Just Listen!

Well, you can just listen, or while you listen you can also go for a leisurely stroll, run on your treadmill or do some gardening. You can make almost any mindless chore (think, ironing) seem less tedious by also listening. It can be as easy as pie to cook and listen! Yes, I am talking about listening to audiobooks.

The Girl with a Pearl Earring
There was a time I used to be very dismissive of audiobooks. Listening to them did not really seem like "reading". To me reading a book meant being able to thumb through the pages of printed copy. But then I started graduate school while working full time. The commute was long and taxing and I became an impatient driver trying to make it on time for the evening class. Stuck in traffic, thinking about finding a parking spot and being on time for class, I would speed up even as the traffic light would change to yellow. Or, I would accelerate like a race car driver as soon as the light changed to green. I would use unprintable language, if the car ahead of me appeared to drive too slowly. I was headed down the path of speeding tickets and fender benders. Fortunately for me, The Girl with a Pearl Earring saved me. Listening to the book, I was transported to seventeenth century Holland. I was so engrossed in the delightful, fictional tale behind one of Vermeer's famous paintings that my daily commute became something I looked forward to just so I could listen to the story. The wonderfully understated narrator made listening to this lovely book an even better experience than if I had read the print version. I was hooked. The next two and half years of commuting became a rich literary experience as I listened to suspenseful thrillers, gripping mysteries and inspiring biographies.

Part of the appeal of audiobooks for me is that I can do other things while listening and I am still able to keep up with my reading. And, of course, now there are so many more ways to read a book than by turning the pages. You can listen to books on CD, download audio books accessed through Overdrive, or listen to them using hoopla. All are available to our library patrons, free of charge, through the Mercer County Library System.

It is not just the compelling stories or intriguing plots that make listening to audiobooks such a pleasure, but the narrator must also be excellent. Good narrators will enhance the listening experience while monotonous, droning narrators can make even a good story sound dreadfully boring. Beware the overly gimmicky narrator who can make a good book appear trite because of his inflection and tone. Be on the lookout for stellar narrators such as Simon Vance, who does a wonderful job of narrating such vastly disparate books as the Chronicles of Barsetshire written by Anthony Trollope and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo written by Stieg Larsson.

A good story paired with a good narrator can be deliciously captivating and enticingly addictive. Just listen to Jeremy Irons narrating Nabokov's Lolita or Colin Firth narrating Graham Greene's The End of the Affair and you will know what I mean! Both of these audiobooks are available in book on CD format.
While I do not recommend authors as narrators of their own books, there are some exceptions! Bossypants by Tina Fey, Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron are some great examples of authors who are also excellent narrators of their own works.

The Goldfinch
Elegant plot, compelling characters and a terrific narrator make The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt a good book to listen to. The narrator does a remarkable job of portraying the different characters in the book without sounding a single false note. At 771 pages this is quite a tome so the audio version is just perfect if you are taking a long road trip this summer. Similarly, at 849 pages, Stephen King's 11-22-63 is another book that would be a perfect companion for your long-distance trip.

If you enjoy a good mystery then you will be in for a treat as you listen to David Timson narrating The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have also enjoyed Timson narrating many of Shakespeare's plays in Stories from Shakespeare accessed via Hoopla.
Sotomayor and Rubin
Nonfiction audiobooks are great for instructive purposes and make it easy for us adults to learn. While you may not have time to read Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin, you can listen to her very helpful guide on ways to improve our lives by creating and following good habits even as you fold your laundry or try to walk those last few miles on the treadmill. If you like biographies, then listen to My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. Expertly narrated by actress Rita Moreno, this is an inspirational story of a woman's rise from the Bronx housing projects to become the first Hispanic judge on the U.S. Supreme Court. Or, if you are a history buff, then you may want to commemorate the largest seaborne invasion in history this June by listening to Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day, the seminal account of the D-Day invasion, easily accessible through Hoopla.

June is the national audio book month so celebrate by listening to an audiobook as you exercise, commute to work, sit on the beach or attend to all the mundane chores around the house.

-Rina B.


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