I’m basically a lazy person. I don’t like housework…I don’t like yard work…and I really hate exercise. On the other hand, I dearly love to read. In fact, I frequently tell people, with not so tongue-in-cheek, that I retired so I would have more time to read. So, I pay someone to do my housework and I have a very energetic husband who loves to do yard work, but, you may wonder, what about exercise? While the obvious health benefits should be reason enough, who can deny an added incentive is a good thing. My incentive is certainly not a unique one. I know many people listen to music or books to offset what they consider the boredom or monotony of walking and running; my situation differs slightly in that I actually walk so I can listen to books. Five miles. On a treadmill. Six days a week.
I recently posted a review of an audiobook I found particularly enjoyable on this blog. (Click to read review) In my review, I wrote about some of the things I find appealing when listening to someone read the written word. Since that time and since audiobooks are such an integral part of my days, I have given a lot of thought to regularly sharing my thoughts on some of the books I’m hearing. Today I decided it’s time to stir from my innate laziness and begin. This first piece is sort of an introduction to what I hope to accomplish and why, with the obvious caveat that the opinions are strictly my own.
For me, as a listener, there are certain types of books that lend themselves to the audio mode more than others because of the nature of the writing. An example is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Complex of plot, lush with historical detail, and teeming with well-developed characters, these books, all of which I’ve read in print, are brought to life by the excellent narration of Davina Porter. For those whose minds tend to wander when reading detailed descriptive passages, Ms. Porter will hold your attention, and she does a mean Scottish accent! A similar example is the Song of Ice and Fire series, a.k.a. Game of Thrones. The books are long and meticulously written, and I haven’t read a single written word of them, but I have listened raptly to every word in each of the books as Roy Dotrice performs George R.R. Martin’s work.
It’s no secret that the right narrator can make or break an audio book. The finest literary work on the planet can be made mediocre by the wrong narrator; on the other hand, ordinary work can be made exceptional by a good performance. Listening to an audiobook, particularly if there is a lot of dialogue, should be like watching a play with your eyes closed; all the characters won’t have the same voice. If you are considering an audiobook, be sure to read any available reviews of the narrator’s performance. You may save yourself the grief of spending good money to listen to one of those nails-on-chalkboard voices. And if you are considering a listen where the characters have accents, you’ll want to be doubly sure the narrator isn’t just a good reader, but a bit of a performer as well. A favorite example of this is the “In Death” series written by J.D. Robb and performed by Susan Ericksen. I just finished book 41 and I still love hearing her (yes…she has performed ALL the books in the series) read the dialogue between Eve Dallas and Roarke. Even though Ms. Ericksen is a woman and Roarke is a man, I feel a little gooey every time she reads Roarke saying “Darlin’ Eve” with that hint of Ireland in her voice.
Finally, it’s common knowledge that I will read most anything, and I have listened to books in just about every genre. Trust me, not all books are created equal when it comes to being read aloud. I recently tried to listen to a book I had already read and loved and I haven’t gotten through it yet! So as I write my reviews, I will be sharing my take, not just on the quality of the book, but on the narrator’s performance and how well the book lends itself to the audio mode. I hope you’ll stop by each week, and that you’re looking forward to reading this feature as much as I’m looking forward to writing it.