Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Let's Talk About Audiobooks

As I believe has been clear by my reading stats from the last year+ (which you're fastidiously committing to memory, right?) I have swung heavily in favor of audiobooks, primarily due to the fact that my time sitting without distraction has decreased significantly (no longer commuting by train, small monster in house). If you didn't memorize past stats and are curious, in 2018 23% of the books I read were audiobooks. In 2019 it jumps to 78% and so far this year it's at 74%. So lots of listening. And I have found certain things to be true. Now of course, this is just me and your mileage may vary

1. Nonfiction is way easier to listen to than fiction
I have found it far easy to submerse myself in a fictional world if I'm sitting down and looking at words on a page than if I'm listening. Maybe it's because if I zone out a bit with an audiobook, I could miss crucial details of the story. Not to say I don't sometimes zone out while reading but it's easy enough to glance up a few lines (or skip back a couple pages). With an audiobook I have to try to skip the play back and many times I'm doing other things while listening to an audiobook, like driving or cooking or cleaning so skipping back takes that much extra effort and most of the time, I don't bother.

That doesn't mean I can't do fiction audiobooks. As a matter of fact in 2019 my audiobook reading was split almost 50/50 between fiction and nonfiction. But I do find nonfiction to be easier. Fiction has to work a bit harder.

2. Who is doing the reading matters almost as much as the book itself
I don't think when I first started listening to audiobooks that I entirely took into account the narrator. I knew it was important to an extent. If I'm listening to a book for the first time and have no point of comparison (i.e., I haven't read it before) then it's hard to say if my experience with the book was improved or impaired by the narrator. But the more listening I've done, the more I realize that the narrator can make or break a book. To be fair, I have more examples of them breaking a book. Mostly because if I love a book I've listened to, I'm going to give credit to the book itself and I don't have too many (or any as far as I can tell) examples of me having read a book I was lukewarm about and then spending the time to then listen to it to find out if the narrator could have saved the day. I do, however, have a couple examples of books that I've really loved and when I listened to them, I was about.

The Martian by Andy Weir, read by Will Wheaton.
This one was upsetting because I was VERY excited for this audiobook when I heard he was going to be narrating it. See I looooove this book. And I also looooove this movie. Already, two forms, big fan. And I like Wheaton's reading. He narrated a Joe Hill short story that I was a fan of so I thought this is perfect. And reader, it was not. Part of it may be the fact that when I read the book, I could sort of skim over the math or super sciency bits and there were lots of those. In an audiobook, no can do, at least not easily. But that's not on the narrator. But the way some of the characters were portrayed was not my favorite and I spent much of the time thinking "No, sorry, Mitch wouldn't say it like that." Even Tom a few times commented that he didn't like this audiobook. Alas, alas.

Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan, read by Jim Gaffigan
This one is confusing. Because Gaffigan is reading them and he's a standup comedian so it feels like if anyone should get the material right, he should. Also a lot of the stuff in these books are bits from his standup routines I've seen before. So I KNOW he can deliver it well. And yet in the books, many places fall flat. It won't stop me from listening to it cos overall I still think they're pretty funny but it's very strange

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach, read by Bernadette Quigley
In this case I haven't read the book before and I haven't seen this book performed elsewhere. But I have read a fair amount of Roach's stuff so feel confident saying that I would have enjoyed this book better had I read it instead of listening. There were odd pronunciations and some accents attempted that made me cringe a bit and took me out of the book.

3. Big cast recordings are lots of fun
Some fiction audiobooks that I've particularly liked have been cast recordings with a whole bunch of actors and I've enjoyed these immensely. World War Z is the obvious (for anyone who reads this or knows me) choice because I listen to that about once a year. It has a great, varied cast. Some chapters/characters/readers I like better than others but overall it's great. But it's not just an anomaly. The Graveyard Book and Locke & Key are both excellent and worth multiple listens. That's not to say that fiction only works when there's a cast (I will always love you, Jim Dale Harry Potter series), but something about hearing these different actors take on the various roles makes it that much easier to lose yourself in the story and hear it closer to the way I hear it if I'm just reading to myself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out what to listen to next.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March Reading Wrap Up

March. What a month, huh? Normally, I'm a big fan of March cos it's got my birthday in it. Birthdays are slightly less fun when you can't leave the house. And also when you had tickets to see Ali Wong. But I know I am lucky. But also I am disappointed. Lots of emotions all the time. Tom and I are working from home (luckily, we can) and daycare is closed (of course) so there is a lot of juggling and multitasking and general stress. But sometimes there is reading. I mean, more often there is bad TV/movies (I am watching Geostorm as I write this, while simultaneously listening to the Geostorm episode of How Did This Get Made. Once you start multitasking, it's hard to stop), but sometimes, there is reading. Why don't we talk about that?

Number of books read
Go To Sleep, I Miss You by Lucy Knisley (which I read twice and thus counted twice in the other stats)
The Cases That Haunt Us: From Jack the Ripper to Jon Benet Ramsey, The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Sheds New Light on the Mysteries that Won't Go Away by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas
Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World by Michael Pollan
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Number of pages read


POC authors
Female authors

US authors

Book formats
audiobook: 57%
hardback: 29%
paperback: 14%

Where'd I get the book
Chain Bookstore: 14%
Indie Bookstore: 29%
Kindle/Audible: 43%
Library: 14%

Decade published
1990s: 14%
2000s: 29%
2010s: 14%
2020s: 43%

Resolution books
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - published prior to 2000
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - non-US author (Wales)

I ALSO managed to write two posts, other than my wrap up post, in March so that's another goal met! Can I do it again in April? Who knows because seriously who knows anything that's happening anymore. But anyway wash your hands and stay home (if you can).