Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Reading" Audio books

As a librarian, and especially one who has worked so closely with the teen population in the past, I've spent a lot of time educating parents about the fact that studies have been done showing that listening to an unabridged audio book equates to reading the print version.  Although many listeners just think of it as a pleasant experience letting someone else tell you a story (and it IS), at the same time your brain is actually working very hard. 

Listening to an audio book builds vocabulary just as reading does.  It actually challenges your brain to comprehend words in various ways simultaneously.  Pronunciation (which is why whenever I listen to something and the narrator mispronounces a word continuously through the production I cringe SO hard) and context become very important in deciphering previously unknown words or phrases.  Depending on the speed of the narration, as well, your brain has to decipher these things more quickly than if you were physically reading and go back to verify information.

In fact, these are all reasons that educators and librarians now encourage a lot of students who are having trouble learning to read to listen to an audio book version of a story as they read along in the physical book.  It helps children (and adults learning to read English for the first time) to build their vocabulary and comprehension.  Listeners can also pick up grammar rules and preferred sentence structure without realizing.

Why am I sharing this info with you?  Just because I love audio books so much I am continuously trying to find ways to lure readers over to the "dark side." HA. But seriously, I cannot remember exactly how old I was when I really started listening to audio books - it may have been when I started reviewing them for School Library Journal 10+ years ago - but I am a total addict now.  I hate going anywhere in the car without one and I find myself continuing to listen while I fold laundry or wash the dishes now that I can load audio books onto my phone rather than relying on CDs in the car.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Written and Narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson
audio book owned in my personal collection
I wanted to share some of the audio books that I've listened to this month with you.  They are from a variety of genres, as I find that I am more willing to listen to certain genres than physically read them.  For instance, I generally have a hard time sitting down and reading a full non-fiction title, but if it's narrated well, most times I can listen to it from start to finish (maybe because I can't see how many physical pages are left?).

I had been super excited to listen to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, both because I actually love astronomy and because NdGT reads it himself! I love listening to him speak.  I was a little disappointed in this audiobook, though, honestly.  I think because I already knew the majority of the information provided I found myself drifting in and out listening without even realizing I'd stopped listening. Having watched the Cosmos series that he did on TV, I also found myself missing the little graphics and animations to go along with the book's narration.  Hopefully whatever non-fiction title I listen to next will hold my attention a little better.

Blackwater: the Complete Series
Written by Michael McDowell
Narrated by Matt Godfrey
Audio book sent for review
I also find that I will listen to books that fall into genres I don't normally pick up, like horror or historical fiction set during WWII because there is something different in the experience of having the story unfold audibly then me just picking up a story and reading it.  I guess I rely on the narrator to move me through the story, where the voice in my own head might have faltered or gotten stuck and I might have put the book down and not picked it up again (example - Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys).

At the beginning of January I listened to Blackwater by Michael McDowell, an audio book I never would have picked out on my own. It is a compilation of McDowell's Caskey Family Saga novels (there are six of them) set in Alabama in the early 1900s.  It is both a gothic Southern family saga and a horror story that unfolds slowly through the family's history over a period of several decades.  Though I rarely pick up straight horror stories, I found myself captivated by this one as it really focused on the Southern family dynamics with only a sprinkling of horror tossed in.  It was like watching a soap opera where suddenly a werewolf swoops in, grabs the family dog, runs off into the night and then isn't seen again for ten years (NOT what happens in the books, LOL). 

Lastly, I find sometimes that if I realize a book I want to read is narrated by a certain person I will pick up the audio version rather than the printed.  Narration can make a book come ALIVE.  The best narrators are basically actors and man, can they deliver a good storytelling experience. 

I was devastated when I learned earlier this month that one of my favorite audio book narrators, Katherine Kellgren, had passed away.  She was an EXCEPTIONAL talent and I will most definitely miss what she brought to every book she narrated.  I always knew that if she narrated the book it would be excellent, no matter the genre, intended audience, or author.  She won many awards and deserved every one of them. 

Her Royal Spyness
Written by Rhys Bowen
Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
audio book owned in my personal collection
I had just started a new audio book series narrated by Kellgren (Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen) and while I'm excited to listen to the rest of the titles in the series as it was a very fun audio book, I'm going to be sad every time as I realize we get closer and closer to the end of Kellgren's career. She made the 1930's in London both glamorous and realistic.  She breathed vivacious life into the main character Georgie and her accents could not be beat.  This cozy mystery was so much fun to listen to while I was driving to and from work every day.  I will definitely be listening to the sequel at some point. 

So, that was the majority of my audio book listening in January.  Aside from two titles sent for review, I stuck to my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge in my listening, as well. *Victory Dance*

What about any of you?  Do you love audio books as much as I do? 

No comments:

Post a Comment