For Your Listening Pleasure: Why Audiobooks Are Great

There seems to be some contention about audiobooks. By listening to a book being read to you, are you really reading the book?

A stray tweet reminded me recently of the early discovery of the joy of having a book read aloud. Sure, the Disney records and books were also about learning how to read and follow a story, even if there were words on the page that were beyond the reader’s vocabulary at that point. The chime of a bell to mark the turning of a page would probably still produce a response from me today.

Audiobooks on tapes, CD and MP3 are provided by local libraries, and now they can be downloaded online from the comfort of home. There is no fear of forgetting to return them and incurring fines as they simply vanish on the expiry date unless you extend the loan. It really couldn’t be easier to tap into a whole world of literature and non-fiction with the only expense being time and bandwidth.

I have been introduced to many of my favourite books through listening to the audio version. Recent highlights have included:

  • The Belltree Trilogy by Barry Maitland: a detective series featuring Harry Belltree and set around western Sydney and Newcastle. This was memorable for the morally ambiguous main character and the excellent narration of Peter Hosking, who has guided me through many books including several featuring Peter Corris creation PI Cliff Hardy.
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This was a recent read for my book group and whilst I had the book itself, I was struggling to get into it. I listened to a sample of the audio book and suddenly the narrator’s voice was clear and I ended up enjoying the book much more than I would have thought.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Again I had the book and had read segments of it, but listening to it read by the author added an extra element of enjoyment and depth. It was an invigorating experience.
  • Rain and Other Stories by W S Maugham and The Home Girls by Olga Masters. Two short story collections by masters of the craft. Years later I can still recall elements of the stories made even more vivid with the telling.
  • Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Slater and Simon Vance.  I don’t usually listen to audiobooks more than once but these books are an exception to the rule.

There are, of course, downsides to listening to books. If the narration doesn’t resonate I tend not to persevere. Fortunately you can usually download a sample before committing to the entire book. For really long works this is a wise step as some books can go for days, literally. And it isn’t possible to listen all the time: concentration does drift away sometimes and some books have the odd boring passage. As yet, I haven’t skipped to end of the book to see how it ends, which is something I would do with a physical book that was not maintaining my interest.

If I really enjoy the audiobook, I will usually pick up a copy of the book itself to revisit passages or re-read entirely. For me, audiobooks supplement my love of reading, providing a convenient entry into another world, and one that I can enjoy whilst driving, cooking, cleaning and the like.

Do you listen to audiobooks?

[Photo: reading room in one of the buildings at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat]

 

More Wonderful Words

I love how words have the capacity to surprise. They don’t always mean what they sound like, if that makes any kind of sense, but sometimes they do. Here are some that I have collected recently by reading books, articles and blog posts.

Syllogism – spotted in A Writer’s Notebook by W S Maugham. “The areca trees outlined against the night were slim and elegant. They had the gaunt beauty of a syllogism.” Syllogism is an argument with two premises and a conclusion. I can’t recall coming across this word before and I wish I had the artistry to use a word such as this in a context as outlined above.

Nocturne – this brings to mind exquisite piano pieces, especially music appropriate for playing in the evening. It can also be used for compositions with a dreamy or pensive nature.

Promulgate – I like the formal sound of this word. It is used to describe a proclamation or public declaration.

Oleaginous – this sounds like its meaning; having the nature of quality of oils.

Dreich – another word that, once defined, sounds like its meaning. Bleak, miserable, cheerless and dreary. I came across it in a blog post by La Tour Abolie and had to add it to my vocabulary.

Diapason – deep, melodic outpouring of sound. A chorus of frogs on dusk, cicadas at the height of summer, the dawn chorus, sheer musicality.

Drube (also droob) – the smallest portion of anything, a coin with little or no value.

Ailurophile – I spotted this on the jacket of The Uncyclopedia by Gideon Haigh, a rather eccentric collection of knowledge and lists. This includes, amongst many other curiosities, a list of Australian towns and suburbs named for ships. Esperance (WA), Lucinda (Qld) and Victor Harbor (SA) are a sample. As for an ailurophile, that would be a cat lover.

Have you come across any words lately that have expanded your mind?

[Photo: local leaves]