Audiobooks: plug in and listen up

by Beacon Staff • February 24, 2011

Alongside a barely played-with Barbie doll set, my childhood bedroom held a plastic basket full of mixed and professionally made tapes. I had a boombox with a bent antenna and my bedroom walls were, even if I’m nostalgically generous, a hideous green. At the time, lime green was the best hue and Fantastic Mr. Fox was the best book. On tape.

I lost the full set of tapes, and I was left with only the final installment so I listened to Mr. Fox cleverly outfox his rivals over and over again. And although I still think Roald Dahl is the cat’s pajamas, I have graduated to slightly more complicated books. On tape.

Well, on iPod, really.

Audiobooks are a forgotten wonder and neat tool for people who might love stories but are still just a little shy of a WLP nerd. Kids love audiobooks because their brains often work a lot faster than their budding reading skills, but audiobooks for adults are not sophomoric building blocks. Audiobooks have amazing uses for your 20-something ears as well.

Some books should be read on tape anyway. Who can keep all those names in The Lord of the Rings trilogy straight? Théoden was the son of the son of the son of who, again? A full cast of characters with different, distinguishable voices—that can be helpful. The accents of the South are brought to life in the charming full cast reading of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Often the author or actors will read the work, giving life to their characters.

Audio books aren’t just for long distance driving anymore. Cleaning your room? Bam! Edgar Allen Poe in your ears. Going to the gym? Bam! Fortress of Solitude to make you feel heroic. Taking a walk of shame to the T in shoes you wobble in? Bam! David Sedaris is there to keep your chin up.

Plus, If you have a short attention span when it comes to long, descriptive passages, the audio version might just be your saving grace.

Let’s face it, some of us just aren’t visual learners.  Maybe reading for hours doesn’t make your heart skip a beat like it does mine, but try grabbing your iPod and take a walk.  Get some of that literary culture in your ears.

There is a reason kids crave being read to — it’s personal, magical, and more than slightly addicting. Stories began as an oral tradition and a connection is always made between the reader and the listener. And it doesn’t need to be your mom reading to you before you fall asleep, it could be your beau rereading The Phantom Tollbooth  (it’s still wonderful) or perhaps Dame Judi Dench will lend her lovely, British voice. So share the love of words with those ear buds in.