This last spring, I attempted to complete a reading challenge that required me to read at least 5 books a week. At the same time, I realized that I was burnt out on music. I didn’t want to listen to the radio; I was sick of all of my cds. A solution to both issues seemed to lie in the audiobook. Instead of listening to music when I drove, cooked, showered, etc., I could just keep reading! So, I went to the library, checked out Julie and Julia on audiobook, uploaded it to iTunes, and began my listening-to-books adventures.

Four audiobooks later, I have come to a conclusion I had discovered long ago- I’m not an auditory person. I spaced out in school when the teacher droned on until I learned how to take notes while he/she lectured. I can’t listen to NPR because I can’t stay focused upon what they are saying. My husband gets mad at me because I’m distant on the phone–it’s not that he’s boring, it’s not that I’m not trying to listen, I just can’t focus on the sounds.

As a teacher, I try to meet all of my students’ different modes of learning. Some are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are kinesthetic learners. I am decidedly a visual learner. Why I ignored that, I don’t know.

Also, let’s face it- there is a certain satisfaction that comes from holding a book in your hands, smelling its smells (ahh that distinct library smell…), ruminating over the printed text. I agree with Priya (Tabula Rasa) in her post “Audiobooks vs. ‘The Real Thing'”, who states on the subject, “I like the process that goes on in my head when I read – letting the words sink in, hearing them in my own voice inside my head.” Furthermore, she illuminates the difference in hearing a book read to you as opposed to reading it yourself:

When someone reads aloud to you, they are interpreting the lines in their own style. They might not pause just right or chuckle at the right time. As a reader I like the freedom the author gives me in a book; the chance to use my own imagination. I’d rather not have a narrator steal that from me.

This is never more clear than when you have a bad narrator, a narrator who actually gets in the way of the text. I listened to On the Road, read by Matt Dillon, and it was awful! No change in tone when reading, slow as molasses, and all I could picture was Dallas Winston from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders movie, somehow alive and traveling with his buddies across the country. I complained to my husband and he responded with “What did you expect? It’s Matt Dillon! He’s always the same!” Yeah, I guess so, but I like Matt Dillon. Just not as a narrator.

Not all audiobooks are bad for me. I liked Nightmares and Dreamscapes (review here) and Young Goodman Brown. Yet, there’s a connection there: short stories. Apparently, I can handle short stories. I’m guessing it’s because they are just short enough that if I space out I can simply hit the back button, no sweat.

So, if I’m listening to an audiobook, it will be a set of short stories. Just not ones narrated by Matt Dillon!