Reading with your ears

I am over-tired like a two-year old who won’t have a nap at the moment. I am not entirely sure what went wrong last week but I seem to have come into the weekend exhausted and my Sunday morning sleep in was destroyed by the vacuum cleaner at 7:30 am (Gah!). So I am slouching around trying to at least tick something off my to-do list before it gets to hot to concentrate this afternoon (36C predicted for today so I am totally taking that as an excuse to lie on my bed with a fan, perhaps read or listen to something). Even a Tardis full of coffee hasn’t helped my tired level this morning.

So one of the things on the list is to blog. As the last couple of weeks have been a little less productive on that front than I would have liked. Most likely as I made my usual mistake of over thinking the content, then predictably I get stage fright and it all goes down hill from there (otherwise known as the no content production yet again fail).

So if you have guessed that I am not entirely sure what I going to talk about here. Then you would be right. I gave myself the introduction paragraphs to make a commitment on the couple of ideas that I have in my head and now I am actually here I have to make a firm decision.

And that decision is…… Audiobooks*I think I was like the last person on the universe to get onto the Audible bandwagon when I joined last year. And I can’t even remember what prompted me to actually join in the end. I think I was in a podcast funk but was still desperate for something to listen to that wasn’t just music. Once I had joined it wasn’t very long before I went from one book per month to two books per month.**

So if there are any other people out there who haven’t made the plunge into Audible territory yet, I thought I’d give two recommendations of books which I think the reading experience is enhanced by listening to them as audiobooks.

The first book is Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein, first published in 2012 the Audiobook that I listened to was published by Bolinda Publishing, and narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell. Codename Verity is a Young Adult novel set in WWII England and Nazi-Occupied France and follows the story of two friends from very different backgrounds who meet during the war. The book is split into two parts, each narrative is written as a journal by one of the two friends and switches between present day and the past (with the two audio narrators each taking the role of one of the friends). I am wary of giving too much away, but as with all first person narrators, not all is as it seems. I found the distinct voices of the audio narrators and their individual performances gave this book an additional layer of depth and emotion.

The second book is Blackout by Connie Willis published in 2010, the audiobook I am listening to was produced by Audible Inc and narrated by Katherine Kellgren.*** This is an adult Historical/Science Fiction novel where in 2060 time travel is possible and is the center for historical research at Oxford University. There are a number of main characters whom we see going through the rigors of preparing for an assignment to the past and also their experiences in WWII from the Blitz in London to shepherding evacuees in rural England to the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. I am finding the audiobook version incredibly immersive with the different English accents and the descriptions of the blitz raids in London.**** There is the added aspect that, though frustrating, is probably working to properly ratchet up the level of tension. I am now desperate to know what happens next but am restricted to listening along at the audio pace (and at the times I am able to listen) where I would normally speed read to the end.

So that’s my two recommendations if you would like to dip your toes into audiobooks (or if you are just looking for some new recommendations).

My final thoughts in this rather overlong blogpost are about Audiobooks and reading experiences.

Firstly, I know there is debate around what constitutes ‘reading’ as the literal definition, in the bookish context, is the taking in of information from a written page using the eyes. I, however, do not interpret it this way, my definition of reading revolves around the taking in of the contents of a book thus including traditional reading and listening to audiobooks. (This doesn’t include movies or tv shows as those are not direct readings of the book but are scripted and acted in a nonverbal manner.)  So I have been counting my audiobooks on my reading challenges (and also comic books and graphic novels) since last year. I do recognise that if this was a scientific study this would make my reading data from 2014 onwards no longer directly comparable to the reading data from previous years. This is mostly because I can read audiobooks at times when I can’t read books, thus the amount of time available to read is now larger. The consequence of which is most likely an increase in the amount of ‘reading’ that I complete in any one year. However, as this is not a scientific study, and I can safely leave all of those thought processes to my work hours, I am not that fussed, just really glad of those additional books which I will now have the ability to ‘read’.

Secondly, listening to audiobooks has also had the unfortunate, but probably good in the long run, recognition of both the concept of active listening and also where multi-tasking is not a productive endeavour, at least for me. This is reflected in which books I choose to listen to on audiobook, they need to be engaging and have some dramatic tension but not too much detail. So a wide range of fiction is in but some classics and most non-fiction books are out as listening can not be the only thing that I do (I can not keep still so I do a lot of cleaning and repetitive work tasks listening to audiobooks which means my attention does occasionally wander). I have been also applying this when I am trying to write as I used to be terrible for putting on youtube videos etc during writing time and since stopping this I have been a great deal more productive. Now if only I had accepted this when I was studying way back when I reckon my grades would have climbed a ridiculous amount.

So there is my very long winded discussion of audiobooks for today. Feel free to wade in with recommendations for audiobooks one should start with, or just should listen to on audible, or your thoughts on the true definition of reading, or active listening :-).

*This was actually the planned next theme on my Youtube channel had I not fallen off the wagon sometime last year.

**This was in part due to the fact that I shared my subscription with my Mum and she listened to every book in my library twice in her first month.

***Who has narrated a number of my favourite audiobooks and who is apparently kind of famous for narrating audiobooks.

**** Should probably say that I am not completely finished this book yet but I am not far away and am really glad that I already have the sequel all lined up to listen to.


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