Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks. Most of my time in February and March has been set aside for working on my final master’s project, which isn’t a thesis but might as well be based on all the time and energy I have put into it… Anyway, having such a large project to complete by April takes up a lot of my would-be pleasure reading time, and when I’m not working on my paper and try to read I feel guilty for not working. Thus, the only way I can feed my reading habit and stay on top of my project is to listen to audiobooks at points where writing and editing aren’t an option–say, in the car or at work.
I know audiobooks aren’t always the most popular book format in the reading world. For instance, whenever I tell people I listened to Harry Potter (read by the fantastic Jim Dale, who is phenomenal in all things but in particular his renditions of children’s books), I’ve had some people tell me that I haven’t actually read the series. On the other hand, I have had many of my fellow audiobook lovers share some of their favorite aspects of audiobook listening. I fall firmly on the side of pro-audiobook, particularly as it relates to reading. I’m a very slow reader, and I don’t like to read really long books (and, as previously stated, no reading time). However, when I listen to audiobooks, the story continues on even though my eyes would have given up, and I can stand to “sit through” very long and important texts. I listened to Watership Down in January and liked it a lot, although I know myself well enough to be confident that I would never have actually sat down and read the story in print. Thus, I love audiobooks because they broaden my reading focus and allow me to experience certain books and series I would have otherwise continued to ignore.
For me, there are certain types of books that lend themselves to audio format. First and foremost is any book read by the actual author. These can be fictional stories, although they are most often memoirs, which are the second best kind of audiobook to listen to. The third best type of audiobook to listen to, in my humble opinion, are children’s books and YA. If you have a YA memoir read by the author, you’ve hit the jackpot! (We Should Hang Out Sometime was great!). After these typically spectacular and wonderful audios come those which are read by talented storytellers, like Jim Dale. Will Patton is another of my favorite readers; he’s done many Stephen King books and adds the perfect gritty texture to the already creepy stories! Unfortunately, unless you follow a voice actor through his or her entire repertoire and listen to books marked as read by them, this is the hardest type of book to find. It is still very worth it, though, when you do come across those gems.
I tend to go back and forth with what I listen to a lot of time, and so my previous “reads” are all over the place. For instance, last week I finished the audiobook for Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland. This book is the perfect example of a reading by a great storyteller. Robbie Daymond has been voice acting for (literally) decades onscreen and on tape, and his talent shows through in this book. From the first few sentences of the story–which were very well-written, I might add–Robbie had me hooked to the content. However, I unfortunately lost touch with the characters and the plot, and didn’t enjoy the ending at all. For a YA, the characters behaved more like adults. It wasn’t just that they were experiencing Adult Things, as does happen when people grow up; it was more like the story became unrelatable to most teenagers in the emotional responses and behaviors of the protagonists. I have a full review of this book on my Goodreads if you would like to hear more about my opinions. They aren’t as important here as the fact that this book represents what I love about audiobooks: fun, lively reads brought to life by talented voices.
I really do love listening to YA, but I have to say that my favorite type of audiobook is the memoir that is read by its author. After Our Chemical Hearts, I jumped into With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles & Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn, written (co-written) and read by Brian “Head” Welch. This book, his second, chronicles his life after he found Christ and *converted* to Christianity. He also talks extensively about his daughter and their relationship through some pretty serious stuff. I love rock and metal music, Christian-based and otherwise, and so Brian’s story has been one I’ve followed since it began. Listening to this audiobook, I was brought to tears multiple times by Brian’s stories, his daughter’s struggles, and his faith. The power of his words, being read by him, was unreal. I was also so pleased to hear him speaking to the need to diversify contemporary Christianity. He addresses it from the music perspective, hoping that people will become more accepting of different genres in this particular niche. Brian’s words expressed an honest, straight-forward understanding of the gospel. Listening to his audiobook was an intimate experience for me, the perfect expression of why I love audiobooks and what they can do to and for reading.
Following With My Eyes Wide Open, I listened to Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, written and read by Jenny Lawson. This memoir couldn’t have been more different from Welch’s, other than the fact that both of them address mental illness in their stories. While Brian had me crying, Jenny had me laughing hysterically! (Seriously. I listen to my audiobooks in my car, and I got some pretty weird looks from fellow drivers, who were obviously wondering, “What is wrong with that weird girl alone in her car? Why is she cackling like mad for no reason?”) Jenny’s entire persona comes through her work anyway, so listening to her read her book made it feel like I was watching her speak live, or talking to her one-on-one. Her stories were so delightful, even though their subject matter was very heavy. She left me wanting more. An audiobook should entertain you and challenge you to think about the world in different ways. Lawson’s stories do just that.
These are just three of my most recent audiobooks, but I wanted to share them with you. There’s something really special about listening to someone’s creation. Plus, I love being able to “read” even when I don’t have time to follow words on a page.
If you’ve never tried audiobooks, let me challenge you to pick one up. I recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for those who are Hogwarts fans. Otherwise, find a book by an author you love and go for it. You won’t regret it.