multitasking, I guess.
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Any ideas? I'm listening.

13 comments:

Heather J. said...

When Kiddo is not around, I listen to audio books while cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, chores, etc. Those are mostly mindless tasks and I can keep my attention focused on the story.

I hope you can find a time/place to listen - you know I'm a huge audio book fan, and I'd love to get you converted. :)

Jenny said...

I haven't done audio books in years - I love being read to, but somehow I just never think of checking out an audiobook. I dunno...

Fyrefly said...

I love audiobooks! I drive and knit, so those are two sources I have, but I also listen when I'm cleaning (although not vaccuuming!), washing dishes, ironing, folding laundry, cooking, going for a walk, on the treadmill at the gym, for a few minutes while laying in bed (like a bedtime story!), etc.

Basically, any task you have that requires your eyes and hands but not much of your brain is prime audiobook time.

Isabella said...

I've tried a couple audiobooks, but I'm not yet a convert. When I listen, I tend to want to multitask, but then I miss large chunks of story. I have fond memories of lying in bed listening to chapters being read on the CBC -- I'm thinking lying in bed and not multitaksing at all is really the best way to be read to.

The only book that's ever really worked for me, at all times of day, with life going on around me, is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but then that's a radioplay (but maybe "light" is the way to go).

Delightful a reader as Hugh Laurie is (his own, original voice, with various accents for characters), I can't tell you the plot of that book.

I'm also listening Obama's Dreams from my Father, a little bit at a time, at work when cleaning my desk or filing.

Jenny said...

Two of the very best audiobook readers: Frank Muller (I used to pick books without regard to content just to hear him read them) and Patrick Tully, who reads all of the Patrick O'Brian novels and many classics such as Dickens, Trollope, etc. I agree that the reader makes all the difference.

I listen while knitting and while exercising (not at the same time!)

Booklogged said...

I really like listening to audio books when traveling but that doesn't happen often enough. I will sometimes listen while playing a game on the computer - but it can't be a thinking game. My favorite is to put in the earplugs and listen while cleaning. I have a little pouch I put the ipod in and hang in from my neck.

Thanks for mentioning Three Men in a Boat. I'm going to see if my library has an audio of that.

A Library Girl said...

Currently, I listen to audiobooks while working (I catalog books, so I'm a captive audience, and most of the stuff I do I could do on autopilot). I used to listen to them while doing dishes, housework, whatever, so long as it didn't require something noisy, like a vacuum cleaner.

joemmama said...

You have been awarded the Zombie Chicken Award!! Please visit me to collect it!

Carrie K said...

You clearly need to learn to knit.

I like audiobooks but it depends solely on the narrator, of all things. And now I must find Hugh Laurie's books. Did he read his own?

Stacey said...

How about while doing the dishes? That's one of my best non-driving audiobook-listening activities. (If we ever got a dishwasher, I'd be sunk!) Also, while doing the odious dusting...

Heather J. said...

I see someone gave you recommendations on good audio book narrators so I have to throw in one for George Guidall - he's great!

Rose City Reader said...

I laughed when I read this post because I have recently listened to the same audiobooks that you list -- Great Expectations, Three Men in a Boat, and Black Boy.

I've given a lot of thought to audiobooks, as you can see here, if you are interested.

I am pleased to have found your blog. I am working my way through the blogroll on Wuthering Expectations, looking for bloggers who share similar reading tastes with me. Looks like I found one!

Rose City Reader said...

Thanks for visiting Rose City Reader!

I signed up to follow your blog. I am looking forward to reading more.