Feb 17, 2010

Audio Books


I am reading Diggers Hatters and Whores by Steven Eldred-Grigg

I am listening to Kings of Leon

I'm watching Big Bang Theory

Making me smile Memories of my step-daughter's wedding 2 weeks ago.

While I love my life, love the busy-ness of family, job, friends, writing etc., the one major drawback I have is there is never enough time for all reading I’d like to do – what is the meaning of life, after all, if not to read?

Then one day, I had a flash of inspiration of how to utilize the long drive to work: audio books. Bingo! It was love at first tape.

My first book was so good, however, I soon found I couldn’t restrict it to car hours alone – I was spending way too much time either driving around the block or sitting in car parks listening for the ends of chapters. Instead I was forced to dust off my old walkman and suddenly going on long walks became a treat, not a punishment for one too many chocolates the night before. Housework too was transformed and I found myself doing extras like cleaning the oven window in order to finish the side.

The greatest discovery however, was a cure to insomnia. Having suffered for years and having tried everything from TV at 2am, to reading in the weirdest contortions so the light wouldn’t disturb my husband, I found talking books the instant solution. Now when I wake at 2am, I think, “Oh great!” as I reach for my CD player, my walkman or mp3. Usually the story stops the brain from switching into over-analysis of the day’s events and very often I drift quickly back to sleep. On the nights that I don’t, I just get more book time. Win win.

Audio books have made me view writers differently. Maeve Binchy’s novels are superb because she has an excellent ear for dialogue (and I’m always a sucker for an Irish accent). The No. 1 Lady Detective series is even better with the melodic patterning of the Botswana accent. It’s also given me a new appreciation of layout. Sometimes I have to get the printed book out of the library after listening to it because I have a craving to see how the story was laid out upon the page. A writer’s choice of chapters, sections, even paragraphs is idiosyncratic and can be almost as powerful as the words themselves.

Best of all, at my local library, the collection is small. This means I have to browse out of my comfort zone. I cannot turn to favourite authors, rely on preferred genres. I have discovered absolute pearls quite by chance. Currently I’m listening to Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian. I’d never heard of him before but I’ve already ordered two more of his novels.

If anyone out there has any thoughts about talking books or has discovered other ways to make more time for reading, I’d love to hear about them.


  1. Zana, my only experience with audio books is limited to The Wiggles Big Adventure, Postman Pat and the Greendale Dragon and The Runaway Train - but these are great as it my kids follow the words and listen avidly... and I can sneak away and write *grin*

    Oh and I lurv Big Bang too!

  2. Ah Anita, I'd forgotten the joys of children's audio books. What a great way to buy writing time!

    Delighted you are a BB fan too. Can you imagine the scepticism the writers must have faced pitching those characters to the networks

  3. Zana, I put a number of audio books on my ipod prior to going overseas, but never got around to listening to them! I thought they'd be great to listen to while I was on trains/planes/buses, but I always ended up choosing music instead. Your post makes me realise that I really must pull finger and give the books a try!

  4. Zana, I'm an audiobook lover. I have a constant battle with eyestrain and when it's bad I have trouble reading. But there's no way I'll give up books! So then I use audiobooks.

    I totally agree about the accents - the voice artist's ability to 'show' me the accents of different countries / regions is a huge bonus.

  5. Hey Emily, I tried putting audiobooks on my ipod and it all worked well until I got it stuck on on "shuffle". Music mixed up with random chapters, novels with storylines shooting all over the place. I'm sure there's some post modern book just waiting to be (or has been)written in just such a style :)

  6. Rachel, so good to talk to a fellow convert. Do you find you prefer male or female readers? Generally I go for the female "pantomime" heroes over the rather high-pitched, falsetto male heroines. Not an easy call. "Time Traveller's Wife" did it really well with both male and female readers

  7. Hey, Zana! Audio books are something that I've been meaning to try for ages but haven't actually got around to doing yet! I must! I think they'd be fantastic as long as the person narrating was good.

    I remember listening to the children's story hour on the radio in New Zealand of a Sunday morning for many years. It was great! Of course, I think it's been "many years" since that was on so I'm showing my age here!

  8. Zana the only audio stories I've ever listened to were bible stories when I was a child - and you know what, some of the scenes in them stick with me now, too many years later (esp Queen Esther) It's made me realize how lasting audio can be!

  9. Hey Mel and Sharon

    I loved radio stories too and still vividly remember being completely spooked one sunny afternoon by a dramatisation of "The Moonstone".

    Mel, that is powerful to remember stories many years later - especially the Queen Esther one. Do you think even then you were into strong female leads :)