The Joy of the Spoken/Written Word

I am among an apparently small population that grew up being read aloud to–almost continuously. My mother read scores of books aloud to her three children and I have numerous memories of hearing her create worlds from pages of words. This continued through my teenage years as I listened to her read to a brother seven years younger than I.

Talking books became a part of my reading career when I was in junior high and was thoroughly enamoured of George Guidall reading The Cat Who Mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun. Apparently I wasn’t the only one–Recorded Books tried, briefly, to switch over to a different reader. He was awful and I think it surprised no one that they not only switched back, but re-recorded those books. It was also the way that I first tackled The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. As it lead to my reading all of Clancy’s fiction novels (his non-fic is a bit dry for me and no I don’t read the stuff he has “help” writing), I think this proved to be a valuable starting point.

Audio books have come appeared on the news recently with strong feelings for and against. Apparently (news to me) listening to an audio book is considered cheating by “true” bibliophiles. Hmmm. There goes my rank as a true bibliophile. I was rather surprised to read a NYT article which portrayed book clubs rebelling against participants who listened to books instead of reading them–accusing them of “cheating.” (Get through a database—apparently it’s been 2 weeks since the article came out. I’ve got a copy somewhere too.)

I, among others, fail to understand how listening to stories–part of a long oral tradition that predates writing and also part of how we all learned to read–is suddenly taboo. Certainly parents of children wading through the classics just before school starts, as a recent ShelfCheck points out, don’t see any difference between their children listening to CDs or on their Ipods. Harry Potter’s audio performer, Jim Dale, has gained a fascinated following, all waiting to hear the familiar voice intone to them Rowling’s tales. Incidentally, that was the first version out the door at my library the day that Book 7 was published.

I’ve most recently gotten into classical literature via Overdrive through the two . As a result I have the better part of the Jane Austen’s works committed to memory. Nadia May reads the versions that I listen to and she’s very soothing to listen to. I spent a week’s commute recently on yet another “read” of Pride and Prejudice. I enjoy it in the printed format but am usually trying to read new books when the chance to sit down with printed text is available. But Jane plays happily in the background as I iron, do some light database modification, and drive thither and yon–wrapping me into the ridiculousness of middle class English love lives

I’m waxing loquacious..so I’ll just end with a link to a more favorable article on audio books

Listening to books is not cheating