Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When is Reading not Reading?

Last week on Twitter, I saw a retweet come across my timeline that made me pause.  I can't remember who the original tweeter was or their exact wording, but the gist of the tweet was that people that listen to audio books can't claim to have read them.  Really now?  Not only do I listen to audio books, I tend to remember them better than books I've literally read.

For most readers, their earliest memories of books are those that were read to them by a family member or teacher.  As a toddler, my parents read to me. By age 3, I was reading on my own.  Reading to children increases their intelligence and their vocabulary. One of my fondest memories of grade school is of my third grade teacher, Mr. Benke, reading the class the complete Chronicles of Narnia.  Even though I read the books myself, Mr. Benke had a way of doing the voices that made me remember his telling of them much better than I remember my reading of them.

So fast forward to 2010, I'm tired of Steve Harvey on the radio telling women what they're doing wrong; I'm not there for Tom Joyner and his undercooked, over cackling self; and once Gary spills the Tea on the Ricky Smiley show, I have no use for them either.  I had previously shunned audio books as an old lady kind of thing (thanks, in part, to the fact that the only people I knew that listened to them were, um...old ladies).  But when I couldn't take any more of the testosterone heavy morning radio, I grabbed the first audio book that looked appealing at the library.

My first listen was Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  Now this is a book that I might have put down or would not have given serious consideration if I were to physically read it.  But to listen to it was magical.  My drive time seemed to fly by and I found myself delaying going into the office so I could listen just a few more minutes.  Now while I have delayed going in because I'm reading a particularly good book, I never mastered reading and driving.  Audio books became the perfect solution to my problem.

For anyone that thinks listening to an audio book doesn't count and offers an easy way out, it takes me an hour to read 100 pages.  I can plow through the average book in three to four hours.  Audio books, not so much.  I'm currently listening to Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche's Half of a Yellow Sun.  At 433 pages, I could have read it on a Saturday afternoon.  Listening time is 19 hours.  Given that I only listen when I'm driving, it's taken me two weeks and I still have two CDs left.

Granted, audio books provide a pleasant distraction when I'm driving, but they also give me time to really digest what I've just heard.  This summer I've gone back and listened to several Bernice McFadden books that I previously read.  Each and every time I've heard something I didn't catch when I was reading the book.  And as much as I loved Erin Morganstern's The Night Circus, I probably wouldn't have been as enthralled with it had I read the physical book.

Make no mistake, listening to an audiobook is not the same as watching a movie and claiming to have read the book.  Studios, writers, etc. often change plots, lines, characters in movies that vary greatly from the book.  Audiobooks, unless abridged, are the book, in its entirety, simply being read aloud.  There's no doubt, at least in my mind, that listening to a book is just as worthwhile as reading it.

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