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.