Tuesday 24 May 2011

On Audio Books

I've never been a big audio book fan.  But since moving house a few months ago, I have a 45 minute commute to work each way (up from 10 minutes) and I've started listening to books to keep my mind off work and the annoying traffic!  Over the course of a few weeks of experimentation, I've come to the following conclusions about audio books:

1. I don't like dramatisations:
My Dad loves dramatisations, but to me it will always sound like people in a studio making dodgy sound effects with cheap materials, like blowing through a paper cone to simulate wind.  And it's harder to follow the story when there's not much explanation.

2. Authors should not read their own books (in general):
I've tried both a John Le Carre and a Dan Brown book in which the authors read their own work.  John Le Carre has a really monotonous voice and tends to slur his syllables together, which doesn't make for easy listening.  Dan Brown seemed bored by his own book.  I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but publishers should not assume that people want to listen to the author just because he/she wrote it.

3. The trashier the better:
As I listen whilst driving, highbrow literature or too many characters or plot developments are too diverting and I can't keep up. Trash with a predictable story outline is the best, I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl for this very reason.

4. Abridgements feel like cheating:
I don't count audio books as 'real' books or include them in my total of books read this year.  But if I listen to an abridgement, I spend the whole time wondering what has been left out and consequently don't feel as though I've 'read' the book at all.  I'm surely not alone on this?

What's your opinion of audio books?
Are you as fussy as me?


  1. I would NEVER listen to an abridged version. It isn't what the author intended. I especially would not want to review an abridged book. I just don't think that would be fair. I've had some GREAT narrators, and some not so good ones. I don't think the author necessarily makes a good reader, but some of them do. I can't stand dramatizations either. The book I'm listening to now has a reader that is just to dramatic. I just want her to read it to me, not to add all the unnecessary emotion....

    Great thoughts!

  2. Annette - I agree with you but so many are abridged! It makes selection difficult, and I think most people would rather just listen to the extra disc.

  3. Do not get me started on abridged version! What is the point.

    I do not get on with audiobooks, I have tried but I seem to lose concentration too quickly then have to rewind and go back.

  4. Completely agreed on the trashier the better! I don't read detective or crime novels in general, but love them in audio form.

    P.S. I just wrote about audio books today. It must be in the air!

  5. I don't know why they even bother to publish abridged versions. None of us seem tow ant to read them.

    I discovered audio books last year and really enjoy them. The narrator can make or break the book. I usually listen while I'm doing things around the house (cleaning, dishes, laundry, etc.) or while doing something menial at work (filing).

    I've found that I enjoy lighter reads on audio because you don't have to pay super close attention to the plot.

    When I listened to The Postmistress it reminded me of what an old time radio program might have been like.

  6. I like audiobooks when walking my dog. I'm currently plowing through "A Short History Of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. It feels convoluted sometimes, but it's thoroughly enjoyable and educative.

  7. I have to agree with "the trashier the better". I hate reading "trashy" books in books form, but when I am listening to an audio book it's only when I am driving a long way by myself (which sounds like it's the same for you). I have a really hard time concentrating on audio books that are literary while driving at the same time. I guess I'm not good at multitasking while watching the road.

  8. I've never attempted an audio book.... but my mother loves them. I can't imagine an abridged version though - I try to avoid them (in print) like they're on fire!

  9. I've come to the conclusion that I love Jeremy Irons reading books to me. :) And Christopher Lee needs to read more Tolkien works!

  10. i am not an auditory learner...listening to books while driving sounds like a way for me to have an accident! :D
    we do some audio in class and i tend to get bored...
    i am sorry about you have such a long commute!

  11. I have never listened to an audiobook before. I don't think I can concentrate!

    I see that you're reading Middlesex. Hope you're enjoying it. It's one of my favorite! And A Long Way Down too =)

  12. 'Dan Brown seemed bored by his own book' - hilarious!! I've never listened to audiobooks, my mind drifts too much for them to really work for me, and I find the narrator's characterisations too annoying and too different from what I'd make up in my own head so they're really not for me. Got my fingers crossed for you that your new consultant comes up with an answer for you :-)

  13. I think I agree with you on all points! The only author that I've heard do really great readings of his own work is Neil Gaiman.

    And the extensive characters thing is an interesting point. I heard the narrator (can't remember his name) for George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones holds the Guinness World Record for voicing the most characters in an audiobook! (I think it was over 200 or something...)

  14. Teresa - I think they bring out the abridged version because they think people won't listen for longer than about six hours. I personally would rather have an extra disc than the abridged version.

    Ben - I loved A Short History of Nearly Everything in print form, so I'm sure it's also good on audio.

    Brenna - I'm glad I'm not the only one who listens to trash! I listen to things I would definitely not choose to read.

    Stephanie - I'm not really auditory either, I have to make myself concentrate sometimes. But it's better than being bored in the car. It's a scenic drive, so the commute isn't too bad, and it's worth it to be living in a nicer place :)

  15. Mummazappa - I agree about the characterisations and I actually prefer it when they don't use voices because sometimes the voices just don't sound right.

    Lisa - Wow, I'm impressed with that narrator! He/she must have quite a memory!

  16. I'm on the fence about audio books too. On the one hand, it's a great way to get a book read while doing something else (in my case I listen to my iPod while going for my morning walk) But on the other hand, the narrator and sound effects can be most annoying. It especially bugs me when a male narrator reads a female part and vice versa. And since most books will have both male and female characters, the only way around this is to have both male and female narrators something I have yet to come across in an audiobook.

  17. The one hard and fast rule I have about audiobooks is that I will not listen if I don't like the narrator...period. No matter how much I might otherwise like the book, if the narrator bugs me, it's a deal breaker.

    I won't listen to abridgements either...