Audiobooks and me

Audiobooks and me go back a long way. To long before they were called audiobooks in fact. When I was a kid I had a cassette tape of an abridged reading of HG Wells’ The Time Machine. I played that tape so many times I wore it out in the end. Back in the 1990s, after several attempts to read Lord of the Rings stalled within the first 100 pages I borrowed the unabridged books on tape of the whole trilogy from the library. I seem to recall it contained approximately 17 zillion cassettes.

I didn’t listen to the whole thing. I got frustrated by the pace of it and wanted to move faster, so I went back to my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and didn’t stop reading until I got to the end of The Return of the King. I had other books on tape over the years, though don’t recall them so well, though I recently unearthed a cassette of The Valley of Fear, as read by Christopher Lee – before he was Sir Christopher even. And it still works. Yay!

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Time moved on, as time does. The Internet came along and a few years ago I discovered the Podiobooks site, where authors can release their novels as audiobooks in podcast instalments, usually weekly – free! Which could lead to as much frustrated howling as the end of an episode of 24. My favourites there were JC Hutchins’ 7th Son series and Nathan Lowell’s Trader Tales series.

AudibleAudiobooks dropped off my radar for a while, but then last year I got back into them in a big way, thanks to one writer – Josh Lanyon, who has been releasing many of his books as audio over the last two years on the Audible site. So I joined Audible and started working my way through all the Josh books. Once I ran out of those (temporarily. There are more coming!) I started getting other books and have several dozen in my library now.

I usually listen in the Audible app on my tablet, because I discovered its “Stats” section that records how long you’ve listened and awards various badges and achievements. I can’t resist any of that kind of nonsense! The app is not without its quirks. One time I had paused a reading by Michael C Hall, and it spontaneously restarted itself. Believe me, you don’t want the voice of Dexter Morgan suddenly coming at you while you’re all alone in the house.

Why are audiobooks so great? My top reasons

  • They can bring out aspects of a book I didn’t notice when reading. Or put a different interpretation on a line than my own reading of it. Humour especially comes out more strongly I find.
  • I can’t skim! My attention can wander of course. But I can’t deliberately skim over a passage and miss something important the way I can in a print or ebook.
  • I can listen in situations where reading a book isn’t practical. Better than just listening to whatever’s on the radio while washing the dishes.
  • The app had a “sleep” function to stop the playback after a certain time or the end of a chapter, so I can have it read me to sleep, usually old favourites I’ve already listened to a few times. Comfort reads.

The Narrator
The right narrator is key of course and I always use the sample button on the Audible site. I’ve also learned to listen all the way through a sample, and I’d say to writers and publishers putting books on there, give us a good long sample, because sometimes it does take a while to get used to a narrator. I’ve had a couple where I thought “I’m not sure about this one” at first, only to get to the end of the book thinking they were the most perfect choice there could ever be for that book and if I read that book again in the future I will hear that narrator’s voice in my head.

In fact if you listen to a really long book then for a while everything you read can be in that narrator’s voice in your head! Don’t worry, the effect wears off in a few days – especially if you start another audiobook. My longest audiobook so far has been Stephen King’s The Stand at just under 48 hours.

Would I like to see – I mean hear – my books in audio?
Since I like audiobooks so much you’d think I’d love the idea of mine being in that format. Well for more royalties, then that would be great, but I’m not sure I could listen. I think I might cringe myself to death. Hearing my own words read out is weird for me. Even Josh Lanyon who has released loads now says he has to get someone else to quality check the readings of the intimate scenes in his books.

I think it’s great to see the current boom in audiobooks. Not least for the sake of visually impaired people who have a greater choice of books than before. And for busy people who regret the lack of solid reading time. For me they are a complement to my usual text based reading – since I generally listen to books I have already read, though not always—and a great way to get more enjoyment from and appreciation of the books I love.

Favourite and recommended audiobooks/series
Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon – Narrator: Chris patton
Holmes and Moriarity series by Josh Lanyon – Narrator: Kevin R. Free
The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks by Josh Lanyon – Narrator: Max Miller
Whyborne & Griffin series by Jordan L Hawk – Narrator: Julian G Simmons
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif – Narrator: Paul Bhattacharjee
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Narrator: Jake Gyllenhaal
Fair Game by Josh Lanyon – Narrator: Ray Romano
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – Narrator: David Menkin
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – Narrator: Michael C Hall
A Ghost of a Chance by Josh Lanyon – Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Top Three Audiobook series wishlist
Psycop series by Jordan Castillo Price – and this is happening! First one is in progress!
The Magpie Lord series by KJ Charles
Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane
(And everything else those writers write! Because that would be awesome.)

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6 thoughts on “Audiobooks and me

  1. Becky — I agree with so much of what you’ve written about your experience, especially re Josh Lanyon’s books. Your list of reason why they are great is exactly mine! (Georgette Heyer is great for going to sleep to; ensures no nasty dreams.)

    I discovered audiobooks a very long time ago when I borrowed them from the library (as cassettes) for long drives. Then it was CDs, and now it’s Audible. Josh’s audiobooks are among the very best, in terms of narration — it helps to have wonderful material to read, but he made inspired choices of narrators (Chris Patton’s Jake is a continuing source of delight). And his humour really shines through in audiobook format!

    1. Heh, whenever anyone mentions Jake now I hear Chris Patton’s “Uh-huh” 😀

      Audible should have Josh on their Christmas card list. He’s brought them a lot of new customers!

  2. I mostly only listen to audiobooks on long drives/roadtrips – they always keep me awake. Some of my favorites have been the Harry Potter series, the Pulitzer-prize winning Annals of the Former World by John McPhee, and the early Stephanie Plum books (I think they changed narrators at book 7, which is around when the series started to go off the rails anyway).

  3. This was an excellent post. I especially liked your list about why audiobooks are so great. You also make a good point about listening to audio samples before making a purchase. That truly is the best way to decide whether or not to buy an audiobook.

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