Is Listening to a Book on Audio Ok?

IMG_3870Dear Literary Lady,
Someone in my book club only listens to books on audio. Is that ok?
—L.D., Phoenix, AZ

Dear L.D.,

I say props to them! How cool for you that someone in your book club can tell you what it’s like to experience the same novel aurally, rather than visually. I wonder how those experiences compare!

Here’s why it’s perfectly okay by me:

  • Most of us came by our love of books because someone read out loud to us as children. Whether it was bedtime stories, story hour at school, or the incomparable LeVar Burton, hearing a book narrated out loud sparked a life-long love of literature in us.  Maybe listening to a book on tape is just a return to these roots!
  • Some books may be more enjoyable when read out loud. James Joyce’s novels, for example, are full of wordplay, homonyms, and tongue twisters that beg to be spoken aloud. The poem “Jabberwocky,” from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is another example of a gem that must be read and heard aloud for full effect.
  • Listening to a book on audio is an admirable attempt to multitask and stay caught up with book club obligations. It can be hard to sit down and devote an hour to reading. Listening to a book on audio is a creative way to absorb literature when you’re swamped with other demands on your time.
  • Listening to a book on audio can help drown out voices and sounds that are otherwise distracting when reading. Maybe your book club colleague lives in an apartment where there’s an ungodly amount of noise and it’s impossible to concentrate on a novel. Listening to a book on audio drowns out the distractions, and let’s you sink into the story without overhearing your neighbors arguing.
  • Last but not least, what’s the harm? So what if someone in your book club reads with their ears and not their eyes? They’re still invested in the story and have valuable insights to add to your book club meetings (unlike that one girl who only comes for the wine and talks about her ex the whole time—you know who you are.) Learn from them what it’s like to listen to a story and whether it’s a different experience. Who knows, you might even be convinced to try books on audio yourself.

Love and paperbacks,
Literary Lady

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