Friday, April 17, 2009

Shameful Reading Habits?

Sometimes I wonder if my reading habits are degrading to the point of being shameful. No, I'm not referring to reading Harry Potter. I already confessed that. I wasn't so much thinking of what I'm reading as the way I'm reading.

A member of my family who lives far, far away (and who reads this blog, so she'll know who she is) was in town a couple of weeks ago. She asked me my secret for reading so fast, because I seem to be getting through more books lately than I used to. I told her the truth: audio books. She laughed and said she was disappointed in me; she thought I was "actually reading."

She was teasing, of course, but I'd been wondering the same thing. If you listen to a book, is it the same as reading it? It really is a different experience, but at the same time, you're actually digesting all the words. It's not like watching a movie, where the original book has been totally reinterpreted into a new form. Also, I figure that hearing books read out loud was the norm in the days before television. Read any Jane Austen novel (or even listen to one; you can find the audio versions in any library) and you'll see the family sitting together of an evening with one of the group reading out loud while some of the others sew or knit.

Which brings me to the real crux of my audio book addiction. I've gotten so used to multi-tasking that I feel guilty if I'm not doing at least two things at one time. Sitting down and reading a print book is one thing. Only one thing! With an audio book I can drive, listen to the story, eat my lunch, and run errands. Four things! I download a book to my iPod, attach it to my belt, and buzz around the house cooking and doing laundry all at the same time. When I'm feeling decadent and lazy, I fire up a book and knit or do beading while I listen, just like those ladies in a Jane Austen novel.

Of course, not all the books I want to read are available in audio form. I guess that's a good thing, or I might stop reading altogether. What's happening now, though, is that the print books are stacking up on a shelf waiting for me to have a reading vacation.

On the plus side, I have managed to get through a lot of books in audio form that I'd been meaning to read for years. I did the entire Narnia series in about six weeks, and FINALLY read The Fellowship of the Ring. Listened to it, I mean. Singing and elvish poetry and all.

On the other hand...I mentioned more than one shameful reading habit, so I have to admit I've also been listening to a lot of books that I had already read. I love re-reading good books. I originally read the Mitford books by Jan Karon in print but discovered that the audio versions have a wonderful narrator with just the right voice. He can sound homey and sophisticated for Father Tim or earthy for Uncle Billy. So I've been going through that whole series again. The print books I have read lately have mostly been re-reads. Doesn't this defeat my whole purpose of not wasting time? I don't appear to be accomplishing anything new, although I do find myself being able to pay more attention to the writing style the second or third time around. That's useful, right?

So am I all alone in this, or does anyone else out there have non-edifying reading habits?


  1. Okay, I'll be the first one to come to the altar and confess. I read too fast. Now, some people may not see that as a problem, but it can be.

    1) It's hard to get my money's worth from books that way.
    2)I don't savor the sound and flavor of the words as my mind wraps its tongue around them.
    3) Sometimes I can't tell you the names of the main characters! I recognize them when I see them in print, but can't just spit them out.

    As a writer, I don't want people to treat my potential books that way. I'm retraining myself to slow down and read every word, hearing it in my brain as I do. And I can even tell you (without looking!) that in the book I was reading before bed last night, the heroine's name is Alex!

  2. I spent an hour reading this morning when I should have cleaned up the kitchen. :)

    Before our seven-month-old was born, I was starting to do the whole audio book thing, but I'm limited now because I need to hear him if he wakes up. Maybe in a couple years I'll get back into the audio book thing.

  3. I'll confess. I've never listened to an audio book! It doesn't seem practical for me. I share the house with too many people, I guess, and I don't take long trips alone.

    I do like to read slow and savor a book. However, if it's a book I'm not enjoying, I will skim it, or even skip to the end and see how it turns out. :-) Those are my confessions.

  4. Yay! I am getting updates in my email now :) After reading your entry here Kristi, I have to say that I think I'll give audio books a try. There are just TOO many books in the world that I want to read and there's no way for me to give undivided attention to each. Why not listen to them? It improves listening skills and frees one up to do other things :) There is so much to appreciate about either of the two!