Friday, January 31, 2014

The Problem With Audiobooks

For weeks now, I've been reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater. Well, that's not quite true. I have been listening to it on audio, and I just decided to return it without finishing. I know, blasphemy! So many of my friends adored it, and I just...haven't. And I've wondered why.

First of all, this is the season where I don't enjoy much. The end of January is not the happiest place for me, and I'm trying to accept that, and realize that now might not be the best indicator of actual Melanie-enjoyment.

But part of the problem is also the audio. When you listen to something, every word is given equal weight. When you read something, you can go back and relish some words and skip over other less savory ones. There are a lot of both kinds of words in The Dream Thieves, and its pacing really suffers when read. I'll probably finish it at some point, but frankly, I'm surprised I loved The Raven Boys so much when everyone I've talked to seems to love The Dream Thieves even more, and I can barely stand it.

It makes me leery of trying anything else on audio, and this is coming from ME--the woman whose son had huge chunks of Harry Potter memorized before he was six years old--the woman whose daughter used to scream "NO! Not Harry Potter again!" whenever the BBC came on--the woman who wore out the Book on Tape of Bloomability by Sharon Creech because we listened to it with such astonishing regularity.

I used to be a huge audio fan, but when I look back at the books we liked, they were mainly middle grade books. On a trip to Florida one year, we listened to all the Prydain novels. When I listened to Scott Westerfield's Leviathan series, I remember finding excuses to sweep and mop my floor every day to give myself more time in the kitchen (maybe I should check those out again!) I think it was at exactly the same time that I fell in love with The Magic Thief on audio. (Karen!)

But adult novels? Or even most young adult novels? No thanks. I'd rather hold the book in my hand. I love the ability to flip back a few pages to check out my facts, to read certain parts more quickly, whether because I am excited or because I am bored, to go back and savor incredibly well written sentences like this: "Theoretically, Blue Sargent was probably going to kill one of these boys." (The Dream Thieves) When I heard that, I loved it so much I just wanted to read it again and again.

It makes me sad to not enjoy audio books. I don't have time to read nearly as much as I used to, but I spend a lot of my free time in the car. A good audio book would be a treasure.

Signs I might like an audio book:

1. It is read by Jim Dale. Maybe. I couldn't finish The Emerald Atlas. But I enjoyed The Night Circus even though I probably wouldn't have liked it as a book.

2. The readers do voices and accents. The reader of The Dream Thieves did a pretty good job. His Adam Parrish voice and his Calla voice made me laugh my head off though.

3. A straightforward plot. Not a lot of subplots and extra POV to confuse me. Exception: Harry Potter. But then I read those before I listened to them.

4. A relatively short read. Dream Thieves was 453 pages, with a nice normal font size. It was 11 CDs, which is probably the outer edge of a good size book for me unless it is read by Jim Dale. J

5. Humor. Pathos. Poetical language--although then I may long for a hard copy so I can reread it.

6. Very little bad language. I'm relatively adept at letting my eyes skim right past bad words in a book. There is no doing that on audio, as Ronan has taught me far too well.

Can you think of an audiobook I might enjoy?


  1. I love audio books, I must admit. The production on mine was just finished (read and produced by David Harper). I think he's genius. I have Romanian and Japanese accents, and David handled them brilliantly (not to mention, he pronounced my name like a pro, ha).

    1. Your book is one of the next in my reading pile. But I think I'll stick with reading it, at least for now. :)

  2. I've never listened to a book on tape. I can imagine that it is a different experience than reading, and I'm betting the reader can make or break the book.

    I'm guessing a lot of middle grade stuff is written to be read out loud (parents reading to children), but YA and adult books wouldn't be. I wonder if that makes a big difference.

    I finally got my copy of The Dream Thieves. The beginning does feel slow to me. Too much catching me up on stuff I read just a few weeks ago since I just barely finished The Raven Boys, so I understand your issue with it. :)

    1. You've never listened to a book on tape? We should definitely find you a good one. It is a fun activity to do with your kids. (Karen has the best audiobook advice)

  3. I haven't listened to any books on tape. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  4. I'm so sad to hear this!! I somehow missed this post when you originally posted it, sorry! (January/February/March are also hard for me. 'Nuff said, eh?)

    I'm disappointed, though I can completely understand why it's a hard book to listen to. There's so much beauty to the language I definitely found myself re-reading passages to just enjoy them. And because things were a little confusing/veiled to the reader, I found I had to re-read sections just to understand what was happening.

    As far as some additional recommendations…if you want to invest a ton of time, the MISTBORN series on audiobook is EXCELLENT. But it's a huge huge amount of discs (20 for the first book, 23 the second, 22 the third, I believe) We're on disc 2 of the 3rd book, having started the first in the fall. It's wonderful. The narrator is excellent. As good as Jim Dale, I'm not just saying that. (PS - I had a hard time reading The Emerald Atlas in paper, it's not just you and the audiobook thing, lol. Other people loved it, but it just didn't do it for me. I also didn't care for Peter and the Starcatchers which Jim Dale narrated.)

    ENCHANTED by Alethea Kontis was my absolute most favorite audiobook of the last year, but also my most favorite book of last year. Run, don't walk. Invest your audible chits, just do it. Love that book, particularly on audio (and, in a particularly interesting note to the authors among us - listening to it on audio was so joyous and I loved the story so much that I went right out and bought a copy of the book in paper because I wanted to have it. <3)

    I am also listening to Code Name Verity on audio at the moment, and about dying from the beauty of it. The narrator? Oh my gosh. She deserves an Oscar. She is so spectacular that I'm out of adjectives for her. The Enchanted narrator was excellent, but CNV narrator is of another world. Reminds me of how much I loved Clockwork Prince's male narrator, where I literally fell in love with him every time his turn was up (it was a switch off narration between a male and female narrator.) I am in love with Queenie and completely wrapped up in her. My laundry has never been so well folded. ;)

    I always have more reviews, too, and a whole shelf full on Goodreads of my audiobook choices. If you have any to recommend I'd love to hear them, too!


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