A while back, I challenged myself to read 50 books in 2012. I’m keeping track of my progress with the help of a great website called Goodreads, and you can see my little counting widget on the right margin of my blog if you scroll down. The widget will bring you to the website, which I recommend checking out if you’re a big reader. I’ve read 18 books as of this post, only, I’m not entirely sure if they all count.
Some of these books, I admit to you, I did not read. Instead, I listened to a narrator as he or she read them aloud to me. Does that still count?
My commute to work is a solid hour in each direction, leaving me a lot of free listening time, and I’ve been thinking about audiobooks for a while, if not for their own merits, then at least as a way to avoid being subjected to the newest Coldplay song three times a day. I kept dismissing the idea because because I don’t generally enjoy being read to, and I don’t like radio morning shows where the hosts chatter and argue over things.
Well, after JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, I was on a nerdy-famous-people high, and I started listening to some podcasts. I listened to a bunch from Wil Wheaton, and a bunch from Paul and Storm, and I enjoyed them more than I expected. It was just these guys, talking about some stuff for a while, making me laugh and think a little while I’m stuck in traffic. But they don’t record them often enough to fill my whole week’s commute. I was seeking out more podcasts, different podcasts, longer podcasts, to fill the emptiness. Beware, friends – half hour Paul and Storm podcasts are a gateway drug. Now I’m mainlining library audiobooks.
They have their issues, of course. I have to be in my car to listen to them, so if I have downtime during my lunch break, I either have to go sit in my car or keep a second, paper, book with me as a backup plan. You never know what you’re getting in terms of the narrator, and I’ve encountered the very good and the very bad. Sometimes the CD will start up with track #1 again and if I didn’t note what track I was on before I got rebooted, I have to skip ahead and listen to the beginning of each track to see when it stops sounding familiar, and then back it up a little. Also, with real books, I have a bad habit of skipping ahead a few pages to see if I’m right about where the story is going, and I can’t easily do that with a CD. For me, the biggest downside is with my beloved nonfiction books – part of what I love about them is that they refer to other great books and authors, and when I’m reading a paper version, I can write the titles down for future reference. It’s dangerous to try that on the road.
But I’m finding a way to absorb more books than I otherwise could, and I’m delighted about it. I started with The Pun Also Rises, by John Pollack, which is about the history of puns and wordplay. It was good. Then I bought Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi, because Paul and Storm told me to. Now, Fuzzy Nation is fiction. There are characters and dialogue in fiction – would the reader use different voices for them all, like the famous Gollum voice Dad used when he read The Lord of the Rings out loud to me when I was a kid? Well, Wil Wheaton read this one, and he did such an excellent job that I wish everyone would hire him to read their audiobooks.
Not all of them have been great. I tried listening to Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz, and the narrator kept taking sharp breaths mid-sentence, distracting me from the material. I had to switch it off after five minutes, and I’ll look for the paper version of that one instead.
I want to list the audiobooks in my total, but I’m not sure if that meets the spirit of the reading challenge. Initially, I thought I’d find a little time each day to dedicate to a book, but it’s been very hard to accomplish. Do I need to cross the audiobooks out and push myself to carve out more reading time? Or can I count my commute “reading”, since I’m getting the same education through a different sensory input?