When I was a kid, my parents used to check out books on cassette at the library whenever we would go on long car trips. It was a good way to get my brother and I to focus on something other than annoying the heck out of each other in the backseat and this was back before things like iPods or in car TVs.
One of my favorite memories is of us listening to the Harry Potter books on tape. In fact, the first time I “read” them I was actually listening to them read aloud by a British man. In between bites of pasta at the dinner table or while lying down in my parents bed at the end of the night, I traveled to Hogwarts time and again. For the first four novels (that was all that was published at the time) we lugged a bright purple boom box around the house and popped tapes in the car whenever we traveled. I’ll probably never forget that.
Then as I began commuting more frequently over the last year, I rediscovered audio books. Last year I had to walk half an hour back and forth to work each day and spent hours on the bus when traveling to visit my parents; it seemed like a good idea to zone out with something constructive rather then get angry sitting in traffic. (Unfortunately actually reading while in the car makes me motion-sick.) So I checked out some books on CD at the library and then downloaded them to my ancient iPod Nano.
I started with books I’d already read, just to see if I’d still like being read to. As a more advanced reader than I was at age six, I figured I might lose track of the story if I went for anything complicated. I quickly devoured Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for the 12th time and then revisited The Fault in Our Stars by John Green in preparation for the movie release. Then I prepped for a seven hour drive to Maine by downloading all of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, narrated by the comedian herself. By the end of the first book, I’d fallen in love with audio books again.
I’ve been listening to A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers recently and I’m in love with it, too. I love the story, the narration, and the fact that I can revisit the experiences of my younger self. I had tons of stories read to me as a kid – my parents were big on reading over television – and I’d forgotten what it was like to let your imagination run completely wild. I don’t have to focus on words and page counts when I’m listening to an audio book. I can just close my eyes, zone out, and let the story happen while I walk, ride the train, exercise, or grocery shop. It gives me the freedom to multitask while still being entertained.
There are subscription services like Audible that I could try out for a while (first month free, then $14.95), but borrowing the CDs from my local library is completely free and I don’t have to worry about return policies once I download them to my computer. So this morning I put Paper Towns by John Green, Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, and Kathryn Socket’s The Help on hold in preparation for an upcoming trip. I have high hopes for all of them.
What are your thoughts on audio books? Let me know in the comments down below!