Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Audiobooks… to hear or not to hear?

It has been a very long time since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t been reading. I have, just not on the scale that I used to, which is weird because normally summer is a time for me to really read a lot. I did start and absolutely hate The Lost City of Z about a lost civilization in the amazon that many people have disappeared or died trying to find. I didn’t know it was non-fiction and it was like reading a history textbook. I have also been reading a lot of terrible chick lit that frankly seems unimportant and too shameful to post about. I’ve also been getting into audiobooks.

I have a few friends who like audiobooks for daily commutes or long road trips. I guess that it’s is better than struggling to find a radio station. I however was fervently against them, mostly because I’m a ninety year old woman and I’m totally against new book technology (don’t even get me started on these kindles. It’s like reading stuff on a word document). Though, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a new technology. I know they had books on cassette tapes. What about 8-tracks and vinyl? Can you find an LP of Little Women? If you play it backwards does it say satanic things? Anyway, it seemed so pedestrian and lazy. You’re can’t actually flip the pages and let your mind comprehend what words you see in front of you?

But I gave it a whirl and illegally downloaded The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy read by the author himself Douglas Adams. It was really good. I found myself sitting on a train trying really hard not to laugh, because then people would look at me like I’m some sort of nut job laughing on the Amtrak for no particular reason. I failed a few times at that task but I don’t think I got many looks. I found that with audiobooks more of the tone and style of the books comes across. You get the lines delivered in such a way that you can’t help but laugh, be excited, feel sad, and maybe even cry. And unlike movies you are able to imagine for yourself what people and scenes look like.

I do however think it comes down to the reader and the book. Something long, dry, and wordy I can’t imagine would translate real well to audio. Therefore I will be avoiding Jane Austen, Tolkien, and War in Peace. (Just so we’re clear I love Jane Austen I just find her wordy and she puts way to many needless details which I think would be boring read aloud. Tolkien too).

Hitchhiker’s Guide was perfect. It had excitement, energy, humor, and heart. For those unaware, it is the story of Arthur Dent who is told by his friend Ford Prefect (who turns out to me an alien) that the earth is going to explode and that they need to escape into space, they do and it does. They are picked up by Zephod Beeblebrox another alien who happens to be Ford’s cousin and President of the Universe and Trillion a woman who Arthur actually met on earth. Also on the ship is Marvin the paranoid android who is depressed because he was programmed with that human emotion (I find him amazing and hilarious). These folks are on the run because Zephod stole the ship that they’re flying, The Heart of Gold. They end up in the mythical planet of Megarathea which is known for constructing planets, including Earth. There they learn about a race of very intelligent beings that created Deep Thought the computer that will answer the ultimate question about life, the universe, and everything. The answer? 42. Very vague and non-descript. So they must then find out the ultimate question and constructed another computer to figure that out. I won’t give too much away if you want to read or listen to it. It actually started out as a radio series so it is no surprise that it is so good as an audiobook.

I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea of audiobooks. They’re great but there is something to be said about the feeling (and smell) of a book in your hand. Call me old-fashioned but I’m not going to be giving my paperbacks up anytime soon. But if you haven’t tried it and you’re going on a trip this summer I say yeah, pick one up. But choose wisely. I recommend... Harry Potter.