Notes on Reading

Notes on Reading: Bossypants & Audio Books

I read an article recently that discussed how best to avoid stress during a long commute. After step 1 (accept your fate and go with it), the article suggested using the time to strengthen your mind. Some suggestions:

  • Download a podcast;
  • Learn a new language;
  • Listen to an audio book.

I had an aunt who suffered from MS and was legally blind for as long as I can remember. She was bed ridden since before I was born and did not much enjoy watching television all day, every day. She listened to audio books. Lots and lots of audio books. And I would crawl onto the bed with her, curl up in her arms and listen to them as well. Look, this woman was smart and funny and kind and loving and wonderful, but her taste in literature was incredibly dull. I think I may associate audio books with the unbelievably boring things she listened to in my youth.

And yet. Once I was all grown up, I did try to listen to an audio book of my choosing. One that was contemporary, with beautiful imagery and hilariously fun characters. I was on a long road trip with a friend, and I had been endlessly gushing about this incredible novel by an up-and-coming Brooklynite author named Jonathan Safran Foer. The book was Everything Is Illuminated, and it continues to be a favorite of mine (as long as I choose to forget that totally off key movie version starring Elijah Wood). We purchased the book to listen to on our 12 hour drive home. I can’t tell you why, but I hated the experience. Maybe the book was too complicated to keep track of, maybe I hated the narrator, or maybe I was just too distracted. Whatever the reason was, I decided that audio books were not for me.

I read tons of healthy living blogs every day, and there are several runners who preach the audio book gospel to help pass the time on a treadmill or a long run. Between these inspiring women (who in my opinion, are obviously never wrong), as well as a slew of friends on Facebook constantly “liking” Audible, I finally decided I needed to give this fuddy-duddy innovation another try. For my first book, I chose Tina Fey’s Bossypants, as narrated by Tina Fey.

And you know what? It’s been marvelous. I’ve listened to it on my commute for the last two days, and once while I was exercising on a recumbent bike. This audio book has actually started to make me look forward to traffic!

This is a shocking revelation, I know.

But I have a few questions now.

  1. Is listening to an audio book “cheating”? I don’t mean for the purposes of my blog, because I’m totally counting them and donating a dollar for every one I finish. I mean in the larger sense – is listening to an audio book the same as reading a traditional book or is it a step closer to seeing the movie version? I suppose on the one hand the reader is still using his imagination to fill in the world of the book, but on the other hand, he isn’t required to devote total concentration and become immersed as he would reading a traditional book.
  2. Is the content of the book different based on the format? In Bossypants, Tina Fey regularly makes jokes that are audio book specific, or that reference a bonus PDF that comes with the audio file. Is this common, and am I therefore missing out on other content that is traditional format specific?

I’m almost finished and a review is forthcoming. I’ve already got my next (March) audio book lined up, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), as narrated by Mindy Kaling. And some random guy.

I’d like to stick with more simple subject matters when listening to audio books: comedy, memoirs, beach reads, etc. Leave a comment with your favorite “brain candy” to help me pick my book for April!

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