So last week I suffered from a bit of a stress-induced neck injury. And by a bit of a neck injury, I meant I was completely laid up for a couple days, unable to do…almost anything, really. Writing was straight out, as sitting at a desk was a new level of pain. Watching TV was manageable, but uncomfortable. I was able to read for a bit, but the medication was making me drowsy and the second time I dropped my phone on my face I decided that reading wasn’t going to work particularly well either.
There was exactly one form of entertainment that let me lay back, close my eyes, and relax.
That was, of course, audiobooks.
I’ll admit that for quite some time, I was resistant to audiobooks as a medium. Like many writers I’ve talked to, I’m a pretty fast reader, and the idea of having to slow down to the pace of human speech seemed like it would just ruin the experience for me. Even though I knew the medium was growing at an astonishing rate, I turned my nose up at the idea of listening to an audiobook. I’ll even admit I get a bit snobbish about it – “Oh, you listen to books? Well, that’s interesting. I prefer to read them, as is proper, but you do whatever makes you happy.”
Okay, I was never that big a jerk about it, but comedic exaggeration is fun.
That viewpoint got handily obliterated when a close friend of mine started listening to audiobooks. For starters, she’s one of very few people I know who is a more avid reader than me, easily reading a hundred plus books a year. Second, she’s my editor, and if you take one piece of writing advice from this article, let it be never condescend to your editor. They hold your ego in their hands and can destroy it with but a thought.*
Audiobooks have been on my mind a lot lately anyway, and we’ll come back to that in a bit, but for right now I wanted to talk about why I learned to love audiobooks.
*That’s not comedic exaggeration. Don’t piss off your editor.
1) It’s Flexible
So I decided to try out audiobooks, getting a subscription to Audible and downloading The Brilliance Trilogy (which is really, really good). By the time I finished I was a convert. See, one thing that hadn’t occurred to me was the flexibility of audiobooks. Sure, for me it’s slower to listen than read,but sometimes I have to stop reading, much as I hate doing so. I have to clean, I have to drive, I have to log into World of Warcraft and do my dailies.* What I realized was that I could do all those things while listening to an audiobook – so I didn’t ever have to stop reading! I could even do it while trying to fall asleep!
I don’t have a reading addiction. I can stop whenever I want to. I just don’t want to. Ever.
*”Have to” is a strong term here, but it certainly felt that way at the time. I read a post or tweet at some point where dailies in World of Warcraft were called “Wizard Chores.” That phrase always stuck with me.
2) It’s Easy
I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of audiobook listening lately because I was literally in too much pain to do anything else.* This wasn’t the first time I’ve done that. When I was going through chemotherapy, I was often too nauseous to even read, since the motion of my eyes was too extreme to handle. Pretty much every other form of entertainment requires some level of physical engagement – even reading or watching TV. Sometimes, even sitting up feels like a difficult task.
Sometimes, that’s too much. Whether it’s pain or fatigue or illness, or if you’re just done for the day, audiobooks are a great way to shut down everything but the small amount of brain power required to follow the words. I have a good friend in a high-stress job who spends at least an hour every evening just lying in bed and listening, because it’s such a centering activity. It’s also become part of my self-care routine after a particularly bad day because it requires literally no effort on my part, but unlike mindlessly browsing Facebook, I don’t feel like the time I spend listening is time I’m wasting, because I’m still reading.* It’s calming and relaxing, kind of like having your parents read to you when you were sick as a kid, but you can’t stick your parents in your car and have them read to you on the way to work.
Well, I guess maybe you could, but it’d be pretty weird.
*Technically I’m not reading, but I think of “reading an audiobook” as being the same as “reading a novel,” so it makes sense.
3) Readers Give Characters Life
This is the best part of audiobooks, bar none. A good reader can really give characters a new life. Many of my favorite audiobooks are things that I have read before, because talented narrators add a whole new dimension to the story. My favorite example is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. If you haven’t read the book, it’s really good. The movie is – in my opinion – one of the better book-to-movie adaptations out there.* However, I’d listened to the audiobook beforehand, and it kind of undercut the movie a bit for me. See, the reader for Amy’s sections of Gone Girl, Julia Whelan, is one of the best audiobook readers out there. Her note-perfect delivery simply was Amy. Rosamund Pike did a great job in the movie, but for me, she just wasn’t quite Amy, not the way Julia Whelan was. Similarly, MacLeod Andrews is David in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy. Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are…anyone they want to be. Those two are amazing. Luke Daniels absolutely owned the Brilliance trilogy. I could go on, but you get the point.
And that’s the magic of a good audiobook reader, in my opinion. They can breathe life into a character, while still giving you the full impact of reading it for yourself. It’s literally the best of both worlds! If you do get into audiobooks, or if you already are, you’ll eventually start having readers who you prefer, like some of the great readers I mentioned above.Just like you might go to a movie because your favorite actor is in it, you’ll find yourself picking up books because your favorite reader is reading it – because you know they’ll imbue the characters with their own unique energy and life.
*Of course, we all know the book is always better.
Now, the astute reader will notice that at the beginning of this post, I mentioned there was another reason audiobooks are on my mind.. For the past few months, the audiobook for my novel, Weird Theology, has been in production. My amazing narrator, Brandon McKernan, expects to be finished in about two weeks. So I also wanted to introduce you to the voice of Weird Theology. Here’s a brief bio:
“Brandon is a Reno, Nevada native who has ventured to Southern California twice for formal acting training and film pursuits, but always found his way back home. While working full time as a public servant in the Northern Nevada area for the past 12 years, he’s used much of his “day job” funds to support the technical and creative aspects of a voiceover career he’s been honing for 14.
After flexing some of his more commercial muscle in the voiceover industry, with credits including Mercedes Benz, VMware, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Kansas State Bank, he became reacquainted with his love for telling a good story. As a child, an adolescent and finally a young adult, he never could stray far from the theatre and often held roles with a narrative bent.
After landing his first audiobook on his first ACX audition, he has been off and running in the narration business. Ranging from post-apocalyptic military fiction to contemporaneous dystopia, he’s continually broadened his narration horizons to include business improvement non-fiction and numerous roles in the fantasy genre.
He hopes to bring a whole host of characters to life in the Small Worlds series, and is truly excited to be collaborating creatively with Alex Raizman for the upcoming release of the audio version of Weird Theology!”
It’s been a real pleasure working with Brandon, and I am thrilled that he’s bringing my own work to life! The final audio version of Weird Theology should be available late in late October or early November, and I cannot wait to share it with you all!
Love or hate audiobooks? Have some favorites of your own you want to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!