Just close your eyes for a whole new world of books

800px-ernesthareradiosipConfession: I read very little these days. That is, I read a great deal for research purposes, and I read far too many newspapers articles (especially this year, when the politics everywhere has been so intense and dramatic!) – but as for sitting down with a novel … sorry, but I can’t remember the last time I did that!

Shocking? Well yes. Writers should read, shouldn’t they?

I agree, absolutely. My problem is, since I started writing novels myself, I’ve found my concentration span has shortened immensely when it comes to reading other people’s books. If a novel is fantastic, it makes me want to run off instantly and get back to my own writing – in other words, I find good writing inspiring. If something is poor, or just doesn’t catch my interest … well, frankly, life’s too short to waste.

headphones-1088732_1280However, I do get through twenty to thirty novels a year. How? I LOVE listening to audio books! I was hooked years ago, when I was a stressed-out company director and couldn’t sleep. I discovered that the sound of the human voice was very soothing, and if I was listening to a story, I wasn’t worrying about work. Now I ‘read’ at least a book a month, often many more, and I’ve learned not to panic when I can’t sleep. Lying listening can be quite relaxing too.

Listening to audio books is a whole different experience from reading a book.

  1. The voice of the narrator is of prime importance. It has to be good or frankly, I won’t even buy the book (you can listen to a sample).
  2. I can get a long way through before realising I’ve missed a key point because I’ve fallen asleep. (I once read a whole Poirot before realising I’d missed the murder.)
  3. It’s tricky getting back to exactly where you were when you nodded off, so sometimes you listen to the same passage time and again. (I set a Sleep timer for 30 minutes, so I’m never too far away from where I was.)
  4. You really can’t fast forward, because you have no idea what you’re missing or how far to go before the next interesting thing happens.
  5. Poor pronunciation of certain words e.g. place names is intensely irritating. Narrators, please do your homework properly!
  6. Good narration is amazing and can make characters leap to life.
  7. Slow build-ups get slower.
  8. Classics can stand the test of time very well (I reread Middlemarch recently and was knocked out by it.)
  9. Some novels are almost impossible to listen to – I gave up on Wolf Hall completely. Sorry. But having talked to friends who told me they had to flick back and forwards a lot in order to be sure what was happening and who was speaking, I now understand why I found it so difficult.
  10. It’s quite a slow experience (typically 10-17 hours), but this enables you to really get into the book.

Audio books are my friends and comforters. I adore Irish voices, so Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes have become favourites. I like Aussie accents too, and have discovered Liane Moriarty and Graeme Simsion this way. I like value for money, so Ken Follet’s blockbusters are terrific. I adore Michael Tudor Barnes’s interpretation of detective Peter Diamond, so Peter Lovesey has done very well from me.

This is a hugely growing market, it seems. Many people now listen on their way to work, on trains, buses or cars. I also listen when travelling – a good audio book can make a dull journey fly by, and if you’re tired on that plane, just plug in your headphones and close your eyes – you can go wherever your book takes you!

Does anyone else share my passion? And if so, what are your experiences?


17 thoughts on “Just close your eyes for a whole new world of books

  1. Afraid I’m not with you on this one, Jenny! 🙂 I’m not good at listening to books – my mind drifts – and the thought of not reading fiction makes me come over all sweaty. It’s interesting that audio is a growing market, though. Avon consulted me over the voice actor to read The Christmas Promise. They sent me links to several clips so I could check out how she read dialogue/third person/male point of view, all of which I see as important for my books. Happy listening!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Jenny, Lorraine here. I’m with you on the audiobooks. You really captured the pros and cons. Rarely have time to read now but I listen to books when I have trouble falling asleep (they calm my brain), long car journeys (they keep me awake while driving), when I’m house-cleaning (they stop me from quitting halfway through), walking the dog and a ton of other things. I’m always walking around the barn and house with earbuds plugged in. I’m with you on the narrator. I don’t always listen to the samples and I’ve often regretted it. My mini ipod saved me in Mongolia when I was shivering in my tent on a woefully thin air mattress – took my mind off my discomfort, made the long night bearable. And I’m with you on the narrator. I don’t always listen to the samples and I’ve often regretted it. And when the narrator gets it right, they can really enhance the experience. Some of the ones I’ve loved were the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Girl On A Train, Gone Girl, Shantaram, lots of epic fantasy and yes, Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes and a whole host of others. I listened to Janet Gover’s The Wild One too – really good story and excellent narrator! And yes, trying to find your place again after you’ve fallen asleep is always an interesting challenge.

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    • I use Audible (owned by Amazon). I subscribe – one book a month for £7.99, with option to buy extra credit at discounts from time to time, or 2-for-1 offers. Plus sometimes authors ask me to review their books on audio, which I’m happy to do – though they have to understand it might take a bit longer than a normal book!

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  3. Pingback: Just close your eyes for a whole new world of books – Take Five Authors – Jenny Harper Author

  4. I used to listen to audio books while driving long distances in Australia. I loved them. particularly when you have great actors / voices. A couple of my books have gone into audio – and they have an Australia reader, which is nice. The accent is right.

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