In Praise of Audiobooks, by a reformed book snob.

It started with The Secret Garden.

In December, I was ill –can’t get out of bed, focus enough to read, or watch a movie kind of sick. I was scrolling and not happy about it. Sick scrolling feels more insidious than regular scrolling. A trip to the bathroom broke the cycle. I surfaced and grasped for an alternative– I’ll try listening to a book.

I have never been an audiobook fan. I didn’t have occasion, like commuting, or I wasn’t a reader and wanted to be. These are the justifications I saw for not actually reading your own books. Though I’d avoided the arrogance of deeming digital books “not real” because there was nothing more miraculous to me than my friend Larry Prater’s gift of an iPad and access to books online when I was in the middle of freaking nowhere in Mexico. Audiobooks did not, however, escape my snobbery.

Fortunately, being pummeled by illness proved a good enough reason to listen to a book and a significantly better option than scrolling. Honestly, I may have continued to scroll, hating myself for it, had I been able to hold up my phone. This was a choice of submission, not valor.

Why did I choose The Secret Garden? Another egotistical endeavor. I had never read it, and it was one of those vexing omissions when taking a stupid “have you read these classics quiz.” I have read Aristophanes, The Clouds, which weirdly comes up on those lists, but not The Secret Garden. In my feverish haze, I decided I could include it on my have-read list if I had listened to it.

This is where I suggest careful consideration before writing a personal blog because you may feel compelled to share embarrassing admissions of affectation.

I downloaded the Libre Vox version read by Karen Savage. Her voice was soothing, and I promptly fell asleep. It was 11 hours long. I heard enough of the book to be entranced through my sleeping, waking, sweating, tossing, and covering state. When I felt better and could stay awake, I listened again. Wow! Who, other than the other millions of readers throughout the last 112 years, knew what a great book this is! I enjoyed it much more in good health. 

Though I pay for YouTube premium, which has tons of audiobooks available, I thought I’d better spend more money and try Audible, at least the free week trial you never cancel fast enough not to be charged for. I already had a couple of books from Audible on my kindle. Neither had I listened to. I tried, but the readers were off-putting. The first, a nonfiction book, was a painful disappointment because it was read by its author, whom I admire. Unfortunately, I hated his voice. The other was read by an actor. This was worse. He used different voices for the characters, even adapting high feminine voices for female characters. I loathed it. Still, I tried the audible subscription and found more of the same, playacting rather than reading books there.

So, I went back to YouTube, and since have discovered hundreds of hours of listening pleasure of books I probably would never have read otherwise. Notably, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Of course, I was familiar with the series but had never read them. I’m not a fan of mysteries, but boy could Sir Doyle write great characters and stories; he is my current literary crush.

I admit to sleeping through some of what I listen to, but that’s a bonus because I can listen more than once! It helps if there are timestamps on the chapters, but I will choose a good reader over a better format.

It confounds me why I thought listening to books was less than. I love being read to. I received the incomparable gift of the love of reading from my mother, who read to me before bed every night. Somehow, I felt I didn’t deserve that as an adult. I must do it myself. Earn it. I wonder how often arrogance hides insecurity?

Listening is not reading. That was my argument when I poopooed audiobooks in the past. And it’s true, it’s not, nor is it better than reading. It is its own wonder. We have the stories of the ages in the palm of our hand with a tap of the finger when we desire the luxury and comfort of having them whispered in our ears. It’s truly magical.

Book Review: The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

I’m reading The Nightwatch Man. It’s by Louise Erdrich. She’s a great writer, this isn’t the first one of her books I’ve read. The Nightwatch Man won a Pulitzer Prize.  It’s a good book. But I’m not enjoying it, and I can’t explain why.

Great books every one.

Some of my Favs.

Ms. Erdrich writes with many of the mechanisms I enjoy: story-driven with minimal description, unique well-developed characters, mysticism.  But for some reason, I have a hard time connecting to her books.  I also read Tracks and Love Medicine. It was some time ago, but what I remember is feeling about the same as I do now, never fully invested, though I liked the other two enough to finish them.

I like the protagonist of The Night Watchman, there’s an important issue at the heart of the story. But I just don’t care what happens from page to page. I feel bad about it. I should care.

It’s not the cultural difference, she writes from a native American perspective.  I’ve read hundreds of books about other cultures, including Native Americans, often connecting on a deep level.

I want to love Louse Erdrich. But I’m going to put this book down for now. This morning a disturbing image from the book was foremost in my waking mind. Though its disturbing aspects are not why I’m not enjoying it. It just doesn’t feel worthwhile to carry these images for the takeaway.

I know some books require the right time. Hopefully, this is one of them.  I wanted her to be a go-to, someone that when I really need a book, I know she’s going to come through. She is that good and so many books! Sadly, we are not meant for each other, and I can’t figure out why.

Have you read this book? Are you an Erdrcich fan? If so, please school me, I feel like I’m missing out.