In defence of audiobooks

As an English grad, I am horrified that I hardly read a physical book this year but audiobooks have been an essential in my life this year

Earlier this year, I shared how I have started to count audiobooks as reading. It still seems wrong to say but despite the fatigue and brain fog of long covid, I have read just shy of 50 books this year. Most of them are listens rather than read and some are also re-reads. But I have now fully convinced this is the best way to really appreciate a text and I am sad I have waited so long to consume books in this way.

The main reason I want to defend the audiobook is this is the year I finally “read” Anna Karenina. Now, I have battled through most of War and Peace and knew that I liked Tolstoy’s knowing narration, grand settings but until this year, I never made it through Anna Karenina. And I must admit I had missed out. The first modern novel, obsessed with it’s own modernity, attempting to understand the psychology of it’s tragic heroes as well of of course the new age dawning with trains and the death of feudal farming, I find this a deeply fascinating novel. I did know the ending, but I was deeply shocked when I got there. The depth of my investment in the relationships and the complexity are so rewarding for the reader. When I am reading a novel twenty minutes at a time, holding all the characters in my head, switching between the town and countryside is confusing to follow, particularly when my brain is fogged. Having a voice actor peform the audiobook, we gain so much in their characterisation and can more easily follow the changes in voice and place in the novel.

Finally read Anna Karenina

It has also been an amazing way to reread books. I’ve listed before books that I think it is worth rereading. I have enjoyed the comfort of revisiting Jane Austen and the Northern Lights series by Phillip Pullman. Though I know these books so well, you pick up extra elements on each reread and this was very much part of my enjoyment of revisiting these books on audio. The performance is adding to the nuances that you pick up on as you revisit favourite places like Pemberley or characters like the villainous Mrs Coulter

A friend recently asked me how I concentrate on audiobooks as she tends to realise she has drifted off. Well this is a danger and with the relistens is matters less because you know the story but as I have managed brand new books this year too, I think I must be able to concentrate. My secret if anything is that listening to the book is the activity rather than have it on in the background. With my fatigue condition I have been bone tired enough to rest for great parts of the day. Not always thankfully but I lot of the time I have needed to give my brain a break and as I wrote before, audiobooks have formed an important part of my active resting.

So as I go forward with a bit more energy and a lot of hope, it may be that audiobooks were just the thing that got me through 2021 and ill-health. But even if I don’t get this time again to rest and “read” I will forever now advocate for audiobooks as a great way to tackle books, particularly ones that you have put off for years.

Are you an audiobook fan?

Book Snob Tag

So, I think I might be a tiny bit of a book snob…! Had to answer these questions I saw on EmmaLovesBooks. It’s also on Golden Books Girl but my answers were quite different to theirs, I think.

Adaptation Snob – Do you always read the book before you see the movie or tv series?

I do prefer to read before I see the film but please don’t think too badly of my book snobbery. I just think books let us imagine how the world is, whereas films or TV offer a set vision.

There have been films that have astonishing things Atonement comes to mind because that wide shot over Dunkirk would be hard to establish in text and its stark and horrifying. There are some adaptations that upset me. Girl on a Train will forever be a very London book to me and I just couldn’t get my head around the change they made.

Like Emma, there’s some series I have really enjoyed and didn’t even know they were books. I enjoyed Outlander and one day will get to the books which everyone loves. I am not strict but I like to see what the original artist (the author) envisioned before I see the director’s point of view.

Format Snob – You can only choose 1 format in which to read books for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose: physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks?

Although it would make me very sad I like the practicality of E-books and that as I always have my phone, I also always have my book. Can I still visit the library though, pleaaase?

Ship Snob: Would you date or marry a non-reader?

Probably not! It’s bad enough being married to a non-fiction reader. Although if I was allowed to keep my physical books (see above) I guess it would give me more space on the shelves!

I actually enjoy the activity of sitting with someone and reading so I guess that’s quite important to me.

Genre Snob: You have to ditch one genre – never to be read again for the rest of your life. Which one do you ditch?

Anything too sci-fi for me or set in deep space. I tend to find I can’t suspend my disbelief enough. I am probably missing out on some great books though, I know.

Uber Genre Snob: You can only choose to read from one genre for the rest of your life. Which genre do you choose?

Literary fiction because that can totally encompass historical and some fantasy and magical realism. I know, I am a cheat!

Authors such as Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Gunter Grass, James Joyce, JM Coetzee, Donna Taart have genuinely shaped my life. I would want other books too but on balance there’s plenty of literature I haven’t even tried yet so I would be best nourished by a diet of more literary works.

Community Snob: Which genre do you think receives the most snobbery from the bookish community?

I think the bookish community is pretty open to different genres. The rest of the world takes whole swathes of fiction written by women and tries to dismiss it with the title “Chick Lit”.

Snobbery Recipient: Have you ever been snubbed for something that you have been reading or for reading in general?

Well another mother once chided me saying she didn’t have time for reading with kids around. She made me feel like a terrible slattern as she looked at the state of my house as if we were living in the 1950s.I have written about making time to read. It’s essential for me. But its also considered a waste of time by many.

I also have kept a secret my love of children’s literature although I think that one is fairly mainstream now. Post Harry Potter, people seem more open to talk about their love and so I am more relaxed about people knowing I read (mainly re-read) children’s fiction.

I think I am definitely more snobby than I realise. I may challenge myself to listen to an audiobook of a sci-fi book to overcome it all.

Have you experienced snobbery or do you feel it yourself sometimes?

Feel free to play along!