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2011-2012, My Audiobook Year

This post is part of the Listen Up! Audiobook Week June 25–28 event hosted by Jen of Devourer of Books, with help from Jen of A Book and a Latte, in which I answer these questions:

Are you new to audiobooks in the last year? Have you been listening to them forever but discovered something new this year? Favorite titles? New times/places to listen? This is your chance to introduce yourself and your general listening experience.

I have been listening to audiobooks since the days of cassette tapes, so, yes, it’s been just about forever.cover image of Dancing at the Rascal Fair
I first got hooked on audiobooks via public radio in rural Vermont when I was a new mother, alone with an crying infant much of the day, and some kind public radio programmer decided to broadcast fiction read aloud in the late afternoon. Years later, I had forgotten most of the story itself, a novel set in the American West, a book I wouldn’t have normally picked up to read, but remembered how captivating the story was, read aloud by the narrator, and how I waited for the next installment, since we owned no TV, and – way back then – no computer either. Later still, I figured out that the novel was Ivan Doig’s Dancing at the Rascal Fair and that it was part of a trilogy. One of these days, I’ll look to see if it’s available on CD or MP3 and listen to the complete trilogy.
I progressed to borrowing audiobooks from the library on cassette tape, listening in the car and in the kitchen, but had to be ready to shut off the tape quickly if any salty language or “dirty bits” were emitting from the speakers or just stick to family-friendly listening while the kids were around, so it was only with the gift of an iPod Touch from my enabling husband that my audiobook addiction really took off.
Ah, the exquisite privacy of earbuds! Why did I resist sticking those unpleasant little nubs in my ears for so long? And the iPod was so portable, going easily from car to kitchen stereo to pocket. Listening to audiobooks made running errands more palatable and doing housework less tedious.
I listen to a variety of audiobooks, mostly fiction with an occasional memoir thrown in. I’m more inclined to listen to a book with a first-person narrator now than to read one, because a first-person narration is perfectly suited to the audiobook format. In general, I’d also rather listen to genre fiction on audio, because no matter how well written they are, I still have to pay some attention to the road, chores, or whatever else I’m doing, at the same time as I’m listening. I’d rather devote my limited reading time (as opposed to listening time) on books that require focused attention, free of distraction.cover image of The Spellmans Strike Again
My audiobook genre fiction favorites for the year 2011–2012 include Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files books, narrated by Christina Moore; Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club books, narrated by Davina Porter; Louise Penny’s Three Pines mysteries narrated by Ralph Cosham, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series narrated by Dick Hill, and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller series narrated by Len Cariou and Peter Giles, respectively.
cover image of State of WonderSometimes I listen to an audiobook because a book has been well reviewed and seems worth reading, but something about the subject or description makes it unappealing. My current listen, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, is a good example of this. As with Bel Canto, which can be described as a novel about an opera singer and others taken hostage by terrorists in unnamed South American country, the description of State of Wonder as a novel about a pharmacologist in Brazil working for a big pharmaceutical company to develop a fertility drug didn’t make me want to read it, but Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, The Magician’s Assistant, and Run, were all excellent audiobooks, and State of Wonder, narrated by Hope Davis, is too.

19 Responses

  1. Good point about the first person narration. I don’t necessarily think about that when I decide whether to read or listen to something, but I do love listening to first person narratives.

  2. I’ve seen several people recommend State of Wonder on audio. It is one that has been sitting on my TBR shelf since its release. Perhaps I’ll give the audio a try.

    • Yes, it was really good as an audiobook. It’s a pretty gripping story and the narrator Hope Davis does a great job with all of the voices, even the men’s, and with the main character Morena’s thoughts.

  3. I’m similar to you in that I might not want to read a book, but it’s on my radar for some reason or another, and if it’s available on audio, I’ll try it. And thanks for sharing that you’re enjoying State of Wonder on audio, I might try it then, since it’s on so many “best of” lists.

  4. I remember listening on cassettes, too! What you say about first person narration is definitely true – I love memoirs read by the author. A few that stand out are Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper, anything by David Sedaris, and most recently, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen. State of Wonder was excellent!

    • Someone else just recommended Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake to me, so it’s good to know the audio is good, because that’s the only way I’ll ever get around to reading that one. I have listened to all of David Sedaris, too. Will have to look for the other memoirs you mention!

  5. I feel the same way as you and Tanya – there are books on my TBR shelf that for whatever reason, never make it to my nightstand…but I am more likely to give the audio a try. I recently did this with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Game of Thrones.

    • I just said to a friend at work that I would need to listen to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as an audiobook! The town I work in just made it a mandatory summer read for all high school seniors. As for Game of Thrones, it’s only Book 1 and it seems way too long to do on audio, never mind listening to all the rest of the books in the series after it!

  6. That is a wonderful story about how you discovered audiobooks. I’ve been there with the crying infant. I wish I had had a great audiobook to get lost in during those days.

  7. I tend to listen to just fiction on audio – something I can listen to and get lost in. I just started listening to audios on my iPod, so now I have two going and that’s working so far – as long as the stories aren’t too similar, it’s easy to keep them separate!

    Kristin @ Always With a Book

  8. I listen to lots of AudioBooks and it seems there is no rhyme or reason to my picks. Like you, if I have heard a lot about the AudioBook I might add it to my list. Sometimes it is nothing more than I loved of the cover. Luckily, I have found some really awesome AudioBooks. It is kind of like chocolate, lots of different choices, all of them tasty morsels.

    Happy AudioBook Week!

    Dorothy – The Alaskan Bookie – Squeak
    Blog ~ http://alaskanbookie.blogspot.com/
    Twitter ~ http://twitter.com/AkChocoholic

  9. You note: “Sometimes I listen to an audiobook because a book has been well reviewed and seems worth reading, but something about the subject or description makes it unappealing.” I do the same thing!! For some reason my listening time is treated so differently from my reading time (maybe because I’m usually multi-tasking–ie driving). I find I listen to things that I wouldn’t normally read. I hope you enjoy State of Wonder. I really liked the audio.

  10. I am old enough to have listened to audiobooks on cassettes! Love Jack Reacher on audio! Davina Porter is so fabulous, I’d listen to her read the phone book.

  11. I downloaded a free short story by Ann Patchett called A Story of a Happy Marriage awhile ago. I love her and I am looking forward to seeing your review of this one. I think she might be one of my new authors.

  12. I’m sensing a theme with all the agreement about being willing to try something outside our normal comfort zones or genre preferences. I find it much easier to do with audiobooks too. I’ve found several where the narrator’s belief in the story sold me on it much more than if I had read it.

    I can relate to this as well: “Ah, the exquisite privacy of earbuds!” There are just some books where you don’t want to have to explain the back-story when there’s a drop-in listener. I’m also frequently teased by my family about being unwilling to listen with one earbud left out so that people can interrupt me more easily. I want to be immersed completely!

  13. I don’t know if I would be an audiobook reader at all if it weren’t for my iphone. CDs are so difficult.

  14. I agree, I take bigger chances with audio books than I do with book books – I will tackle a bigger harder read on audio.

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