Listening or Reading?
Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:09 AM
My husband, who has keratoconus, an eye disease, now listens to most of his books in the car. I recently realized that I have strong preferences for what kind of material I prefer to read rather than listen to. I want to read serious novels, not listen to them, but I like to hear humorous books and mysteries, rather than read them. Years ago, I tried to read a Maeve Binchy novel and just plain didn't like it. But on a long trip recently, I listened to her Scarlet Feather, and I loved it: it was great entertainment. I think being a captive audience helps. But I wouldn't have read the book, even now, after knowing I enjoyed it. It's frivolous in my mind, I guess.
I prefer reading most scientific books so that I can easily go back and reread passages again and again, but have no preference either way for non-fiction history books (as opposed to historical novels which I prefer reading myself).
I think that my strong preference for reading novels as opposed to listening to them involves ritual and surrounding aesthetics. I have a favorite place in my house to read, with a teapot at my side, and often classical music in the background. I like to glance up from reading and look around me. The serenity of the experience is important. I can be more thoughtful in that environment, letting words wash over me, and pausing from time to time to reflect. It's harder to do that in a car. Even if I were to listen to a book in my reading environment, I wouldn't be able to pause and reflect so easily, and would instead be fumbling with the rewind button.
So, what about you? Preferences?
Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:57 AM
I can read pretty much anywhere, but I agree, quiet is nicer.
Posted 21 August 2008 - 11:20 PM
Vagansmom, I enjoyed your post and your insight into reading being more than just processing the visual cues from the page. I think my favorite environment involve a doona and a cup of tea ;)
So, what about you? Preferences?
I can't get into audio books, even those read by wonderful actors. Have tried several times with no success... I have to read the book. But I have lately become like Mr Toad and am wildly enthusiastic about podcasts. In fact, I would prefer to listen to the podcast of a lecture to reading the transcript. So where is the logic in that?
Posted 22 August 2008 - 10:46 AM
Posted 22 August 2008 - 03:23 PM
The book that I got through because I could listen to it was Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled. I loved it (he's on my top five list of living novelists) but I'm pretty sure I would have abandoned it if I had had to work my way through it a few pages a night. It's the kind of book that needs to be absorbed in largish chunks to have the right effect.
At one point in my life I was pursuing a graduate degree in literature -- after a while I think the only ritual connected with reading was checking to see how many pages I had to race through in the book I was reading in order to get to the next one on the reading list in time for my orals. I came to the conclusion that nothing ruins a good book like studying it. (Well, not really, but sometimes it felt like that.)
By the way, you can download well-done podcasts of short stories from a number of sources -- try The New Yorker and NPR's Selected Shorts. If you like science fiction (I do) there's quite a bit available that you can download legally and for free.
Posted 22 August 2008 - 03:33 PM
And then the other one was a few years ago, I listened to Penelope Keith read Jilly Cooper's 'Class.' But I was only listening to this like music, because Ms. Keith's voice is so special and I love to hear it. The work was mostly fluff, but she can bring that kind of snobbish thing to life. Also, I hear a kind of voice while reading a book, and that may be partially me and partially the author. A reader--unless it's the author, in which case I would sometimes be interested to hear it as when we hear them at public readings--adds a 3rd voice to it, and also annihilates the one I'm superimposing.
Posted 22 August 2008 - 04:40 PM
Since I live in Manhattan, and walk or take the subway just about everywhere, I can actually get more "read" by listening than I could if I had to rely on print only.
Audiobooks are nice for commuters, too. The advantage of audiobooks is that they allow people with limited time to sit down with a book to hear it – if you have a long commute you can listen to it in your car. Often people come home at the end of a working day with not much energy for intense reading, or kids underfoot, and during the week that’s almost their only opportunity for ‘reading time.’
Posted 23 August 2008 - 01:41 PM
I recently realized that I have strong preferences for what kind of material I prefer to read rather than listen to. I want to read serious novels, not listen to them, but I like to hear humorous books and mysteries, rather than read them.
An interesting distinction. Do others who listen to audiobooks have preferences?
Posted 24 August 2008 - 06:51 PM
For me, it isn't really a matter of 'preferring' one over the other - paper or audio. I enjoy both, although I mostly listen to nineteenth century classics. Favorites include Anna Massey's 'Persuasion', Juliet Stevenson's 'Sense and Sensibility', and Andrew Sachs' 'Silas Marner'. I still read the books, but a good narrator can bring an extra dimension. Listening to Andrew Sachs (Manuel -'He's from Barcelona' - from Fawlty Towers) with his extraordinary command of voices and accents, you'd swear it was a full-cast recording, not one reader.
I guess I've never understood the 'Listening to an audiobook isn't really reading' point of view.
Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:55 PM
Listening to Bill Maher read his "New Rules" was much more fun for me than reading the book.
Posted 25 August 2008 - 09:23 PM
Posted 06 September 2008 - 09:17 PM
I picked up this set (10 discs, 16 hrs, 45 min) when I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time in surgical waiting rooms--lots of time, little ability to concentrate for long--and was happy that I did. May grab "The Odyssey" next.
Posted 06 September 2008 - 10:06 PM
There are several authors (like Sarah Vowell) whose work I first heard read aloud, and only later did I read text for myself. And I still hear her in the back of my head when I read her work to myself.
I read most of the Harry Potter series aloud to my child, and then borrowed some of the recordings. Jim Dale knocked me for a loop -- it's a whole different world in his voice!
Posted 07 September 2008 - 04:07 AM
Listening in the car on long commutes also makes sense as an alternative to spotty and often dreary radio, or monologuing about the traffic.
As for myself, I guess I'm the only strong vote so far for silent reading rather than listening to someone else read for me. I realize that the best readers are indeed artists, and I've enjoyed some of these as performances. Reading itself, however, is a much more interactive activity. You control the pace; you control the pauses; you control the Fast Forward and Reverse; you can repeat and skip.
I don't mean to sound like a control freak on this. What I mean is: silent reading, holding an actual book in my hands, or propping it on a desk, makes me feel like an active participant -- a kind of partner with the author -- in a way no recording ever has.
And ... increasingly important for me as I get older .... there's seems to be much too much noise and chatter in the world already, without my adding to it.
Posted 07 September 2008 - 05:55 AM
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