Are You Listening?

Before teaching, I went to school for teaching. I didn’t have a problem with the amount of work, but because there was so much to do, I found myself with less time to read for me. Being a writer, this is a problem. But even if I wasn’t a writer, this would still be a problem. I grew up on reading. My mom read to me. I read Treasure Island two or three times a month as a kid. I convinced my parents to spend money on the Scholastic book fairs. Then I grew up, and I started reading older books. Stephen King, Piers Anthony, and more Stephen King. My girlfriend (now wife) got me to read Harry Potter. I gobbled up the Tomorrow series by Australian author John Marsden. I. Loved. Books.

So when I couldn’t read as much as I wanted to, I just stopped reading. It was slow at first, but as I started teaching, my time to read dwindled more and more until I found myself not reading at all. This bothered me. It really concerned my wife who knew how much I loved reading and who was partially attracted to my love of literature. What was worse was that I stopped writing. I knew that I couldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t a reader. So, instead of finding a way to read, I just…stopped writing.

Finally, I gave in. I started listening to audiobooks, and my view of them changed. My commute to my day job is 45 minutes. Before giving in, I listened either to the radio or to silence. Now I listen to books. My reading increased, and thus so did my writing.  In the process, I also discovered a new way to decide what to read: narrator. Some of my favorite narrators include Jim Dale (the Harry Potter series and The Night Circus), Euan Morton (Fool and The Serpent of Venice), and Kim Mai Guest (Anna and the French Kiss and The Girl from Everywhere). I will listen to just about anything narrated by these people.

The problem is that it works both ways. Sometimes I will listen to a book and find myself not liking it. When this happens, I wonder if I dislike the book because of the plot, writing, characters, etc., or if I dislike it because I don’t like the way it is narrated. This concerns me because I fear I am missing out on great stories. I also fear for my own stories. What if I get published and the audiobook narrator turns off readers who think they don’t like my book? Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that adds to the already crippling doubt that exists in most writers’ minds.

That being said, I like the payoff. I have the opportunity to read literature that I didn’t have time to read before. Any chance I get to read is worth it for me. I am really interested in what others think about this. Do you like audiobooks? What issues do you run into with them? What are your favorite audiobooks? Narrators? I look forward to hearing from you.