One of the downsides of “being a writer” is how little time left there is for reading. Most of us started writing because we loved reading–we loved reading so much that we wanted to become part of the process. Either that or we were sick of not being able to find the kind of books we loved to read.
I admit it was a little bit of both with me.
To say that I love to read really doesn’t do justice to my addiction. I have bookshelves in every room of my house (okay, no, not in that room, but a magazine rack is pretty darned close). I could open my own little used book store and stock it with the boxes and boxes of books in the garage–and those are the books that need sorting. The ones I’m not totally sure I need to keep so they’re relegated to the dungeon along with the washing machine and the castle cat.
But never mind my ineffective housekeeping or garage-keeping, what I planned to blog about today is my solution for having no time to read: audio books.
I have a lengthy drive to and from the good old day job, and while it is a beautiful scenic drive–with lots of deer and maniac drivers to keep me interested and alert–I do feel that it is time wasted. Or rather, that it could be time better occupied, and since I can’t quite picture myself reciting my latest plot development into a little tape recorder, I do the next best thing, which is listen to other people’s plot developments.
Not that audio books can replace real books–meaning I love the feel, the smell, the taste–okay, maybe not the taste, I’m not actually chewing the covers–well, maybe the really suspenseful ones–of books. I love new books. And old books. Dell mapbacks in particular. Vintage mystery. I love picture books and travel books and art books and…anyway, I see audio books as a supplement to paper books.
What I like to do is try out books I might not otherwise sample. For some reason I’m more patient with a book when it’s being read aloud to me. I’m not sure why that is, why it seems like less “work” when someone else is turning the pages. Anyway, I’ve discovered a number of writers through audio books–Donald Westlake, Rex Stout, M.C. Beaton. I listened to The Da Vinci Code as an audio book (and enjoyed it hugely). I also listened to Elizabeth George’s A Traitor to Memory (and nearly ran the car off the road at that ridiculous ending).
This morning I was listening to Steven Bochco’s Death by Hollywood and enjoying it very much. The drive flew by and it’s always instructive seeing how different writers handle different plot elements. Next week I’ve got Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey scheduled. See, I’m not merely amusing myself, I’m improving my mind and scoping out the competition.
In audio books, the narrator/reader becomes vital. I have a number of tapes with Kathleen Turner reading Elizabeth Peter’s Vicky Bliss novels–I love Kathleen Turner’s voice, but unfortunately I cannot forget for even a moment that it’s Kathleen Turner reading these novels, and it messes with the suspension of my bridge of disbelief. If you know what I mean.
On the whole I prefer the audio books where the reader just reads. I find the switching of voices distracting–although I did enjoy The Egyptologist–and the full-on dramatization is too much like a radio show. Not that I don’t enjoy radio shows, but it’s a bit different. Much of my listening to books time is spent analyzing what I’m listening to as well as enjoying it, so I don’t really want to hear people rapping on doors or shaking sheets of aluminum thunder. I want to consider the way the words are used, how they flow.
What about you? Do you listen to audio books? Do you have favorites?