Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Audio Experiment

I have a confession to make. Up until this month, I'd never listened to an audiobook. I appreciate many bloggers' love for them and understand how they would be a welcome diversion on a long commute or while going through the motions of housework, but to me, it seems like cheating, like not really reading. Besides, I told myself, I don't retain things as well when I'm hearing them instead of reading them, especially if I'm tired or distracted, which would probably be the times I'd be trying to listen anyway.

When I arrived back from BEA and discovered Audiobook Week was upon us, I was none too excited. "Great," my selfish inner monologue mumbled, "a whole week of posts that have no bearing on me and the things I like." But then, there's always that thought lurking, that one that says, "Well, if everybody else likes this stuff so much, then I must really be missing out on something." You may remember I fell down that slippery slope at least once before, and have since come to a grudging truce with short stories. It was probably that lurking thought that drove me to pick up the free Martin Misunderstood audiobook from the Book Blogger Convention swag tables, and it was probably Audiobook Week that drove me to pluck it from its box and stick it in my car stereo for my drive to work. "It was free," I thought, "What do I have to lose?"

Martin Misunderstood is a short novel about epic loser Martin Reed. Martin is a pudgy accountant at Southern Toilet Supply where he commands respect from no one and draws ridicule from everyone from Unique, the employee that he hired that refers to him exclusively as "Fool!" to the insurance man who is dragging his feet helping Martin get rid of the "Twat" scratched into his car door. Even in middle age, Martin still lives with his mother, Evelyn, an old battle-axe whose one purpose in life seems to be demeaning Martin. When he leaves for work one morning, and discovers his car has been seemingly vandalized yet again, it seems his troubles have just begun because, when a co-worker turns up dead, the hapless Martin finds himself the prime suspect. And that's okay with him, as long as he gets to spend more time in the company of the lovely An Albada, the detective on the case.

Martin Misunderstood was a wise choice for getting my audiobook feet wet, all around. It was free, it was short (only 2 and half hours), and it's not the sort of book I normally read so I if I disliked listening to it, hey, I wouldn't have ruined a book for myself that I otherwise would have read. I'd heard of Karin Slaughter and associate her with the mystery/thriller sort of books that I used to read way more often than I do now. By all accounts, the book is nothing to shout about, but I have to admit, that while listening, I was fully absorbed and Wayne Knight's (of Seinfeld fame) narration combined with Slaughter's black humor had me laughing out loud at times. My commute flew by, and I even found myself lingering in the car, since, of coure, the mystery was being revealed just as I was pulling into my driveway.

That said, there were other times that I'm glad that my windows were not down when I was listening to it. There were at least two wicked raunchy sex scenes (particularly distasteful when read aloud, yikes!), which you would hardly expect in a book about a loser as epic as Martin, and the language was a little rough to boot. Even with those drawbacks, I have a feeling I still enjoyed listening to Martin a good deal more than I would have enjoyed reading it.

All in all, I think I can see myself listening to more audiobooks, but I doubt I'll become a prolific reviewer of them. It's true that I don't process something I'm listening to while battling traffic as well as something I read, and it kind of bothered me that I didn't always know the definite spelling of the characters' names for reviewing purposes. I admit now, though, that maybe listening to some lighter fare (on the order of Martin Misunderstood) or maybe "re-reading" some old favorites via audio might just be a great way to redeem all the time I feel like I'm wasting driving to and from work.

Oh, book blogging, there you go again making me try new things. I think like it.

What do you read or what bookish things do you do now that you never would have considered had it not been for book blogs?

And, if you're an audiobook lover, what do you recommend for the audiobook newbie should I decide to take up my library card and get in deeper with this whole audiobook thing?


  1. I used to feel much the way you did about audiobooks, but I fell in love with them in a time when I wanted to take reading slower. They helped me to spend more time on each book, so that I actually retained MORE from them than from print books, because I flew through print books so much faster. I'm glad I got into them. I still don't listen to tons - I think I've listened to 16 this year altogether, compared to almost 70 in print books - but they are definitely a different experience adn one I really enjoy.

  2. I started audio books after I started blogging too. You should try Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

  3. I picked this one up at the Book Blogger Con and I had opposite feelings about it. It was one of the rare books that I just didn't enjoy. I do have to agree with you about the raunchy sex scenes being read versus listening to them. So different.

    If you like a good mystery, I would suggest you check out AJ Scudiere's audio movies, Vengeance and Resonance. Both are very good and I enjoyed them as audio movies.

  4. Amanda - If I read any slower, I'd be reading backwards. LOL! Oddly, one of the reasons I'd be interested in getting into audiobooks is just the opposite of yours as it would probably give me the opportunity to consume *more* books than I normally could! =)

    Kathy - I'll put Lizzie Bright on my list. Thanks!

    Amanda - Yeah, the, um, enthusiastically read raunchy sex scenes made me feel kinda dirty. Definitely don't want to revisit that kind of thing! Thanks for the recommendations - I'll put Vengeance and Resonance on my list, too!

  5. I like your new blog design! I started audiobooks last year and have learned that humor works especially well - both Bill Bryson and David Sedaris read their own work and it is excellent. I have listened to a few memoirs and they have worked well too. For fiction, I mostly stick to lighter stuff.

  6. As you know, I love them, but I know what you mean about sex scenes. I've only listened to one or two audiobooks that had explicit scenes in them, but it made me blush horribly. I also don't like audiobooks with regular swearing in them (as in, more than one or two instances in the whole book), but once again I haven't run into that much.

    Since you asked, I'd recommend rereading via audio (it's a wonderful experience) and classics. Many classics were read aloud amongst families when they were originally published anyway, and they just seem to lend themselves to audio really well. And there are short ones, in case you don't want to commit to a million hours up front! ;)

    I can't remember if you're a Gaiman fan, but my number one rec for audiobook newbies is Anansi Boys. It's not read by Gaiman, but the narrator does the accents perfectly and his voice is just delicious. And the book is *hilarious* with a lot of dialogues that are even funnier being read out loud.