It’s Monday, and sometimes it’s hard to be thankful for ANYTHING on the first workday of the week. But I’m ALWAYS happy to climb into my little PT Cruiser and listen to my current audio book as I commute the 45+ minutes to work. Yes, I LOVE audio books, and I am THANKFUL for them! I haven’t always been a fan because I felt such an invention was for lazy readers who didn’t care if they were robbed of the delights of pouring over wonderful words that wind through twisted plots, describe mysterious settings, or stalk fascinating characters.
You see, I’m a plodding reader because I don’t want to miss a single adjective, noun, or verb. I enjoy languishing over a “well- turned phrase” as well as rushing past a worn cliche’! At the top of my lazy-day list is “curl up with book and only come up for air when needed.” Unfortunately, such opportunities rarely occur, and bedside reading ends quickly now that I’m not the night person I used to be. Besides all that, there are SO MANY good books out there just waiting for me to grab and stack onto my mountainous “to-read” pile. At my pace, I won’t dent that pile before I head for the great beyond! “So many books; so little time” is one of my many mantras!
Add all those reasons to the fact that my commute is L – O – N – G, and my job demands that I often drive additional miles from one school to another. After a few weeks of being cooped up in a coupe, I realized I needed options. I love music, but weary of the radio commercials that interrupt the “oldies but goodies.” I HATE talk radio with all the ranting, raving, grouchy, complaining, conservative hosts and their like-minded OR contrary minded callers! My stress level skyrockets after just a few minutes of the daily diatribe. So, some 5+ years ago, I dropped into a city library and perused the books-on-tape, and thus the affair began.
I wish I had kept a list of all the novels I’ve listened to over the years because it would boast of genres and titles that I never dreamed I would read, along with those I’ve always longed to tackle. For example, I’ve listened to all of Jane Austen’s works, as well as the Bronte sisters‘ creations. I’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter series more than once as well as New York Times Best Sellers that I rarely pick up in novel form. My favorites are the surprises I stumble upon while waiting for other patrons to return my first choice. If a book is recommended to me, I rarely read the summary printed on the back of the book jacket or CD cover. I don’t want too many plot details or character descriptions to ruin my reading experience. BUT if I have to make a choice that will “do,” I scan the summary, cross my fingers, and take my selection to the check-out desk.
Sometimes I fall in love with the narrator’s voice and will listen to a dime-store novel just to hear an actor’s performance turn weak writing into a decent story. Other times, I love the writing so much that I buy the print version and both read AND listen to the book. I particularly relish listening to an author read his or her own works. I swooned over David McCullough’s voice narrating 1776, and I couldn’t stop laughing with Nora Ephron and her laments over her sagging neck.
Occasionally, I buy the books so I can read what I didn’t understand. Even though I listen to books in the same way I read them – rewinding instead of rereading – when I plowed through Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe, I had to rewind AND reread the chapters related to “his universe,” wherein lay the theories! But the investment was worth the work as I grew to appreciate the man and the scientist. I felt I had actually accomplished something by the time I closed the cover of the hardback and returned the CD to the library!
Another investment has been my commitment to completing the Master and Commander series, written by Patrick O’Brian and narrated by Simon Vance. O’Brian’s writing is phenomenal as he writes in the style of the era he historically fictionalizes. As a result, the reader is taken back to the Napoleonic Wars via a writing style reminiscent of Dickens, Austen and other 19th century writers – long descriptive sentences, filled with adjectives. While I fail to comprehend the scores of sea-related verbage, I can figure out enough details to know that Captain Aubrey outwitted the enemy and that a bazaar animal or insect intrigued Dr. Maturin, the naturalist.
Sound kind of boring? So why then is a landlubber like me interested in listening to AND reading this difficult series? Because I became enamored with Simon Vance’s award-winning narration? Because I pictured Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany riding the waves like the two did in the movie version? While both reasons may factor into the experience, the main draw is that I fell in love with the two main fictional characters. Often compared to the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are charming, intelligent, witty, intriguing opposites who build a solid friendship that survives different interests, temperaments, strengths, weaknesses, occupations, and more. Their mutual love of music and respect for each other only accounts for part of their attachment to each other. Purely platonic, the relationship exemplifies the needs and rewards of friendship. It’s a story so well written that I hate to see its end.
To bring you back to the point of this blabbering, I want to emphasize that I would NEVER have met the dashing captain and the brilliant doctor if I hadn’t become a devotee’ of audio books. Sometimes the listening experience is so fine that I drive the long way home so I can finish a chapter. AND while many may fear SWIMMING through Victor Hugo’s novels, we just might WADE through the audio version of Les Miserables!