Listen Up, Reader! How to Get Things Read!

Buried-in-BooksSo, we all have “The List”: the books we want to read before we die. I also have The List, and it is so long that I will inevitably die before I complete it. But I think the purpose of having The List is not so much completion as it is exploration. My List includes Newbery winners and honors books, with occasional deviations into non-winners or non-children’s books. Right now, I am “reading” Life of Pi by Yann Martel, not necessarily a children’s book, but it certainly appeals to my taste for children’s literature.

I put quotes around reading because I am not actually reading the book—I’m listening to it. My mother and I have had several discussions about the differences between reading and listening to a book. She argues that I have not actually read anything because reading requires an engagement with a text and processed with the eyes. Listening, on the other hand, uses an entirely different process, the ears. I assert that both need mental adherence, and both result in the completion of a story when finished. I think we both are right. Listening cannot take the place of reading, but bookworms should not scoff at audiobooks and radio adaptations. In fact, engaging a story aurally can be just as enriching an experience as curling up in your favorite armchair with a cup of Earl Grey and a copy of Jane Austen.

8365_73feBesides processing the stories differently with your faculties, listening occupies time more efficiently than reading can. How many of us have stated, “I would read more, but I do not have the time”? It’s one of the curses of The List: the number of books expands while your time diminishes. (It must be a universal law somewhere, next to Murphy’s and Godwin’s Laws. We’ll call it The Law of The List.) I found myself asking the same question—then I discovered audiobooks.

I once held a security job at a department store monitoring cameras while sitting in a small room alone. It was awful. I could not stand the silence, and there where many times I wished I had a book to read. I was allowed some music to play, but books and newspapers were discouraged for obvious reasons.

I think the idea of audiobooks came to me while I was shopping at a bookstore on break. I first learned of audiobooks long before I started working the security job. One summer during my undergraduate years, I traveled on a recruitment team for my university. During the long seasons on the road, we listened to C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook. Each novel was read by a different British actor or actress, and I think I learned to appreciate Lewis a little more fully. I’m not sure when I started listening to audiobooks at the security job, but my time in solitary confinement was much more bearable because of the stories.

I can’t remember all the books I “read,” but I know I read some of the classics as well as contemporary ones. Some of the books covered include The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, a couple of Jane Austen books, Dracula by Stoker, Night by Elie Wiesel, The Last of the Mohicans by Cooper, and a Steven King novel that we stall not speak of.

I became a vivacious reader (listener?) because of audiobooks.  I couldn’t wait to visit the library or bookstore to borrow or buy the latest audiobook that intrigued me. Perhaps a classic here and a modern book later? Who cares! I’m reading—sort of! And I love it!

Audiobooks soon became less prominent when I left the security job and started teaching. I started annotating books so I could lead my students through them. However, I took some small work cataloging books for a school library one summer. Again, I found myself working alone with plenty of silent time.

listener_new_rectSo, I returned to audiobooks. Since I was in a school setting, I chose to read children’s books. I think I read about fifteen children’s books that summer, and we’re not talking about Dr. Seuss either. Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Pyrdain, three books from Madeline L’Engle, several other Newbery winners and honors, and some classics like A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and The Wind in the Willows. I discovered Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, my favorite story read to me.

After the summer, The List began to grow, as The List will do, but the arduous task of completion has now truly become one of exploration. Now, I don’t care about completing The List—I have another way to enjoy books.


Posted on April 2, 2014, in Audiobooks, Children's Literature, Stephen Parish and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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