I Love Audiobooks

Thursday 3 July 2014 by

I don’t know about you, but I had loads of audiobook tapes as a child: Animal Ark, Winnie the Pooh, Famous Five and My Little Pony to name just a few. Some of them were bought for me or by me and some of them were handed down from my elder siblings but they were all listened to again and again and again.

I can remember being terrified by the Vermicious Knids in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and it was made worse by the fact that you had to turn the tape over just after they appeared and it all started getting tense – ARGH!

I would listen to them on my Walkman in the back of the car on long journeys when my parents insisted on playing BBC Radio Two all the way *yawn*. (I confess now that Radio Two is actually my favourite station but back then it was a totally different story on principle!) I would listen to them in the evening when I wanted a story reading but everyone said no, or when I was just too tired to read a book. There was something addictive about lying in a dark room listening to someone spin a story around you – somehow even better than watching it unfold on TV.

At some point though, I stopped listening to them and sort of forgot about them. (I say this, there are a few on the shelf in our front room so they aren’t totally forgotten!)

Audiobook, Cassette, Tape

After several years having little-to-nothing to do with audiobooks aside from the odd radio play here and there, I had the Smalls and suddenly they were a thing again.

On nights when they were a bit grumbly and wouldn’t settle without someone talking to them in the room, an audio CD (how the times move on) of Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes would be put on softly and they would fall asleep. They loved it so much that some nights it would be demanded instead of a bedtime story from me – this particularly happened when they acquired a Thomas the Tank Engine CD. Sometimes I think they love those trains more than me…

I think that was when I first dug out some of my old tapes, so they got listened to again. I like to think I am giving the kids a wider outlook on life by making sure they know what a tape deck and cassette tapes are as well as CDs and MP3s and whatnot – they know what video tapes are too!

Audiobook, CD, The Three Little Pigs, Thomas the Tank Engine

Sadly since we moved house and the Smalls have moved into separate rooms their audiobook listening has lessened dramatically, however we do have two CDs of Stephen Fry reading the Paddington Bear stories in the car. I do think that Caius and I enjoy those more than the Smalls though admittedly.

About a year ago I got an iPhone and with that I rediscovered audiobooks – I could download them to my phone and use it as a Walkman just like old times. When we were moving house last August I downloaded the first three of an epic fantasy series (The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett) and worked my way through them whilst we packed boxes, painted walls and ceilings, cleaned both houses and unpacked all the boxes again. It was somehow better than just having music playing and passed the time of monotonous scrubbing and brushing surprisingly quickly.

Ever since then audiobooks have become my best friend because having my phone shoved in my back pocket, reading me a story makes the housework far more bearable and it turns out that listening to a story in the house when the Smalls are at school is a bit like listening to a story in the dark. I’m not used to the quiet anymore.

There is one thing I have discovered though – the narrator makes a massive difference. The first two books of the Demon Cycle were narrated by the same guy and he had a really deep but listenable voice which was soothing and dragged you inexorably into the story but when I started up book three I was shocked to discover a new narrator with a whiny, nasal sort of accent who pronounced all the names and places differently. I still enjoyed book three, because I loved the story, but I found it less satisfying to listen to and was left feeling vaguely disappointed every time I listened to it.

I have just finished listening to the 34.5 hour long epic that is Stephen King’s Under the Dome and on top of King’s mastery of horror there was an utterly fantastic narrator. He bothered to do voices and accents for all the characters and he did them consistently and clearly, he put emotion and feeling in when it was required and built atmosphere and pace with his tone. I am tempted to just hunt down other things he has narrated just to listen to his voice some more!

I have also got a bit of a thing to listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors themselves – I have listened to Neil Gaiman read his own Graveyard Book and subsequently downloaded his American Gods to listen to later. Nobody knows how a book should feel quite like the person who wrote it in the first place and this comes through when you are listening. It is also nice when the author leaves a message either before or after the book on an audio version, it somehow makes it all feel more special and personal.

Audiobooks let you read at times you wouldn’t otherwise be able to whilst you’re washing up, when you’re having an epic gym session, driving to work, painting the nursery – and that’s awesome. Seriously, before I signed up I thought the £7.99 subscription fee for Audible was extortionate, but now I think it is well worth it purely down to the amount of enjoyment I get out of it. I’m not sure I’d ever make it to the gym or fill the dishwasher some days if I couldn’t use it as an excuse to find out what happens next!

My next listen is going to be The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and I’m really looking forward to it – do you listen to audiobooks? What’s next on your list to listen to and do you have any recommendations for what to spend my next subscription credit on?

You can follow Carole on Twitter: @caroleheidi

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