Saturday, November 10, 2007

Confessions of an Audio Book Addict

In my first blog post last year, I said I couldn’t make any promises as to how often I would post to this blog, but even I didn’t think it would be sixteen months between posts! I’ll try to do better.

A few months ago, there was an article in the New York Times titled Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways.* The article discussed how many book club members across the country were criticized by other book club members and accused of “cheating” because they listened to their book club titles instead of reading them. The Lyme Public Library has a book club, and I confess that I listen to most of the titles we discuss. Unabridged audio books are word for word exactly the same as the print versions, and I fail to see how this is “cheating” or taking the easy way out. Since I can barely get through ten pages of a book before falling asleep when I’m reading in bed at night, if I didn’t listen to the books, I doubt I’d finish any of them on time. But I was curious as to how our book club members felt about it, so I brought it up at our first meeting after our summer break. I already knew that at least one other member of the group listened to some of the titles on tape or cd, and a few others admitted to doing so occasionally. None of the group members seemed to have any real objections to the practice.

I was a late convert to audio books. I had tried listening to some when they first became popular, but I couldn’t seem to keep my attention focused on them, so I gave up. Quite a few years later, we received All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg as part of our quarterly selection from the regional audio book cooperative. I had heard a critic from the Los Angeles Times characterize it as an American Angela’s Ashes. I wanted to read it but never seemed to find the time. So when it came in as an audio book, I decided to give listening another try. Whether it was the book itself, which is wonderful, or the narrator (Frank Muller), I was entranced. I could have listened forever, and ever since, I have been hooked on audio books. The audio version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince helped me survive a hellish train ride to Chicago and back several years ago. The actor Jim Dale narrates all of the Harry Potter audio books, and he does a marvelous job voicing all the different characters. There are as many or more adults who request the HP book on audio from our library as there are children.

My favorite audio book that I’ve listened to recently is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. I am not a cook or a gardener. Actually, I dislike both of those activities, but Kingsolver’s account of her family’s move from Arizona to a farm in rural Appalachia is funny, touching and informative without being preachy. Her family decided for one year to consume only food that either they produced or was produced locally. She is not a vegetarian, and she does not expect other people to make the same decision her family made, but her story does illustrate how food we produce can enrich our lives and how corporations’ power to control not only the quality of food that is available to us, but what kinds of foods are available to us can diminish them. I wish everyone would read it.

So, if you don’t have enough time to read, try an audio book. You can listen while you drive, exercise, cook, clean or rest. I also invite you to try out the Lyme Library Book Club. We meet on the second Thursday of the month at 7 P.M. You can come to all our meetings or just a few. This spring we will have three local authors joining us. Lyme resident James Benn will join us on February 14 to talk about his book The First Wave. Lyme resident Susan Cole, who works with Wally Lamb and the inmates in the writers’ program at the York Correctional Facility in Niantic, is a contributor to their new book I’ll Fly Away and will speak about it on April 10, and East Haddam resident Bruce McGhie will join us on May 8 to discuss his book Ascent. Our whole book club schedule is available at our web site Copies of the books are available at the library 3-4 weeks before each meeting, and if you decide to listen instead of read, I promise we won’t frown on it!

*Andrew Adam Newman "Your Cheatin' Listenin' Ways." New York Times, August 2, 2007, Late Edition (east Coast), (accessed November 10, 2007).