Thursday, September 27, 2012

Audiobooks and some literary fashion

JAN BROGAN: When my son was young, he was terrible at any chore you gave him.  His main job was to empty the dishwasher. Each time he left at least three glasses or plates in the upper rack for no apparent reason.  If you asked him to clean his bedroom, he threw the covers on the bed and called it "made," left at least one bureau drawer hanging open, and several pairs of socks still on the floor.  One day in his teens, he decided to put on on his IPOD when I assigned him to clean the finished basement.  After about an hour and half later, when he was still down there, I went to check on him. The basement was spotless and he was still vacuuming. He was having such a good time singing along with the music, he kept looking for new things to clean.  

Well, I find the same thing is happening to me and audiobooks.  Normally, I have little patience for mundane tasks. Like my son, I tend to do as little as I can to get the job over with as soon as possible.   But with an audiobook in my ear, my life had changed. Suddenly, I am a perfectionist. 

A good audiobook can make me walk five miles when I set out to walk three. It can make me paint the trim on the kitchen door I've left unpainted for years.   To finish the Steve Jobs biography, I brought it with me to the track, which I normally consider torture, and ran - round and round and round - two tedious two miles with a smile on my face. I have cleaned closets that I've ignored since we bought the house. And last week, I finally sorted out my junk drawer.

Back when audiobooks came in cassette form, I played them only during long car trips or on airplanes. Now that I can put books on my IPHONE, I pretty much carry an ongoing story everywhere. In the car, at the allergist's office, in an amplifier for when I'm cooking in the kitchen, and upstairs with headphones in my bed when my eyes are too tired to read. 

Recently, I listened to the Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, which I highly recommend for both its great storytelling and the mesmerizing rhythms of the prose. Following Katey's love affair, I found myself scrubbing frantically into the always cruddy corners of my cake pans, first with just the sponge, then with COMET. They now look like they belong in Martha Stuart's kitchen.   Yesterday, I  started Hank's The Other Woman, walked the trails until it got dark, then today added three errands to my task list so that I could finish chapter eight. Tomorrow, I just might reorganize my sock drawer.

SPEAKING OF SOCKS:  This has nothing to do with audiobooks, but I was scrolling through the New York Daily News Pageviews blog and came across a piece on literary fashion trends for hipsters.

These stockings might look good on hipsters, but I think they'd be great for writers, readers, librarians and anyone who spends a lot of time on Jungle Red.  

Wouldn't these be perfect at Bouchercon or the New England Crime Bake? 

In other business:  Nancy was chosen at random from the comments page to win a copy of Edith Maxwell's Speaking of Murder. Please contact me Nancy at to get your book. 

BACK TO AUDIOBOOKS:  Am I the only one altered by technology? Or has anyone else discovered the amazing motivating ability of audiobooks? 


  1. Okay, the stockings are pretty cool . . . and so are audiobooks. I must admit that listening to audiobooks has not motivated me to vacuum more or to take longer walks, mostly because I generally play them only in the car. I absolutely despise driving and listening to a good book keeps me at least partially sane while I navigate roads filled with inconsiderate drivers who seem to be --- well, driven to make my commute as horrific as possible.

    I have to confess that I am terribly fussy about the audiobooks I choose to listen to . . . . I tend to gravitate toward fiction books and I am absolutely not a fan of abridged editions [nor do I read those “condensed book” volumes]. If I am going to listen to [or read] a book, then I want all the words the author originally put into it, not some truncated version that leaves me wondering what I’ve missed and nags at me to get a complete version.

    That said, I feel compelled to add the thought that the quality of the audiobook is directly related to the reader. Some people . . . think the late Richard Burton or Patrick Stewart . . . have such wonderful voices that it is always a joy to listen to them speak and it hardly matters what they read. But it is beyond frustrating to listen to a reader whose recording simply does not do justice to the author’s words.

  2. Joan,
    I agree, the book has to be unabridged. And the reader is huge. I think that's one reason Rules of Civility was so mesmerizing. The reader was terrific.

    Although I can listen to a good memoir, biography or non-fiction narrative - the Steve Jobs biography was terrific. Actually now that I think about it I've also listened to a few philosophical self help books on audio - Pema Chodran for example.

    I once tried to listen to a Martin Cruz Smith book, which was a mistake. It was a complicated story that kept shifting time and had a lot of characters with Russian names. It was a good book, but the kind you needed to be able to flip the pages back and forth on. Probably not for a digital version either. The kind of book where you needed actual pages.


  3. I have not, in the past, been able to get into audio books. But Jan, you may have convinced me to try again. I desperately need to up my exercise routine or I'm not going to have a single pair of jeans left that I can get into - truth. My problem was that my mind would wander and I'd realize I was missing a lot of what was being said. But - time to try again.

    Now these socks? GOTTA have some of these socks!! I love them!

  4. I'm addicted to audio books. I'll do laundry, wash dishes, clean (all things I detest) if I can listen to one.

    Some books -- the Sookie Stackhouse series and any of Harlan Coben's books -- are even better in audio.

    But audio books can be dangerous. I was walking out of my building two days ago listening to a great book. I "forgot" about the two steps on my front landing and went flying off. My knees and my ego were scraped up.

  5. Yes, love the stockings Jan!

    I don't listen unless we're on a long trip. And John and I have trouble agreeing on picks. The one we went crazy for was Bill Clinton's memoir. Since he was the reader, it was like having right in the car with us!

    Though he did gloss a bit over the Monica Lewinsky business, and had he been right there, we would have quizzed him on that...

  6. Love walking with my audio books. So what if the neighbors look at me funny when I circle the block an extra three times. I feel like I get another sense of a book by hearing it. As with the others - it must be unabridged and the reader must be good. I think I'm in love with Simon Vance.

  7. I want those socks! Do they have matching slippers, too?

    I have to admit, I'm not an audio book person. Can't seem to get into the spoken word. For some reason, my brain shuts down and I can't visualize what's being read TO me as opposed to when I read to myself. My husband, otoh, is a big fan.

    Some day I'll read the Steve Jobs bio. It might inspire me to push past the 3 miles I run into 4 miles. I feel your pain, Jan. There's nothing like something to take your mind off the exercise, and it's a wonderful feeling when you realize you've pushed past your goal!

  8. I love audiobooks when I am driving, folding laundry, weeding, cleaning the kitchen. They make me feel like an indulged child being read to, cuddled up in a blanket. Right now, I am listening Hank Phillippi Ryan's "The Other Woman" and loving it. Any book read with a brogue (Tana French's "Broken Harbor" most recently) makes me smile. I find I try different authors and different types of books because there is something about audiobooks that makes me feel adventurous.

  9. I love audiobooks! I agree that they must be unabridged. The reader is very important.

    I just finished THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY by Louise Penny. Ralph Cosham's voice IS Armand Gamache to me. Jennifer Ikeda does a fabulous job with all the various voices in Deb Harkness' two books. And I love Gerard Doyle/Michael Deehy's narration of Deb Crombie's books. There are many more great readers and they bring the books to life.

    I've really become addicted to listening to audiobooks. I knit a lot while listening. As far as doing housework...well, there's always tomorrow.

    Love the socks but really want the shoes!

  10. Now what about a first-person female protagonist? You'd have to have a female narrator, wouldn't you?

    I don't listen to audio books at all so I have no experience. A male actor friend with a great voice offered to narrate Speaking of Murder but I figured it wouldn't come across right.


  11. There must be something wrong with by brain. Can't navigate traffic while listening to a story. I was driving from Boston to NYC once, listening to Grisham's The Pelican Brief audiotape, looked up, saw mountains and realized I'd driven at least 50 miles past the Sturbridge Exit. Had to drive all the way to Albany and then down. At least I finished the book.
    There might not be distractions when you're running round and round a boring track, but if I'm walking in my neighborhood in Ann Arbor or my woods in Florida, there are too many interesting things to look at and make up my own stories about.
    And have any of you audiobook addicts found a way to "read" while doing aerobics with music?

  12. Jan, I am so with you, wanting to listen to audiobooks all the time. I've even caught myself pondering how I could finish a good one while...writing, lol.

    One of my current favorite readers is Ralph Cosham, who reads Louise Penny's novels. Not only are Louise's books a treat, but his voice is like butter. I would listen to him read the phone book.

    One of the best places to find cheap audio books? Discount stores like Tuesday Morning. Remainders can be had for pennies on the dollar. I snagged David Morrell's wonderful SCAVENGER, which I'd read in paper. It was great for listening in the car w/ my 12 year-old son. And I have Mia Farrow reading ROSEMARY'S BABY. It's truly a keeper.

  13. I *heart* audiobooks! I can listen to them while at work and if done well they add a little layer to the story. In fact, in the last month I have listened to more audiobooks than actually read books (I think 9 audios and 5 reads). They are just so handy and leave your hands free.

    I have my favorite narrators too. I will sometimes pick up an audiobook that I had no interest in because of the narrator. I have found some great books that way.

    The socks are Awesome!

  14. Laura, I've found some great new authors by picking up sale audiobooks, usually at Books-A-Million. Long car trips are the best times to listen to audiobooks, for me, anyway. They can make the miles go by effortlessly, especially in places where I can't get the good NPR shows I enjoy. There's a lot of NPR wasteland in the middle of the country, I've found.

    The Scottish guy who narrates "Three Junes" had so many different accents: a couple each of Scots and British, plus American. It was fascinating to hear the differences, and I ended up staying on the road beyond what I'd intended, just to hear the end of the story.

    This is a good time to be reminded of audiobooks, since I'm taking a couple car trips in the near future. Thanks for the tip, Jan.

  15. Love the stockings! Do they come in tall plus sizes? :-)

    I have to admit I haven't gotten into audiobooks yet. When I'm driving, it's usually in city traffic and I need to pay attention, and when Ben's driving, I have to navigate so I have to pay attention. But they would be great on long road trips, and we're taking more of those.

    And of course--please don't throw things--I don't have an iPOD. Ben does and swears by it, but he always wants that background music to his life. I may have to break down and ask for one for Christmas.

  16. We like using audio books on long trips. It makes the time go faster and you can have a sense of continuity throughout the trip. For really long trips, we'll stock up on a few and then choose as we're leaving. What's the mood? Mystery? History? It's a nice way to pass the time.

  17. Love audio books in the car, even on short drives, and at the gym in the winter. But in summmer, I walk the beautiful wooded trails and don't want to have my mind somewhere else.

    I listened to Louise Penny's Trick of the Light last spring while driving to Hood River, OR for the BONI workshop. Wasn't sure about the narrator for a while, but then he got me. I stopped in Coeur d'Alene, ID, and took several minutes -- seriously -- to realize I wasn't in Three Pines . ...

  18. Love those stockings! I'd wear 'em, for sure.

    My god, I might actually enjoy housecleaning?! Vacuum the animal-fur-covered rug during my precious downtime? Organize the mass of papers that has accumulated on the coffee table?

    Why hadn't I thought of audiobooks? Thank you!

  19. The only audiobook I've ever really enjoyed - and I may have rhapsodized about this on JR before - Lolita, read by Jeremy Irons. Oh yeah. The socks...not o much, they reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the West for some reason. The shoes are cool, though.

  20. I love audiobooks! Can't make a long drive without one! It has to be unabridged - and have a good reader!

  21. Love the socks!! Where can I get them, Jan??

    But I have to admit I don't listen to many audio books, although I LOVE Gerard Doyle/Michael Deehy who has read many of mine. I hate to admit that I don't have an iPod (or an iPad). I'm very uncomfortable with earbuds because I'm deaf in one ear. I wish someone would invent a single earbud that got both sound channels...

    So if I listen to audio books, it's usually in the car, and only on road trips because I find them too distracting in heavy city traffic.

    I must expand my horizons.

  22. Like Linda, I don't have an iPod but you're all making the case that maybe I could have some fun with one.

  23. I want the stockings too. Where can we find them, Jan? Could they be official Jungle Red uniform?
    I remember once pulling into my driveway at the end of a long trip and sitting there for an extra half hour because I had to see how the audio book ended.
    I adore all my books on Audible. Katherine Kellgren is a brilliant reader and has had two Audie nominations for my books.

  24. Wow!

    I finally figured out how to make my self-control timer work and wrote for two hours unable to check the Internet and can see I have a lot of responding to do.

    First of all. The stockings are from Zohara. I don't actually know who that is, but thats what the NYDN Pageviews blog says. And yes, there are slippers, but they look like ballet slippers and I couldn't get the photo to center on the post so I ditched it at the last minute.
    MOre to come:

  25. I want to know about the self-control timer! Please, do elaborate. :-)

  26. I want to know about the self-control timer! Please, do elaborate. :-)

  27. Okay,
    Now back.

    First of all, I am still laughing at Skipperhammond, driving 50 miles out of her way BECAUSE I HAVE MISSED SO MANY EXITS because of audio books.

    And Linda, you are right, they can be an even worse distraction in city traffic. I really shouldn't have them on in the car even in suburban traffic. As it is, I shut it off whenever I have to make left hand turns.

    And Leslie, I feel a little bit the same way when I am walking somewhere beautiful. All this meditation and Zen living-in-the-moment philosophy I read - you want to be where you are E SPECIALLY when it's somewhere beautiful. So I try to actually do silent walking medication for the first twenty minutes. Then treat myself to a book for the later miles.

    when I want to go more than three miles, I absolutely need a book.

    Audiobooks are really best for laundry folding and closet cleaning, I think. Especially if you are like me and not geared to organization.


  28. Lisa,
    I only know about it because someone told me in the comments page here. Just google Selfcontrol. It's a free download, that you can set to shut down all your Internet access and more importantly YOUR EMAIL, for as long as you set it for.

    I had it, but it never worked for email, which is my worst temptation, so this morning I went into the preferences (Make sure to check local connections) and it completely cut me off.
    I am so happy

  29. Karen,
    At Books A million, what form do the audiobooks come in? CDS?

    And I'm writing Three Junes and the Clinton memoir into my TBR notebook.

    Laura -
    In what part of the country is Tuesday Mornings stores?

    Felicia, can you recommend your favorite narrators? It makes a huge difference to me.

    Michele - I never thought about weeding. Maybe I'd actually garden if I did it with an audiobook.

  30. Audiobooks have saved my sanity. I used to travel 50 miles per day round trip here in the D/FW area to work and back. I worked for the save doctor for 23 years and over time I started to calculate how much time I wasted in the car. After I discovered audiobooks I no longer felt that way. I will also admit to sitting in my driveway or a parking lot long enough to finish a chapter. I also discovered some great authors and readers that way.

  31. Me, too Marihelen.

    Got any recommendations for me? Any great narrators. I'm especially interested in history and historical right now.

  32. Ro,
    Also writing down Lolita. ALthough I read it long ago, I bet it is spectacular with Jeremy Irons reading it.

    Has anyone noticed that sometimes Capsha won't let you through no matter how close you get,

    and some days it lets you through if you can't even read what's going on and just guess?

  33. I listen to audio books whenever I am driving. I have "Gold" by Christopher Cleave going now (it's terrific), and just before that I listened to a ten-part BBC radio production of "War & Peace." I listened to that one twice! (Talk about Russian names.)

    My problem is that I spend so much money on the CDs (always unabridged). My new resolution is to use the library. And, to really figure out the danged-nab ipod which I have owned for several years.

    I vary my choices -- light/heavy -- fiction/nonfiction -- and always enjoy. I generally give them away after I listen so I can assuage some of my guilt about the $$$.

  34. I love sewing or knitting to audio books. I've made a few sweaters, socks and dozens of quilts while listening. My favorites include Anthony Trollope, who had a wonderful, biting sense of humor and more glorious storylines than Downton Abbey, and the Harry Potter series, for which the reader won several awards. The books WERE much better than the (very good) movies!

  35. Hearing THE OTHER WOMAN on audio was a profoundly strange experience!

    I finally realized it was because I'd heard my OWN voice reading it for the past year! Once I got used to Ilyana Kadushin,(the actor who reds the TWILIGHT books!)--I loved it. But initially it was a big surprise.

    We listen to audiobooks in the car all the time. And sometimes we sit in the driveway when we get home so we can finish a chapter!

  36. Denise Ann,
    Although I hate to pump it, Audible makes it somewhat cheaper if you are willing to sign up for the monthly plan. You can make CDs from the files, which I still have to do so I can get my husband to listen to the STeve Jobs biography.

    Unknown, I do not know who you are, but I have this lovely image of a woman at a big wooden farm table, quilting while a calm, soothing voice tells a terrific story.

    Hank, I'm off to Adams Farm to get in my three miles and at least three chapters of The Other Woman!

  37. I love audiobooks, but only when I'm driving. If I try to do ANY WORK (cook clean...) with earbuds in I get in an accident. Trip. Drop something. Smash into something. It's as if I need my hearing working to keep from getting into trouble.

    Am I the only one like that??

  38. Interesting Hallie,

    It's like you need sonar, huh?

    But actually, usually when I'm in the kitchen, I'm not using earbuds. I have one of those amplifiers that also charges the IPHONE while it plays the book/or music.

    I''m not sure I could chop vegetables with earbuds in either.

  39. Hallie, I always get the headset cord wrapped around something int he dishwasher when I'm loading/unloading it while listening to a book. You'd think I'd have learned but it happens all the time!

    Rhys, Katherine is wonderful with your books!

    And THE OTHER WOMAN is a fabulous audiobook. The little surprise at the end still makes me smile.

  40. I want those stockings, but only if I can get the legs too. The text would be in sixteen-point going round my hockey-goalie calves.

    On audio books - I'd listen to Alan Rickman or Juliet Stevenson read anything.

    Has anyone tried to listen to the audiobook of The Da Vinci Code. Hee-larious French accent. It made Inspector Clouseau sound good.

  41. I have listened to maybe two books on tape,so that tells you how long ago it was. It was an okay experience. I think I'm one of those people who must READ the story. Perhaps this is because of my long-ago volunteer work with Books On Tape, where I was required to read along in the book and listen to the tape for mispronunciations, missed words, throat-clearing, etc. I don't really like having something read to me. I loved it when I was a youngster but once I started reading on my own, nobody could read the story fast enough for me to find out what happened! But after reading all the responses today to Jan's blog, I now wonder if I should reconsider. (Oh, and I have never wanted an IPod!)

    Capcha attempt number two. It had better go through this time. A couple of days ago I had to make something like five attempts. I agree with Jan about this whole thing! My first one had the word Kill in it, by the way.

  42. Jan, Tuesday Morning has a website where you can locate stores. Sadly, they don't sell audio books on the site. But, as Karen wrote, you can find remaindered audio books at Books-A-Million, too. Now, if Big Lots would just carry them.

  43. Marianne, I couldn't get out to walk today, so I'm going to have to come up with some chore tonight so I can get back to Hank's book.

    I love Alan Rickman

    Deb, you really should give them another try. I think I love them so much because my mother used to read to me and I just love being read to.


    thanks Laura!

  44. Catriona - I've loved Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson ever since Truly, Madly, Deeply. And how funny was she in Bend it like Beckham? Looking forward to our 50 Shades of cozy panel at bouchercon1 Any JRs who are going should check us out Thursday afternoon!

  45. All right...crush confession...I saw Alan Rickman milling about outside Lincoln Center once, pre-theatre. Yow. Saw Seminar last year, barely heard a word. Just watched him . Ever see the movie Dogma?

  46. Ro-

    Truly, Madly. Deeply is one of my all time favorite movies.