I’ve recently fallen back in love with books.
Not that I ever really stopped loving them. I’m a bibliophile at heart, but over the past few years, my literature consumption had waned significantly. It wasn’t just the arrival of children in my life. When they were tiny, I read a lot. I have luminous memories of being curled up in a rocking chair with a drowsy infant on my chest, reading for hours because I didn’t want to get up and disturb the tiny creature’s sleep. I had just gotten my first e-reader and the ability to hold an 800 page book in one hand was downright miraculous.
But then the infants got bigger and started needing more than a comfortable place to nap undisturbed. The hours on the job got longer, too, from part-time to full-time. And somehow, by this season of life, reading had moved to the back burner. After working all day, chauffeuring to afterschool events, making dinner, cleaning the kitchen, working on homework, and wrangling bedtime, I’ll admit that my instinct once the house went quiet was not to crack open a great work of narrative fiction.
It was far more likely that I would stare somewhat blankly at my phone screen for an hour before going to bed. Such is life. My participation in a book club ensured that I finished one book a month because attending the book club fed my spirit, but that one book was usually all I could manage.
Then I got a dog. And I started walking several miles a day with said dog. That was when I discovered anew the wonder of audiobooks.
I’ve listened to my fair share of “books on tape” over the years, spending many a car ride popping CDs in and out of the player and letting the miles whiz by while Harry Potter battled Voldemort or a fearless detective tracked a murderer. When CDs fell by the wayside, though, I fell behind on technology and lost touch with the world of recorded books.
These days, it turns out that you can rent audiobooks digitally from the library. Because libraries are magic. Magic, I tell you!! It’s all there, waiting for you, each recording feeling like a conversation with the author. Murder mysteries with David Baldacci. Dystopian fiction with Nora Roberts. Heart-breaking family dramas with Celeste Ng and heroines ahead of their time with Zora Neale Hurston.
Listening to a book is even better than reading it yourself, in terms of fully appreciating the story and deeply connecting with the characters. Sure you can get a bad reader occasionally that spoils it, but most of the time, hearing a story allows you to experience it more deeply than simply reading the printed words.
Right now, I’m listening to Toni Morrison read Beloved and my soul may never be the same.
I tend to inhale books when I read them, so eager to find out what happens next that I read too quickly and miss things. Listening to an audiobook forces you to slow down and let the story unfold at its own pace. My generation is in love with podcasts and I can appreciate the appeal, but I’m a sucker for long-form narrative. It’s the immersive storytelling experience that can keep me sitting in the driveway for a few extra minutes or cause me to go an extra couple blocks on the morning walk because I’m not ready to pause the story just yet.
I’m sure I look like a crazy woman at times, weeping freely behind the steering wheel of my car, but I don’t mind in the slightest. After spending many hours listening to someone share their life story, you get to know them pretty well. It’s sad when they die, okay?
And if you see me giggling aloud while I walk the dog, don’t be alarmed. I’m not crazy. It’s just that Frederik Backman writes fantastic dialogue. Check out “A Man Called Ove” and find out for yourself!