Listen Up, Reader! Listening Is Receiving

It is a true universally acknowledged that a reader in possession of a book must be want of more books.

So says the Law of The List, the ever-growing selection of books we want to read but have no ability or hope to finish. One cannot simply pick up a copy of Jane Austen and have her appetite whetted for the whole canon, or find her curiosity picked into exploring other British authors of the nineteenth century. Suddenly, the reader finds herself with a budding List that will only expand with each book she reads. Hopeless? No, for most readers find joy in exploring stories though they know they can never get through them all. Daunting? Probably, unless you have a talent for speed reading.

I have no talent for speed reading. One of my chiefest impediments during my undergrad years was my inability to get things read in a timely manner. “You read so slowly,” a good friend would tease me. He could have most of his material completed before I even got through a quarter of my reading. But I process information slowly. I look at the words on a page, and it takes me longer to translate the words into a mental picture. It may take me an hour to read a small selection, but I have to read slowly to comprehend the material. So, I would find myself in a Catch-22: I could skim the reading and miss the meaning but get done faster, or I could take my time and receive the information but exhaust hours reading when I could be doing other things. And even a slow reading did not guarantee comprehension. Sometimes, I would read the text and still feel as lost as if I had scanned the selection. So, reading an entire chapter on the various methods of teaching English as a foreign language or perusing through Jane Eyre took me forever or left me puzzled and exhausted.

Speed Reading?

Speed Reading?

That’s one of the reasons I stuck to children’s literature. These books are amazing stories told in language I can easily access. I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in a day and the rest of the series in less than a month. My love for Harry Potter lead me to Tolkien, but I found his novels inaccessible. Years later, I turned to audiobooks to help me with enjoy Tolkien.

I never realized how amazing an author could be until someone else read him aloud. I had heard the Rob Inglis’s recording of The Lord of the Rings about four years ago, and I learned to appreciate Tolkien more because of the reader’s narration. I noticed Tolkien’s craftsmanship with description and characterization. I could actually picture Middle Earth’s sprawling country, high mountains, and dangerous forests. I fell in love with the characters, especially Sam Gamgee, Frodo’s bumbling but warm-hearted servant. I could imagine each one of them because of Inglis’s reading, though he tended to overlap the voices of the characters. Sometimes, I thought Gandalf was speaking, but it turned out to be Aragorn or Gimli. And did you know The Lord of the Rings was a musical? I noticed the songs before when I read the novels in high school, but Inglis actually put the songs to music, and I again gained a new-found appreciation for Tolkien’s talent for narrative and poetry.


Recently, my high school seniors and I read The Hobbit for class. To get through the novel with some understanding, I purchased the audio recording of The Hobbit, also read by Inglis. Again, I listened with attention and walked away appreciating once again Tolkien’s gift for storytelling. I would play some parts of the story for class, and the students also found the audio helpful in imaging the scenes and capturing the dialogue. We would later listen to selections of BBC’s radio adaption of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and enjoyed readings of Romantic and Victorian authors. By listening to the selections, the students claimed they understood and enjoyed the works more than if they had read them normally.

For me, I still read but hearing a story helps me envision the content better. Listening doesn’t make reading any faster; it ensures I adequately comprehend the information. I wouldn’t be reading any faster than the narrator would anyway. But listening has made my exploration of my own List a little less daunting and more hopeful. And that is a truth I am willing to acknowledge.


What audio recording helped inspire your love for literature or redeemed a book for you? Leave a comment and let me know!



Posted on April 9, 2014, in Audiobooks, Children's Literature, Educational Resources, J. K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Stephen Parish, Technology, The Harry Potter Series, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I just recently finished a re-listen to Rob Inglis’ reading of LOTR. It is one of my favorite audiobooks ever. Much better than the movie adaptations.

  2. Apparently Inglis adapted the books into plays or radio adaptations. I can’t remember which. One thing I noticed about the film adaptations was the pacing. The books, at least read by Inglis, are very relaxed and slow-moving. Even through the urgency of the conflict, readers are never along for a trill ride. Tolkien does this, I think, to emphasize the characterization in the midst of impossible circumstances. I guess that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Inglis: he helped me slow down.

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