Listening to Books

Two days in a row?  How long does it take to make a new habit, again?

I would like to point out that you can now “check out” things like audio books from many local libraries without ever setting foot in the actual establishment.  You download the files (for free!), put them on your mp3 player, and you’re good to go.

I have mixed feelings about audiobooks on the whole…  Sometimes it’s really hard to pay attention, and it’s not like you can just shift your gaze to the top of the page and re-read.  Instead you fumble around trying to figure out how to “rewind” a digital file, figuring out where you were, etc., etc.  In general I like to hold the book in my hands and read it at my own pace.

Recently I tried listening to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams on my commute and while walking around town (I do a lot of walking around these days).  It was way too dense, and the jerks didn’t translate the original French, Greek, or Latin quotations in the text, so I found myself tuning out and losing my place pretty frequently.  I’ll have to actually read that one, I think, with all of the footnotes.  And very slowly.

Sometimes, though, having someone else’s voice reading a book to you brings it alive.  I just started listening to Moby-Dick, as read by William Hootkins, and it’s really, really good.  I drudged through The Scarlet Letter in the worst English class of all time* and never really thought about Hawthorne again.**, ***  Hootkins (whose name I rather like, almost as much as the fact that he does not have a British accent) doesn’t just read — his voice adds texture to the… text.  It. is. awesome.

How do you find awesome audio books?  I haven’t honed my technique to perfection, but I did stumble upon The Audies. They’re kind of like The Oscars, only for audio books.  Hootkins won Best Solo Narration-Male (posthumously) for Moby-Dick in 2006.  …And in the DC library catalog you can search by award (probably in other systems, too).

So, there’s my two cents about audio books…  And here are my footnotes:

* Worst for a variety of reasons, including: most of the classes were so good; the topic was the dreaded early American literature, including Columbus’s (largely fabricated) letters to Ferdinand and Isabella and captivity narratives (yawn); the class was an “early” one (9 a.m.); 9/11/2001 was our first day of class; etc.  It had nothing to do with Hester Prynne — she was just a victim of circumstance.

**Except in the case of the lovely Bartleby the Scrivener, which I think of often.  This story is well worth reading if you a.) work in an office, or b.) find yourself doing things you really have no interest in doing, or c.) (oh, how sadly common) both.

***Or, apparently, the period, seeing that Hawthorne did not write Moby-Dick; Melville did.  They should really revoke my English degree…


1 Comment

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One response to “Listening to Books

  1. melissa

    I haven’t gotten in to audio books, but I’m totally addicted to short story podcasts! PRI’s Selected Shorts is my favorite. Have you heard it? The stories are read by actors live onstage, and most of them are just the right length for a walk or winding down before bed.

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