I commute just under an hour to work every day. More than once early on I wished I could be using the time for something more productive than simply driving and listening to music. At first I listened to “Welcome to Nightvale” the twice monthly podcast put out by Commonplace Books. It’s weird and awesome and I recommend it if you think you’d like a modern take on Lovecraft (there are also so many other good things about it that I could do an entire blog post on why you should listen to Nightvale, but that’s for another time). After I finished going through their archive, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to listen to next. I thought about trying to find another podcast, but finally decided to try audio books.
I, like many people, have an enormous “to read” pile. In fact, I don’t even own every book in my “to read” pile (and I own a lot of books). I’ve wanted to read books by certain authors but have never had the time, money or will to buy yet another book to add to my stack of things to read. That’s where the audio books come in. So far this year I’ve listened to four books and am about to finish a fifth. Not bad for time I would have otherwise been using to listen to the same CD another 50,000 times (Seriously, I don’t get sick of music as fast as most people).
It did take me a bit to get into the first CD. I’m used to listening to radio dramas, which are far more like television than books–all the action is done by sound effects and dialogue cues, where as with an audio book you’re listening to someone read, dialogue tags and everything. That is not to say that a good voice actor doesn’t perform when reading a book. On the contrary, they must have a multitude of different voices for characters as well as read a text without throwing off cadence or flow.
I started out with Duma Key by Steven King because that was what arrived first when I ordered a bunch of books. Perhaps part of my trouble getting into the books on tape had to do with the fact that the beginning of Duma Key is very introspective. We get to know Edgar Freemantle while he’s recovering from a serious injury and he’s withdrawing from society. Maybe if there had been more action in the beginning I would have been drawn in sooner. Either way I kept listening and soon enough I couldn’t pull away. Without spoiling anything I will tell you I ended up yelling at my car stereo a couple of times. Good thing no one was riding with me.
The only real downside to listening to books on tape, especially when read by the author, is that it has a way of getting inside your writing if you’re not careful. Listening to someone talk for long enough, especially someone who is either a powerful speaker, or read a powerful writer, and you can find yourself slipping into that person’s tone and voice. Yes, I’m looking at you, Neil Gaiman. I did love Neverwhere, though.
So there we are, my summer driving in a nutshell. Stay tuned next week for (probably) another chapter of Our Party.
PS-I’d take audio book gifts for next year.