I take back everything I said a few months ago about audiobooks not really being for me. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. Turns out, I love audiobooks — as long as they’re good. (Crazy, right?)
I gave the genre another try when I started running regularly at the beginning of the year. I needed something to distract me from the horribleness that is running (music doesn’t really work for me), and I’d been wanting to re-read the Hunger Games books, so I decided to try listening to the audio versions of the books while I trudged through my thrice-weekly 30-minutes on the treadmill. And, what do you know, I was hooked. I tore through the trilogy, listening not only when I ran but also in my car during my commute, and immediately started seeking out more. I’ve had some hits and misses, but overall, audiobooks have won me over. They’re pretty much the only thing I listen to in my car anymore (I can’t stand the radio), and I look forward to taking up running again after this kid’s born, if only for the opportunity to listen to more books.
What it comes down to, I’ve learned, is this: The reader can (and will) totally make or break an audiobook. It can be the best writing in the world, but if the reader sucks? Sorry, not going to listen. A good reader, on the other hand, will completely transform a book for me. I’ve listened to a couple of books recently — The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — whose readers were so good, I could have listened to them forever. Sure, the stories were well written, captivating, enjoyable, etc. But those readers, man. I would listen to them read to me all day, every day, no matter the material. (I can’t tell you how excited I am for my audio copy of The Dream Thieves, sequel to The Raven Boys, to come available at the library. I didn’t even consider reading that one in print, knowing how good the audio will be.)
On the flip side, I’ve also encountered to a couple of books with, well…sub-par readers (that’s putting it nicely). One book, which I don’t even remember the title of because it was so bad I abandoned it after about 20 minutes, sounded like it was being read by a computer. Like someone fed the text into some voice software, and the computer spit an audio version back out. Terrible. Just terrible.
The toughest ones, though, are the ones whose readers are just okay. I got most of the way through a YA trilogy with mediocre, angsty readers before my library copy expired and I decided it wasn’t worth renewing. It wasn’t so bad that I gave up before my copy expired, but it also wasn’t worth going to the trouble of re-checking it out just to finish the story. I recently started Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and I just couldn’t get into it, which surprised me since so many people whose literary opinions I tend to agree with have been raving about it. I’ll probably give that one another try in print to see if it was the story or the audio that wasn’t working for me. I’m considering doing the same with Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy. I listened to the first one on audio, and it was fine, but I didn’t love it the way I’d loved the other books of hers I’d listened to. (The Scorpio Races was another EXCELLENT audiobook. So good.) Maybe I’ll continue the series in print and see if that helps.
Anyway, what I’m trying to get to, in a totally roundabout way, is this: I love audiobooks, but I’ve found that they bring with them a couple of unexpected side effects.
Side Effect Number 1: You know how sometimes you’re reading, and you see a word, and in your head that word sounds a certain way, but then you hear someone say it and realize you’ve been pronouncing it wrong in your head? Turns out a similar — but opposite — phenomenon can happen with audiobooks. On more than one occasion I’ve gone online to look up something about a book I’ve listened to, see a word (usually a character’s name), and think “Hey, they spelled that wrong.” Then I catch myself and realize, nope, that’s actually how it’s spelled. The author did not, in fact, spell her own character’s name wrong. It’s a strange thing, realizing you have to adjust your mental picture of how a person’s name should look in print. It caught me completely by surprise the first time it happened.
Side Effect Number 2: I’m surprisingly hesitant to recommend books I’ve loved on audio to people who aren’t likely to listen to audiobooks. It comes back to the discussion above about how strong an effect the reader has on my enjoyment of the book. I’ll start to recommend a book, but then I second-guess myself: What if the excellent reader was main reason I loved it? What if it’s not as good in print? After all, if a bad reader can kill an otherwise good book, isn’t it possible — probable, even — that the opposite could happen, too? Obviously some books are so bad that not even the best reader could save them, but what about all the other books out there? If I had read The Raven Boys in print, would I be as quick to rave about how much I loved it? Or did I mostly just love listening to Will Patton read it to me?
I recently took a deep breath and swallowed my self-doubt when I gave my sister-in-law paperback copies of both The Raven Boys and The Scorpio Races for her birthday. She and I tend to enjoy the same books (she’s the one who first introduced me to The Hunger Games), so I’m cautiously optimistic that she’ll enjoy these. Fingers crossed that she enjoys the print versions as much as I enjoyed listening to them on audio.
How about you: Do you love audiobooks? Have you encountered any unexpected side effects from listening to books on audio vs. reading them in print? And, because I’m always on the hunt for another great audiobook: What’s the best book you’ve listened to lately?
So, I tried to download the audio book of Ready Player One recently, becuase I’d heard great things from people whose opinions are often in line with my own and assumed I would enjoy it. Unfortunately, the library’s audio version didn’t work on my phone, so I read it the old-fashioned way (on my eReader, obvs.), and I loved it. LOVED. IT. You guys should all read this book. Seriously. It’s great.
I raved about it to Tim, who then listened to the audio book (his phone, it turns out, is better than mine). I overherad some of it, and, you guys, I’m sorry, but it was awful. I know, I know. You are all gaping at your screens right now saying “But it’s read by Wil Wheaton!” (I know!) “Who is awesome!” (I agree!) “And what could be better than a geeky book read by him?” Let me tell you what’s better than a geeky book ready by him — a geeky book NOT read by him. It was sooooo slow. Agonizingly so. When I read the book, I found it to be an exciting, fast-paced adventure story. But then Tim put it on for the drive home from my parents’ house one weekend, I fell asleep, and when I woke up two hours later, I couldn’t believe how little progress we’d made into the book. Nothing had really happened yet. After TWO HOURS.
(Also, W.W.’s voiceing of the main character/narrator was a little too smug and, well, icky for my liking. So much so that it made me kind of dislike the narrator, a character I’d liked quite a bit when I read the book myeslf. But that could be 100% a result of my having already read the book and given the narrator a voice in my mind. and therefore no matter who gave him a voice in real life, if it didn’t sound exactly like it sounded in my mind, it was going to be All Wrong.)
The worst part, though, hands down, was the list reading. See, in the book, there’s a scoreboard, with players’ rankings changing somewhat frequently throughout the plot. When reading the book in print, it was easy to skim the list of players/scores, get the relevant information, and move on. On the audiobook, you have no choice but to listen to W.W. slowly (SO SLOWLY) read every player’s name and score every. single. time. the scoreboard makes an appearance. It’s a LIST, you guys. A list of names and numbers that he had to read outloud, which, okay, I get it, becaues it’s not like you can skim when you’re reading an audio book, but still, he was reading a list. And it was painful.
Tim finally finished reading/listening and agreed that it was a good book. However, he alternated between listening to it while watching the baby over his Christmas break and reading the print version when he wasn’t otherwise occupied, and he told me that without a doubt, the book was MUCH better in print than in audio format. And based on what I heard, I wholeheartedly agree.
(Although ever since he finished, Tim has been on the lookout for The Big Book of Lists read by Wil Wheaton. He’s gotta have more lists!)
- Tim got contacts yesterday. While the loving, caring, good wife side of me is happy that he doesn’t have to wear glasses anymore, the shallow side of me — the side that has always found a man in glasses sexy — is a little sad to see the glasses go.
- Ben is still kinda stinky.
- I started reading Twilight on Saturday, and I’ve only begrudgingly put it down long enough to sleep and go to work since. I know everyone and their brother is in love with this series of books, but I guess I was skeptical the story would live up to all the hype. But, y’all, I am addicted to this book. I stay up way too late reading it, then when I finally go to sleep I dream about it, and I spent my entire workday today thinking about how soon I could come home and read some more. Yesterday I picked up the other 3 books in the series because I know I’m going to need to read them immediately upon finishing this one. Also: Edward is hott. The end.
- We went to Denver to celebrate my brother’s birthday Saturday night. His birthday was last Monday, and we were going to celebrate it last Sunday, but then a certain adorable niece of mine decided she didn’t want to miss the party. I don’t think my brother minded, though, getting a daughter for his birthday. In case you’re wondering, Little Miss Audrey remains absolutely adorable:
What’s new with you?
My family is not one to pass up an opportunity to throw a party. And since my brother and his wife will be bringing my first niece into the world on or around October 9, last weekend seemed like as good a time as any to have a party and celebrate.
We consulted with the parents-to-be and determined the basics: It was to be a couples’ shower, it would place the first weekend of August, and no silly shower games would be allowed (though Tim and I were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see who could empty a baby bottle full of beer wine “punch” the fastest . . . someone had better remember that game whenever I have a baby shower of my own, is all I’m saying).
And with that, my mom and I got to work. We researched ideas online, emailed back and forth over every last detail — the food and drink, the setting, the decorations, the invitations. My dad got busy replacing his deck so it’d be ready to support 25 or so people and a table full of presents. And I went on a bit of a spree at the scrapbook store and got busy putting together a present that I hoped my sister-in-law would love.
Three weeks before the party, Tim and I spend the weekend at my parents’ house. Tim helped my dad build benches in place of a deck railing, and my mom and I shopped for party supplies and constructed a cake out of diapers and champagne. It was quite the productive weekend.
The shower was this past Saturday, and I believe it was a great success. Chris and Meg (my brother and his wife, respectively) seemed to have a wonderful time, as did the rest of the guests. And, from what I saw of the presents, my little niece already has quite the collection of adorable stuff.
Would you like to see pictures? Of course you would!
The gift table, complete with diaper cake and advice cards for the guests to fill out.
The food table, complete with fruit, cheese, and three delicious flavors of homemade cheesecake. In the background are two bowls of punch — one spiked, one not.
Oh, man, my mom makes a good cheesecake! The front one is blueberry, the one in back is chocolate swirl. The third one was Oreo. Yummmmm.
Chris and Meg were kind enough to get hostess gifts for my mom and me. I got Spanish wine — yum!
My lovely co-hostess, opening her gift — a bottle of wine from New Zealand, I believe.
Since my dad and Tim were hosting the party as well, and all they did was re-build a deck while my mom and I did most of the planning (boys are so lazy sometimes!) , we put them to work as Official Party Photographers.
Because I know you’re all dying to know, the dogs behaved themselves very well at the shower. Ben even (hesitantly) let a few strangers pet him!
The guests of honor, surrounded by family, friends, and presents!
As I said above, the parents-to-be received a lot of really great gifts for their daughter. There was great stuff off the registries and beautiful hand-made and personalized gifts. And then there were the gifts from Tim and me. (It’s my blog, so it’s only fitting that we focus on my gifts now, right?) As I thought about what to get my brother, I fondly remembered countless nights hanging out in his bedroom while our dad read to us. While I knew that getting the books I remember my dad reading most (The Chronicles of Narnia, and A Wrinkle in Time) would be a little advanced for a newborn (not to mention I’m pretty sure my brother already has his own copies of those classics), I also know that it’s never too early to start reading to your kids. And the thought of my brother reading to his daughter the way our dad used to read to us completely melted my heart. So I got him a mix of our early childhood favorites and other dad-related books: Hop on Pop, Just Me and My Dad, Daddy Loves Me, Spot Goes to the Farm (in which Spot and his dad explore the farm), and That’s Not My Dinosaur (because Chris, like most little boys, was an avid dinosaur lover as a child). He seemed very pleased with the additions to his library.
My idea for Meg’s gift came to me much more quickly, but it was more time consuming to put together. I mentioned above that I went on a little scrapbook shopping spree once the date for the shower was set. I came home from that shopping trip with bags full of baby-themed supplies, seasonal embellishments for every month of the year, and the cutest little baby scrapbook you ever did see.
And then I spent many an evening constructing the best page layouts I could come up with while Tim worked on his thesis or watched some awful movie. The result? A “Baby’s First Year” scrapbook with a page for every month of the year, complete with photo mats and calendars. Meg shares my love of scrapbooking, and I knew she’d probably want a book just for her daughter. But I also knew that she’d likely be pretty busy during her first year of motherhood (I’ve heard that this parenting thing can be pretty time consuming). I put this book together so that she will be able to easily add her favorite baby pictures from each moth and make note of important dates and milestones on the calendars. And if her reaction when opening it was any indication, I think it’s safe to say that she liked the gift.
Pictures of the inside of the book after the jump for those of you who are interested.
Have you guys noticed that hott new button over on the sidebar? The one proclaiming that I am a Sexy Exy?
When you noticed it, did you maybe wonder “What is a Sexy Exy, and how can I become one?” Of course you did. Who wouldn’t want to be a Sexy Exy?
Here’s the deal. The fabulous Britt is hosting round 2 of the Super-Duper Blogger Book Exchange. Round 1 was awesome, just ask anyone who participated, and Round 2 promises to be even more awesome, what with all the new participants, all the new books, and, of course, the new ability to call yourself a Sexy Exy. (Get it? We are Sexy. And we Exchange books. Britt is a genius.)
You can read all about the book exchange process here and here. Basically, you read one book a month (a month! you get a whole month to read just one book! Don’t try to tell me you don’t have time for that) and while you read it you write your thoughts, feelings, smartass remarks about the plot, etc. all over the margins. Then you pass the book along to the next person in line and wait patiently by your mail box for the next month’s book to arrive (that’s right! you get real mail! who doesn’t love real mail?), at which point you do it all over again. The best part is that every new book that arrives at your door will be filled with more and more comments from more and more fabulous Sexy Exies. And at the end of it all, you get your own book back — the one you chose to send around to your fellow Sexy Exies — filled with commentary from all the Sexy Exies who read it. Trust me, it is tons of fun. Even if the book you’re reading sucks, it’s still fun to make fun of it in the margins and see how other people made fun of it too.
You know you want to join the fun. Don’t try to hide it. The good news is that you can still get in touch with Britt and sign up until January 20th. Which is this coming Sunday. Which means you should really just contact Britt right now because everybody forgets everything on the weekend. (Or is that just me?)