It goes without saying that I love books. I like the way they look, the way they feel in my hands, even the way they smell. (I’m still waiting for someone to develop a Barnes & Noble air freshener!) Reading books helps me escape my world, envision new places, and transform into other people. I also love reading blogs and web pages and magazine articles and poetry. But books are still my favorite.
I also harbored this romantic notion that I preferred highbrow literary fiction (think Dickens, Austen, and Hemingway). Convinced myself that I enjoyed immersing myself in sophisticated vocabulary and complicated plot lines and intertwining themes. But then I came across several of those online lists outlining “The 25 Most Influential Books In History” or “The 50 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives”…and then discovered that I hadn’t actually read that many.
Turns out, I prefer plain old contemporary fiction. I gravitate towards “women’s lit” or “book club fiction” (whatever the hell that means). In short, I prefer books that explore themes about love and/or friendship and/or life in general. Oh, and it should have at least the promise of a happy ending.
Lately, though, I’ve received quite a few book recommendations that fall under the historical fiction umbrella. My first foray into historical fiction goes way back to my teenage years, when my dad convinced me to read several books in The Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes, and I have to admit, I loved them! Finally, a way to learn history that didn’t bore me to tears! Even so, that didn’t exactly kick off a lifelong love of historical fiction. It continues to be a “fringe genre” for me.
But in recent years, I have dabbled a bit more than usual, having enjoyed delving into several historical fiction novels, including The Woman In The Photo, Orphan Train, and, most recently, All The Light We Cannot See.
It is this last book that I refer to in my title above. You see, I didn’t actually READ All The Light We Cannot See. I listened to it in the audiobook version. This Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, written by Anthony Doerr, was published in 2014 and has spent more than 2-1/2 years on The New York Times best-seller list. I finally got around to “reading” it about two months ago.
And I have to tell you that, if I tried to read the book version of this particular novel, I doubt I would have finished it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book, I did! I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. The novel centers on two young people with very different stories—a blind girl from France who lives with her dad and a German orphan who ends up as a soldier in Hitler’s army. The story is told from alternating points-of-view as well as some time shifts, which was a bit confusing in the audio version, I have to admit. But the author creates some beautiful imagery while providing some historical tie-ins with his plot. I definitely recommend the book, no matter which version you prefer.
All that being said, there were several compelling reasons why the audiobook option of All The Light We Cannot See was a good one for me:
I could listen while doing other things.
Listening to someone narrate a book can be done while doing other activities, such as driving home from work, cooking dinner, even walking the dog! In fact, listening to a book makes those activities more enjoyable! And Zoe appreciated a little extra sniffing time.
The novel is 544 pages long.
That’s a long book, and I don’t always have hours and hours to devote to sitting on the couch reading (see #1).
A lot of the names in this novel are French and/or German.
Too much stress to pronounce them correctly in my head. And I don’t speak French. Or German.
The novel is historical fiction.
As I mentioned previously, it’s not my favorite genre. Having the narrator keep reading, especially when I might’ve gotten distracted reading the paper version and put the book down, moves the story along to a point where I am interested again.
The novel contains a lot of lavish description.
Seeing and deciphering the words on paper uses more of my brain than just listening, so having the words read aloud frees my mind to visualize Doerr’s bounteous narrative. Call me lazy…I call it “cognizant cinematography.”
So how many fellow audiobook “readers” are out there? I know many of you might think this is cheating, but I disagree. Listening offers the freedom to enjoy books that I normally wouldn’t have time for. And current technology makes this super easy, for sure.
Don’t just take my word for it. Google that shit and you’ll find plenty of bloggers who agree with me. Here are just a few…click on them for the link:
5 Reasons It’s Okay to Love Audiobooks (blog by a young adult)
Why I Love Audiobooks (blog by a best-selling author)
Readers Share Their Love of Audiobooks (post on Goodreads)
Top 10 Reasons We Love Audiobooks (a mom trying to raise readers)
Benefits of Audiobooks For All Readers (more reasons that help everyone)
So what do you think? Are you a proud audiobook “reader” or are you afraid to shout it from the rooftops? Never tried it? Not interested? I fought it as well for a lot of years because I didn’t think it was “real” reading. But now I am expanding my horizons as a reader (as stated so nicely by the young adult blogger in the first link above). Allowing myself to explore books I probably wouldn’t take the time to read. Enjoying more books and passing the time in creative ways. Stretching my imagination.
Isn’t that what books are all about?!