Friday, June 5, 2009

Audio Books

I picked up The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell as a 6 CD audio book. I only listen to audio books on long solo car trips with much time and Interstate space to fill.

Sarah Vowell is a frequent contributer to NPR programs. I have heard her several times on This American Life and I love her voice (she voiced Violet in the Pixar animated film The Incredibles). Among other things, she writes about history with a twist, and I had just heard her read a great piece on This American Life about General Lafayette's triumphant return to America in 1824.

The Wordy Shipmates is a commentary and non-fiction account of the pilgrims and the puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the mid 17th century. I was looking forward to listening to this because she is very funny and very observant and again, she has this great reading voice and the CD's promised to bring in guest actors to read the parts of the pilgrims. (If you are marginally familiar with pop culture and look at the CD jacket you'll note an impressive array of guest readers.)

Well, I have to admit, it was not the most rousing work to listen to on a long car trip. My attention kept wandering. Yes, she used some of her characteristic humor, but I do not think she could decide if she wanted to book to be a funny piece that was a comment on history and the religious underpinnings of our nation or a serious historical work that happened to have some snarky comments injected in the narrative. As an audio book, it did not hold my interest for the 12 plus hours of driving I had to do.

Generally, I think that listening to a story and reading a story are different adventures in understanding a narrative so don't let me discourage you from exploring this work and others by her. She really is a quite astute observer of life and interpreter of history. Check out This American Life to listen to one of her many audio stories.

Do you have a favorite Audio book? Do you prefer listening or reading yourself?


Hootie said...

I love reading myself. BUT, I enjoy being read to as well! I don't really like being read to for long periods of time, but I do listen almost daily to Dick Estelle, The Radio Reader weekdays on our PBS radio station, WFIU, at 11:30am. I consider it just a half hour of pampering the queen of the household.

I enjoy most of the books Dick Estelle picks. I also like hearing him read dialogue and when he does a girls voice. It always makes me smile - just because!

Two books ago he read a story by John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me. It was called The Longest Trip Home. It touched me so much I had to e-mail the author and tell him how much I was enjoying listening to his book. :)

K.T. said...

When I commuted from Bloomington to Indy during my first year at Lilly, I listened to a lot of audio books. It was the only thing that would actually keep me awake on the drive. I can't listen when I'm not in the car, there is too much else to do and I don't pay attention.

I really liked listening to the Sue Grafton series as read by Judy Kaye. Judy Kaye has a great reader and I passed on books to a co-worker who developed an audio "crush" on her. Another memorable one I listened to was "Hannibal", mainly because it scared the mess out of me.

I prefer to read myself, but on car trips the audio book can save me.

Steph said...

I like them both equally well, but for different purposes, as you've said. I think the reader has a large influence over the success of the book on tape, too.