Busy Book Nerds: It's Time to Embrace Audiobooks
If someone ever told me I'd be listening to books instead of reading them, I might have given them some serious side eye... until now!
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From Annual Intentions to Cyber Book Club
For years now, my cousin and I have sent each other a list of intentions at the start of every New Year.
This annual tradition helps us stay accountable to the actual practice of setting intentions AND gives us someone to share our progress with as the year goes on.
Last year (2018), my cousin decided she wanted to read more books. While I have always been a voracious reader, she was never into books in the same way as I was.
She's an engineer with an MBA and English is her second language.
That's all to say that in general the kinds of books we'd naturally be attracted to were already quite different.
I'm more poetry and literary fiction and she's all business books and some self-help (though I will admit I am a bit of a self-help junkie myself).
Her version of "reading" books was also quite different from mine.
She considered listening to audiobooks on her commute to be "reading."
My inner snob scoffed at this idea.
That doesn't count! I thought to myself.
But who was I to judge? After all, it was on balance a great thing that my cousin wanted to take in more books, even if in my mind she was kind of "cheating."
Despite all of these differences, we decided to create a "CyberBookClub" for ourselves.
She created a FB group and invited one other friend to participate.
All year we took turns picking a "book of the month," and then we discussed it in the Facebook group.
I had been meaning to finally pick up Shonda Rhime's Year of Yes, so I suggested that as our first book.
I checked it out of the library, but decided to see what all the audiobook fuss was about and downloaded a free audiobook copy as part of the Audible free trial.
I figured having the audiobook would give me something to listen to while I pushed my kiddo to swim class or circle time at the library.
Well, surprising none of you who are reading this, my cousin had the last laugh. Audiobooks totally count!
And I'll go further and assert that they're even preferable in some cases.
Celebrity memoirs narrated by said celebrity? Those are meant to be heard, not read.
Yes, I could have read Year of Yes, but listening to Shonda Rhimes give the various talks that make up the book was so much more powerful.
Ditto on our last book of the year: Michelle Obama's Becoming.
I'll still going to buy a hardcover copy of the #1 selling book of 2018 because I want Michelle Obama's book on my shelves, but listening to her tell her stories in her own voice, that was priceless.
It was as if I were walking side by side with a woman I admire. There was a deeper intimacy I experienced having her voice in my ears than I might have had reading her words on the page.
And honestly, the fact that audiobooks could be so great shouldn't have surprised me.
I let my inner snob get the better of me, and I let myself forget that storytelling was first and foremost an oral tradition.
I let myself forget that placing value on the written word is one way the elite has exerted control over the poor, the uneducated, and the enslaved for centuries.
Here's the thing, they can stop you from learning to read, but rarely can anyone stop you from imaging, telling, listening to, and/or sharing your stories -- if that is what you are called to do.
I still love reading physical books. I love the way a book feels in my hands. The way libraries and bookstores smell. The way a good book can take me deep within myself as if by magic.
Books have been there for me during some of the most tumultuous times of my life. They have supported, sheltered, saved, and shown me the way on more that one occasion. I will never lose that love for physical books.
And I still prefer reading fiction over listening to it because I love the way my own imagination shapes the characters and settings -- something that is a little lost when a voice actor imbues their own interpretation of the text. (Shout out to voice actors though! As a former theater kid I really appreciate the craft in bringing a book to life — especially when one actor takes on all the different characters’ voices).
That being said, as a mom with little downtime for sitting with a book, I have appreciated being able to listen to books I've been meaning to read this past year.
If the choice is between:
(A) an audiobook while I run my errands
(B) putting off reading a book I really want to read until "I have more time" (when will that be?!?)
then I'll now choose an audiobook almost each and every time.
You know what else?
Audiobooks turned out to be a bit of a gateway drug. When I realized how much I liked listening to books during my many walks around town, I looked into podcasts and now I'm hopelessly hooked on those as well!
I say let's embrace and celebrate the proliferation of stories in all their forms and formats! Let's never again make the mistake I made of forgetting the inherent power of the oral tradition--a tradition that predates our precious books.
I'm done hating on audiobooks. Hating on them is elitist AF. And it's counterproductive if my goal is to enjoy and learn from what others are writing.
I was wrong, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
All in all our CyberBookClub read and discussed 10 books together (we took a few breaks). We enjoyed a mix of Celebrity Memoirs, Self-Help, and Genre & YA Fiction.
My top 5 out of the 10 are below, plus a few audiobooks I'm hoping to check out in the New Year.
What about you?
How do you feel about audiobooks?
Drop a note in the comments and let me know!
Ready to get your Audiobook listening on?
MY 2018 AUDIOBOOK FAVES
AUDIOBOOKS TO HEAR IN 2019
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Li Yun Alvarado
Puerto Rican Poet, Scholar & Parent
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