There are some people in this world who don’t like audiobooks. These people suggest that listening to an audiobook is in someway cheating. It’s a perception that’s disappearing, but it exists.
I had a conversation with someone about this a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about a book, and he knew I’d been putting in a lot of hours driving up and down the state. He asked me when I had the time to read the whole thing, and I told him it was an audiobook. He’s the last one who told me I was cheating when I did that.
It doesn’t make sense. The only way a person could conceive of that as cheating is if he or she thought that reading wasn’t fun to begin with. I enjoy books, and I want to be around them as much as possible. They’re dangerous, however. They need to be taken seriously. I present five rules for reading audio safely.
1. Read the Synopsis and Think about Your Life
You’re probably going to be reading while driving. If you’re driving someplace important, you’d better choose the right book. I listened to The House of Sand and Fog right as I was going into a job interview -- a job that I really wanted and desperately needed. As I sat there in the parking lot waiting for the interview time to come closer, I grew more and more engrossed in the plot until (spoiler alert) my favorite characters, characters I’d grown to love and understand, started killing themselves and each other.
Shock horror. The tragedy. The sturm and drang. The horror, the horror.
Suddenly, nothing seemed as important. Suddenly even the job interview didn’t seem to matter, only the fact that they were dying, people I loved.
Thankfully, the passion I was feeling for the characters I loved turned me into an intense and seemingly complex speaker. I seemed to ooze intense passion. Of course, I did. A couple of my best friends had just died.
2. Do Not Listen to Horror at the Wrong Time.
I became engrossed with Stephen King’s The Stand just as I was going on a camping trip. I couldn’t turn it off, couldn’t stop listening. Neither could anyone else in the trip.
We couldn’t stop thinking about it either, especially out in the woods when the wind would pick up and twigs would snap and leaves would swirl and maybe that was the Walking Dude just outside the tent. One night, sometime around midnight, we gave up and sat in the car, listening to the drama play out until the sun came up.
3. No Faulkner
Actually that rule can be extended to a lot of writers. James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot. Basically anyone who needs a desk reference companion or anyone whose language you need to read slowly to appreciate. After all, it takes a lot of quiet time to appreciate a line like, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and you want to figure out what it going on and why you’ve forced yourself to endure that kind of poem before you move on.
Don’t get me wrong. I like The Sound and the Fury as much as the next guy, but it’s kind of a slow burning appreciation.
4. Nothing Too Sexy
You do NOT want to be the guy with that look on your face at a stoplight. Keep your D.H. Lawrence at home.
5. Consider the Actor
Some actors are good. Some are too good. I drive the Los Angeles freeway system all the time. Listening to Alex Cross can be a dangerous thing especially during a gun battle when I’m changing lanes. The bad guy is just ahead and the panic in the actor’s voice works its way from my ear to my foot, and now I’m weaving trying to save the woman, that poor, poor woman.
The CHP generally frowns on this kind of listening.
No, it’s not cheating to listening to audiobooks. In fact, it’s one of my great pleasures, but it needs to be done responsibly.
The wrong book can ruin your whole life.