Monday, December 16, 2013

The Brilliancy of Audiobooks

I actually have three exciting new books this week

1. Sandry and Tris's Books by Tamora Pierce
Tris's book is the book that made me want to write. There is just something about this series that I've always loved.

2. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Paperback)
I love this series. This isn't quite as creepy as the first (The Name of the Star) but Johnson sucker punches us all at the end.

3. The Diviners by Libba Bray (Paperback)
This tome is massive but it is so worth the read. It's another that's pretty creepy. Plus 1920's New York is an awesome setting.

It's only been in the last couple of years that I've developed an appreciation for audiobooks. I blame my 8th grade English teacher for thinking that listening to random chapters of the audiobook was a substitution for reading them. An idea that might have been okay if it hadn't been an awkward, read a couple, listen to a couple, read a couple pattern that really only resulted in my going home and rereading the chapters anyway, even if I hated the book.

For a long time I associated audiobooks with being yelled at for reading ahead of the tape (yes, cassette tape) in class. They just read so slow!

But in college someone told me to listen to the audio version of Max Brooks' World War Z. I was skeptical but decided to check it out. I put it on as I was packing to leave for the summer. I was startled to find myself just standing in the middle of the room and listening. Even, abridged (they've since released an unabridged version) it was amazing.

I didn't try any others though. They couldn't all be that good. I mean, World War Z is perfectly suited for an audiobook and it's full cast is amazing.

Then, at an old job, I started making caramel. It was two and a half hours of standing in the same place stirring in a figure eight. Also known as the most boring two and a half hours of my week (and sometimes I had to do it more than once). Suddenly audiobooks started looking really good.

The first ones in my new audiobook foray that caught my attention were The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater. They took me about an hour to adjust to the voices but I fell rapidly in love with them. I started listening to them in the car on the way to and back from work too. I tried others (the Beautiful Creatures one left me thinking in a southern accent for days) and I found that I came to really enjoy them.

When I moved to Boston audiobooks became even more important when I started walking or taking public transit. I had all of this spare time and am not coordinated enough to read and walk at the same time and the bus makes me a little motion sick sometimes so I couldn't really read. So I started back up with my audiobooks.

The tricks for me are to 1: give it some time. The voices almost never sound quite like I thought and that's an adjustment, and 2: only listen to books I've already read. I know that second one sounds ridiculous but it works wonderfully for me. I get the chance to essentially "reread" books I've been meaning to and when the bus gets loud or someone starts talking to me I'm usually less angry because I already know what's going on. Also, I prefer to interpret the book myself before someone else does it for me.

Sure they're not all good. I've tried some really bad ones (nothing is worse than when a noticeably  older person is reading as a teenager and really exaggerating the drama) but there are some really awesome ones.

Emma Galvin does a really awesome job reading the Divergent trilogy (and coincidentally is also one of the voices on the last two Mercy Falls books). I never would have picked Will Patton to read the Raven Cycle but I loved them. Jesse Eisenberg reading The Curse Workers is fantastic. Alan Cumming reads Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy and does so wondrously.

Penguin Audio released a brilliant new set of Roald Dahl audio books this year too. Dan Stevens (from Downton Abbey fame) reads Boy, Kate Winslet reads Matilda, Hugh Laurie reads The Giraffe, and the Pelly and Me, Stephen Fry reads The Enormous Crocodile, Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) reads The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar. And there are a whole bunch more. It's such an amazing collection and these readers do such an awesome job. These classics are in safe hands.

One of my favorite things about audiobooks is just hearing how the reader interprets moments differently. More than once I've been listening and thought 'But that's supposed to be sarcastic!' But sometimes you hit these moments that suddenly have more of an impact on you because of the way that the reader reads it. A character's reply could slow down a little and sound a bit more threatening or and exchange could sound more charged between characters than you thought. Certain scenes stand out to me more after having listened to them.

Since it's Christmas season I should probably tie this back. Audiobooks are brilliant gifts. Everyone has a little bit of travel time that might need occupying or some time when they're cooking and might need to hear Dan Stevens' dulcet tones. Well, we have an awesome selection and they're definitely worth checking out.

Don't let school ruin them for you.


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