Seriously. What Have I Been Missing?

AudioBooksI don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.

As a reader and writer of stories, as one who loves live theatre and movies on screen, as one who enjoys hearing a compelling story…what the heck has taken me so long to “read” in the car?

Seriously, audiobooks are making my life even more enjoyable than it already is.

Because of my commute to work, which extended by about 10-15 minutes when my family and I moved last year (by our choice), I spend a bit more time in the car. At a gathering of our Book Club, someone asked when I find time to read.

“I don’t,” I said. “During the semester, it’s very hard for me. I’m grading papers, preparing lectures, writing a textbook and a novel, in addition to trying to be a good mom to two great kids and a loving wife.”

It’s then that the light bulb went off. Why didn’t I listen to the books on audio CD?

I’ve discovered audiobooks are quite lovely, and they actually makes me want to get back in the car, so I can “hear” what happens next. I have been swept away to locations with people who come to life as a narrator tells me the story. I love to read—read the printed word—but this audiobook thing is sweeping me off to places when all I’m doing is driving on the Beltway.

At this rate, I will finish a lot of books over the course of the semester. I just finished “Stella Bain” and I’m about to tackle “Unbroken” and “The Goldfinch.” In my CD player in my car right now is Elizabeth Berg’s book from 2013 entitled “Tapestry of Fortunes.” I may listen to “The End of the Affair” just to hear Colin Firth tell me the story.ADBLECRE_2290_ColinFirthZing_v2._V383757663_

I’m quite enjoying them all, and my local library has a vast collection from which you can pick.

For those who try to tell you that listening to audiobooks is not really reading, remember this: it’s not a copout. It’s a way of processing stories. It requires concentration and focus, and it still requires you to paint a picture in your mind. In fact, in research I conducted during my MFA on Charles Dickens, it appears that Dickens not only liked to engage in live readings of his works, but he also wrote his stories for the ear. He wrote them to be read aloud. He gleaned great satisfaction from performing his stories on the stage. He would act out the three ghosts from “A Christmas Carol,” playing all the parts, yet interpreting and reading his own words.

Listening to audiobooks reminds me of the days (before I was born) when folks would gather around the radio and “listen” to fictional stories being broadcast. The stories were narrated, often in a series, and they brought people together. I like that notion a lot better than sitting around a table while everyone stares at their iPhones.

In a piece written by Sharon Grover and Lizette D. Hannegan in 2004 for Book Links about “Integrating Audiobooks into the Classroom,” they write the following:

Children’s and young-adult literature in audiobook format is being produced in record numbers. Outstanding performances by recognized actors, concurrent publication with hardcover releases, and variety and availability all contribute to the growing presence of audiobooks in school and public libraries. Educators, however, know that one of the most important reasons for the increasing interest in audiobooks for young people is the research demonstrating that listening to audiobooks fosters reading comprehension, fluency, language acquisition, vocabulary development, and improved achievement.

For these very reasons, if it works for students, it can work for those of us who just love learning.

I’ve got to go now. Time for my pleasant commute home.


  • Anonymous

    Think of the impact of narration, pre-TV when most people did gather around the radio, of WAR OF THE WORLDS…that was the ultimate in the power of the spoken word. Also, listening to books is a wonderful venue for seniors–or others–whose eyesight is failing…what a terrific gift! Have fun with your tapes. MOM

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