Story Circles

This weekend I drove a lot to see AMom and her sister, Auntie, for Mother’s Day and (94th) Birthday respectively. I decided to take out an audio book from the library for the trip. Wow, did that make the boring old drive down the flat highway fly by. I think I’ll do that again. Problem is, 8 hours of driving is not enough to finish the audio book. Now I have to make time to listen to the other 5/9 of the book. Then there’s the question after I finish listening: Did I actually “read” that book or not? Do I list it in the books read file?

Last year I listened to some Story Circles (audio books on cd are story circles — didn’t you know?) and I counted one as a book read and listed it in “books read.” The others I didn’t count — mainly because they were radio theatre adaptations of books, not books that were read aloud. I did hesitate before counting the spy novel I listened to on a road trip. Why? you might ask. Because listening to an audio book is a different experience than reading a book.

Yes, listening to an audio book is a different experience than reading a book. How? you might ask. I’ll tell you.

1. Listening to an audio book is an auditory experience requiring only one sense. Reading a book takes at least two senses, sight and touch.

2. Listening to an audio book leaves you free to do other things — like drive a car or knit a sweater. Don’t try to drive while reading a book. I think reading makes knitting a little more difficult as well. Reading a book involves all of ones attention.

3. Listening to an audio book is an experience in time – you hear the story at the pace another person reads it to you. Reading a book is a more timeless experience.  You probably read silently more quickly than anyone can read aloud. You can read more quickly in some places, and more slowly in others.

4. Listening to an audio book is a sequentially ordered experience. You don’t have to read a book in order. You can read and re-read a paragraph. You can pause after a poignant scene and possibly go back to pick up a few lines again. You can skip ahead in a tedious bit. You can read the end, then go back to the middle.

I like reading a lot, and the experience of reading is, to me, more satisfying than the experience of listening to story circles. Story circles do make a long road trip fly by, though, and I think that I will certainly listen again while driving. What about you? Do you listen to audio books? Under what circumstances?



Filed under musings

2 responses to “Story Circles

  1. marknen

    I’m currently going through vol 1 of Mark Twain’s recently published massive 700+ pages edited autobiography on audio cd (20 of them!)

    As to the question of “Do I list it in the books read file?”, I personally answer “yes”.

    FIrst of all, it would seem silly that when I complete that Twain book in audio cd, after some 20-30 hours of listening, to say “Oh, I better go to the library and get that it paper so I can finish it”. But that emotional argument aside, let me proceed to some other reasons…

    1. To me, the essence of reading is not holding a book, or running ones eyes across the pages, etc. Yes, those are delightful parts of reading, But not the essence. The essence, in my mind, are the words. Books are about words. If you get those words in your head, that’s strikes right at the essence of what reading is all about. You can get rid of almost anything else and it is still a book, but not the words (I guess unless it is a picture book :>)

    2. Connected to the previous point, who has more truly “read” a book? Let’s say Huckleberry Finn. The person who has held it in his hands and skimmed through every single word deliberately (but only understands German and therefore has not comprehended it),…… or the person who has listened to it as an audio book, understands English, and contemplates it and understands its import and its meaning? I think that shows what is the true core of reading… Paper, covers, typeset are great but not the core.

    (II generally don’t call the process of listening to audio books “reading”, but I will mark them as “read” since I have digested their content.)

    3. People who object to what I’m saying in this comment, who are attached to the covers, the pages, the typeset (which I delight in too) would then have to concede that editions are so varied that they tend to radically change those “experiences” that can’t be experienced in an audio book anyways. Anyone who collects classical literature knows that the edition or publisher or physical features can make such a radical difference in how one perceives the book and how one reads it. So to the purist you can’t really say you’ve “read” the same book as else until you confirm those details of paper, typeset, etc. are the same as the other person.

    Given equal opportunity and availability, I would gladly choose a paper book over the equivalent audio book. That said, I hope I helped you be more bold to list audio books as read 🙂

  2. marknen

    In terms of whether an audio book is a book…. I think the easiest way I’ve thought of to explain it is…… the core of a book that transcends cover styles, typesets, page styles is somewhere out there. When we refer to Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, we are not referring to any of those features (otherwise we could not both say we have that book).

    Referring to a book title is more of an abstract notion, especially in cases where there is a plethora of editions. It references the content of the book, which I would argue persists in the audio book (though stripped of some of the physical forms existent in the various editions)

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