The Happy Medium of Spoken-Word Literature
By Shani Asokan
Even for an avid reader, finding the opportunity to get cosy with a good book can be a challenge. When you’re stuck for time, or lack the energy to focus on words on a page, audiobooks can be a good alternative. Some in the reading world say that listening to an audiobook is not the same as reading, and perceive it to be ‘cheating’. However, while the experience of listening to an audiobook is different from reading a physical one, it is still a great way to consume a piece of literature. In fact, sometimes, listening to a particularly complicated book with complex writing and wordy descriptions can help the reader absorb the material better.
While one way isn’t necessarily better than the other, listening to a book can be just as amazing an experience as reading one. Audiobooks aren’t just boring people reciting text in a monotone; most audiobooks are read by professional actors and actresses who are able to breathe life into the story by adopting various voices for different characters and using the right tone and pacing for the various scenarios.
In some cases audiobooks are read by the author of the book, which once again create a favourable experience, as who knows a story better than the person who wrote it? Traditional books give the reader the opportunity to let their imagination run wild as they consume the words on the page. Similarly, audiobooks too trigger the same response, allowing the listener to paint a picture in their minds eye, and visualize the story as if it were a movie. Audiobooks are a great way to incorporate a little entertainment into your busy life, as for the most part, they can be consumed on the go. Be it on a car or train ride, on a walk, or even while doing laundry, it’s just about popping in your earphones and tapping a few buttons. Here are some audiobooks I think everyone should listen to.
The Harry Potter Series, by J.K Rowling narrated by Stephen Fry
A crowd favourite, the Harry Potter books are some of the best in the middle-grade/young-adult fantasy genre. If for some reason you aren’t convinced, the audiobooks of this series, read by renowned British actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry will get you there. Fry brings this world to life akin to a parent reading a child their bedtime story. His dramatic reading of Harry’s saga of magic, friendship and war brings the characters and the world to life in a way that beats the movie adaptations, making it the perfect audiobook to get lost in while you’re doing your chores.
It by Stephen King narrated by Steven Weber
When it comes to horror, be it a book or a movie, I always find that the right atmosphere is what really gets the spooks going. Many readers are often put off by the sheer size of this Stephen King tome; combined with its lengthy descriptions this 1000 page book can be daunting even to the most experienced reader. However, the audiobook, though equally lengthy, brings that extra oomph this great story needs through Weber’s skilful narration.
He manages to create that perfectly creepy atmosphere of dread and foreboding while using different voices to help the listener keep track of the many characters the story follows. Whilst listening to this audiobook I was able to vividly imagine cold, damp, Derry, Maine, the rag-tag group of seven teenagers, the terrifying Pennywise, the grown-up men and women who never quite left their childhood behind, and all the other characters and scenes the book contains. Listening to It is truly an experience, one that you’re unlikely to forget anytime soon.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez narrated by the author
Reading non-fiction can be especially daunting, more so when you aren’t familiar with the subject matter. This book isn’t a piece of non-fiction that falls into the above mentioned category, but having both read a physical copy and listened to the audiobook, I would say the audiobook brings an extra something to the table. In this book, Perez discusses the data bias women have to deal with in a world that is inherently designed by men, for men.
From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we often rely on data to make crucial decisions. However, as much of this data fails to take into account gender, and because it treats men as the default and women as a-typical, women are often left on the margins, faced with discrimination that is both intentional and unintentional in its nature.
While the physical book was perfect in every way, hearing the author tell the reader about her research in the audiobook triggered a stronger emotional response. In other words, hearing her talk about the countless data gaps that have failed women for centuries and the passion in her voice when she tells these stories make it all the more real, and harder to ignore. I chose these books to represent a wide variety of genres and types of literature, but they are just three of many amazing audiobooks out there. If you ever decide to explore this method of reading, you will definitely be spoilt for choice with the number of books available.