Loving Audiobooks

 

Why I Love Audiobooks2

The weeks before the holidays are prime times for listening to audiobooks while decorating, cooking, and wrapping packages. Publishers release many audios tailored for the season each year, so you can listen to one of your classic favorites or a new title as you work.

 

Some weeks ago, I described my love of books in traditional format and the benefits of including e-books in my reading routines. A third format, the audiobook, has made it possible for me to broaden my options even further.

In the past, some purists didn’t consider listening to audiobooks to be “reading”. I count mine because I receive the same benefits from audiobooks as I do with traditional books, except for practicing reading as a skill. Reading books encompasses much, much more and my reading diet doesn’t suffer by the inclusion of an occasional audiobook.

Here are some reasons I enjoy audiobooks:

  1. They allow me to enjoy more books. I am able to add several titles to my “have read” list each year that I could not have otherwise included .
  2. I’m able to listen while I do other activities, such as getting dressed for the day, putting on make-up, folding laundry and loading the dishwasher. The weeks before the holidays are prime times for listening to audiobooks while decorating, cooking, and wrapping packages. Publishers release many audios tailored for the season each year, so you can listen to one of your classic favorites or a new title as you work.
  3. Audiobooks are very portable when I have them downloaded to my phone. I don’t even need to carry a reader to catch a few minutes of a good book.
  4. I can escape to an audiobook during boring or not-so-pleasant experiences, such as waiting in the doctor’s office or standing in a long line. (Earbuds come in handy during those times.)
  5. I can listen to an audiobook when traveling, and not be tied in to others’ listening preferences. You don’t have to listen to your least favorite type of music when trapped in a car with others who love it. You can take out your audiobook, nod to those whose taste in music differs from yours, and enjoy the ride.
  6. Excellent narration adds another dimension to my listening experience. Some books I’ve enjoyed lately that have been enhanced by the narration include The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg (narrated by the author), American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee (narrated by the author and Mark Bramhall), and The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck (narrated by Suzanne Toren).
  7. Audiobook sources are constantly expanding and being refined. Subscription services such as Amazon’s Audible offer customers great selections from best sellers to those addressing specific interests.
  8. I live in audiobook nirvana because my library offers titles to check out that I can listen to on one of my devices. Be sure to check with your local library to see if this service is available!

Some additional titles that I have listened to and enjoyed include The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian, Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, and The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.

 

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Ten Reasons I Love Book Talking (And Maybe You Will, Too!)

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First, let me clarify. I love book discussion in all its varieties – one-on-one, online, group discussion about one title, panel discussion – you name it.  If it’s about books, I’m there!

My favorite format is book talking. I learned the term when I was a new librarian attending my first Oklahoma Library Association conference.  There was a session going on that seemed to be attracting a large audience.

I scanned the room and found an empty seat; it might have been the last one. I sat and waited for the speaker. When the session began and the introductions were done, I could see that there would be more than a dozen speakers.  I wondered how they would all fit themselves in during the one allotted hour.

Then it started.  Each speaker went to the center of the stage with one book (in this case, the books showcased were Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Award Nominees) and spoke about it. No, that is not quite accurate.  They sold it.

The audience around me was busy writing notes and I decided it was time to do the same. Each presenter spoke for a couple of minutes  –something about their passion for the book, for what made interesting, and just enough to draw us in and want to read it ourselves and recommend it to others. It drew us in and kept us there.

One after another, without a break in between, we heard from readers who loved books, but more importantly, loved the book he/she was holding.

I was almost out of breath when I left the session, after learning something else about what librarians do – what I would be doing for the next 25 years. I would be talking about books and telling our customers why they might like them – why the book I was holding might be their “next best book” or their favorite book of all time.

I still love to do that (even though I am retired) and I still love to listen to book talks. I especially look forward to the “Book Buzz” presentations done at the Pioneer Library System branches by the Penguin Random House representatives, when they book talk the latest and upcoming books for the season. (It doesn’t hurt that they give away advanced readers copies and book bags, or that the librarians and the Friends of the Library prepare delicious food for us.)

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What I love best, though, is “Ravenous Readers”, a group of about 20 members who meet each month at the McLoud Library to talk about the books we’ve read. It’s always fast and furious around the table because several of us bring more than one to share.

The book talks are as individual as the members who present them and each member has his/her own style of presentation. Some read passages, some talk about the author, and some tell us about their own emotional response to the book.

Someday, someone will probably put their book talk to music, as I did once during my librarian days. We also share or lend our own personal books and share items such as bookmarks and pens provided by indie book stores we visit. Again, the wonderful pot luck dinner we enjoy is “icing on the cake” (pun intended).

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What I am suggesting is that you consider the “book talk” format if you’re planning to join or begin a book group.  Here are some reasons you might enjoy book talking as much as I do:

  1. Book talk groups put very little pressure on the members. Each can choose his/her own title(s) to read and share.
  2. It isn’t necessary to gather multiple copies of one single title for discussion. (Pioneer Library System makes book discussion kits with multiple copies of the same title available to book groups, but not every library can provide this service.)
  3. Book talking doesn’t require a moderator or that discussion questions be prepared.
  4. Each meeting provides several recommended titles for each member’s “to read” list.
  5. Members can often trade books on the spot if a title sounds interesting to another member.
  6. There is a lot of flexibility for groups as far as desired number of members, locations (homes, restaurants, the library, community meeting rooms), etc.
  7. Refreshments can range from pot luck or restaurant fare, from desserts and coffee to wine and cheese, but food and drink enhances the experience!
  8. Book talking can be integrated into an existing group’s discussion format. A twice-a-year book talk session can result in multiple titles to consider for traditional book discussion sessions.
  9. Members can focus on subject areas for specific meetings. For example, Women’s History Month in March, or Christmas titles in December.
  10. Enthusiasm for book talk groups doesn’t seem to waver. Just ask the members of the Ravenous Readers – 20 years and going strong!

I hope to see you one day at a book talk group, or better yet, hear that you have begun one!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my “Marginalia” newsletter (click here). You’ll receive it by email each month and see links to each of my blog posts, other bookish news and information, and progress reports on my own writing.

Book Recommendation for June 2017

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This month’s recommended title, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, is one from a subcategory of books I collect about reading, writing, libraries, bookstores, book collecting, and related subjects.  Many of these books reside on my shelves at home while others are in the branches of our Pioneer Library System.  (Yes, I understand that I don’t personally own the library books, but I consider them mine just the same.  I just don’t have room for all of them to live with me.) The books about what other readers and writers enjoy are among my favorites because they give me insight on their choices and preferences and because I inevitably discover new titles to add to my “must read” list.

I understand that I don’t personally own the library books, but I consider them mine just the same.  I just don’t have room for all of them to live with me.

It took me some time to read By the Book, but that didn’t diminish my pleasure in it. It’s the kind of book that is best taken in small bites; to do otherwise would be, for me, like eating the entire Thanksgiving turkey in one sitting. (I do like turkey and look forward to leftovers. Any perceived implication that authors’ opinions should be compared to helpings of turkey is entirely coincidental).

The layout of the book lends itself to reading about three, four, or ten (the reader’s decision) author responses to many of the same questions. Some typical questions include “When and where do you like to read?”, “What were your favorite books as a child?”, “Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like and didn’t?”, “If you could require the president to read just one book, what would it be?”

I found that reading about three authors’ responses was what I could absorb without getting them confused. Of course, it helped when an author like David Sedaris followed someone like Colin Powell.

Special sections included compiled responses on subjects such as “My Library”, “On Poetry”, “On Not Having Read”, and “Laugh-Out-Loud Funny”. Sixty-five authors were interviewed for the book, including several of my favorites: Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, Marilynne Robinson, Hilary Mantel, Khaled Hosseini, James McBride, Ann Patchett and others.

I will end with my favorite response to the question “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be”? from Gary Shteyngart: “Definitely Don’t Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein. It’s about how a great many creatures you encounter will try to eat you, even if you start acting all bipartisan.”

Added Note: Pamela Paul, who edited By the Book, has recently released a new title: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. Bob is Paul’s journal, her “book of books” in which she has recorded every book she has read from high school forward. Those of us who record our books in journals or on Goodreads will be interested in the long list of titles, but even more so in the relationship between the Paul and the books she has read.  I have added this title to my own “must read” list.

Reading Resource of the Month: Shelf Awareness is a website and newsletter that helps readers discover the 25 best books of the week, as chosen by booksellers, librarians and other industry experts. They also feature news about books and authors, author interviews and more of interest to readers and book lovers.