I confess that I’ve not listened to an audio book since I listened to an album-length version of The Hobbit that we had when I was a little kid. Roger Ebert makes me think I’ve been missing out. This is quite an endorsement:
I’ve been a lifelong reader. My love for physical books is old and deep. I also love audiobooks, and have listened to probably 300 of them. Sometimes they stay with me better than the printed ones. I avoid abridgments in most cases, and listened to Simon Callow read all 12 novels in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time twice. Every word. It became part of my experience. Now I’m re-reading it in print, and I can hear the voices.
I tried to read Patrick Suskind’s Perfume and never really got into it. Then I listened to Sean Barrett reading it, and it was so enthralling that if it was playing in the car I’d leave the engine idling for half an hour in the alley while an chapter finished. I started James Joyce’s Ulysses several times and always bogged down. After I heard it performed by Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan, I got it. It’s all voices. Hearing them from readers who knew such people, I could finally hear them in my mind.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys is so long I certainly would never have read it, although I own two hardbound editions. I get slowed down by the period spelling and language use, and the unfamiliar expressions. I listened to Kenneth Branagh’s performance, and it was like being confided in by a naughty, delightful friend. Pepys is human, flawed, sinful, determined to improve. A gossip. A statesman. A rogue. He joins the crowd in my mind.
That makes me want to seek out some audio books.