In January of 2002, when my job moved from Silver Spring, MD to McLean, VA, my commute from my home located just south of Baltimore, MD grew from 17 miles to 41 miles and that around the Washington, DC Beltway. Needless to say I began to spend a lot more time in my car.
Audiobooks were my salvation.
While audiobooks are expensive, we are blessed with the second best library in the nation, and I have been able to get virtually any unabridged book available there or through inter-library loan.
But after reading a New York Times story that chronicles some of the disrespect afforded readers of audiobooks, Christianity Today’s Ted Olsen asked, “Audiobooks are ‘Reading Lite’? There’s a stigma against audiobooks?” and goes on to express his dismay at why listening to a book should be considered very different from reading it.
I enthusiastically concur.
I’m familiar with the sentiments expressed by the audiobook listeners interviewed in the Times report. Just within the last few days, as I was waxing eloquent about Ron Chernow’s outstanding recent biography of Alexander Hamilton, an associate seemed surprised that I could remember so much from the book when I had only listened to it. Others have questioned whether listening to a book really counts as reading it.
I’m unapologetic. I feel that I get more out of many books by listening to them, particularly if the reader is outstanding.
And this makes sense to me. While reading text only conveys lexical symbols to the eyes, a fine reader expands the sensory bandwidth involved in communication by adding pitch, tone, cadence, etc. as further explanatory tools.
But a few days ago – just before the release of the Rowling’s seventh and supposedly last Harry Potter tome – I started listening to Jim Dale’s outstanding rendition of Sorcerer’s Stone. I wanted to do this because Harry is such a huge part of the lives of my three little girls. I’m now in the midst of the fourth book. I really had no idea how great these books are. And Jim Dale adds value to Rowling’s impressive story telling ability. In one book alone – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Dale creates an astonishing 134 voices. His vocal characterizations provide additional information to Rowling’s sweeping narrative.
But I mostly read non-fiction books. When a passage strikes me and I believe I’ll wish to refer to it in the future, I’ll purchase an inexpensive used book of the same title.
But audiobooks enable me to redeem time driving, cleaning, working out, etc. in the most delightful and profitable ways.