Saturday, May 05, 2007

Recorded Book Recommendations

How does a busy mom have time for reading? My secret is: recorded books! I probably do half my reading in audio form--and have done ever since my commuting days before kids. Now, it's while I make dinner, or fold laundry, or clean up the kitchen at night, or run errands by myself (since I homeschool and have older kids I can leave the littles home with).

I borrow tapes and CD's from the library. In fact, I usually have a book on CD going in the kitchen, and one on tape going in the car (since my van has no CD player). I may have to renew them several times, but eventually, I get through them! I prefer books on tape, because you don't lose your place if you need to pop them out and change players, or if someone unplugs your kitchen boombox to plug in another appliance. Also, although tapes occasionally have problems, it's more common to get a scratched CD that skips annoyingly. But not everything is available on tape anymore...sigh.

The best recorded book readers, in my opinion, are with Recorded Books, Incorporated. If you're at your library, overwhelmed by the choices, you can't go wrong with them! You have got to hear their reader do Jeeves and Wooster. Nothing compares--not the PBS productions, not reading them to yourself--to hearing Bertie himself, I swear. Their reader of the unabridged Lord of the Rings trilogy gives Tolkien and Shakespeare readings for a living; he actually sings all the hobbits', elves', and Ents' songs, to tunes that are most appropriate for the species and the mood of the song. It's an amazing performance. Thrifty as I am, I actually bought these (on tape) for our family. (I bought this and this too.)

Another gem that is better listened to than read is John Cleese's reading of The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. He interprets the devils' letters with all of the comedy and gravity that I believe Lewis intended. It may be hard to get--it's out of print and my library doesn't have it, but they are always able to borrow it through interlibrary loan. (I finally bought it too, secondhand.)

In general, I like to listen to mysteries, classics and popular books that I would never have time to sit down and read. I've listened to the Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries this way, as well as Dick Francis' mysteries--they're always tied to horse racing in some way--and though I haven't been horse-crazy since elementary school, I still enjoy a good recorded horse story, like Seabiscuit or the lesser-known, almost-as-good Native Dancer. Another mystery series I've enjoyed in the past, partly because Recorded Books, Inc, recorded them and because my library has lots of them, is The Cat Who... series. They're light and entertaining. (They've been declining in quality recently, though--look for the older ones.)

Finally, don't forget about the children's recorded book section. The kids and I used to listen to lots of children's classics this way. Now the teenagers usually nix this idea in favor of music, but I still haunt that section in the library. I listen to children's books to revisit old friends, to decide whether I want to assign a book to my kids for school, or just to read what they're reading. I've enjoyed all the Harry Potter books this way, and they would always let me put those on in the car!

I'm currently listening to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (on CD, in the kitchen) and Bill Brysons's A Walk in the Woods (on tape, in the van). The former is one of those classics I never got around to reading--it is wonderful, by the way--and the latter is an example of a book I'd never give that much time to, if I were reading it with my own eyes--but it's been enjoyable while I've been running errands.

I've had A Tree Grows for nearly 8 weeks now and have one CD to go, so you see that I'm grabbing minutes here and there, not hours on end. But this practice has enriched my life, one moment at a time--one book at a time!


Kelly said...

I'm a fan too! I'm currently listening to "The Code of the Woosters" and laughing myself around the house, my town and work.

I couldn't live without audio books!

Carol in Oregon said...

You are singing my song. I love to listen to books. It makes jobs like ironing or cleaning toilets so much more fun! Our library's collection of recorded books grows and grows, much faster than books in print.

Anonymous said...

We have enjoyed Tim Curry reading the Series of Unfortunate Events. (The ones read by the author are not so great.) Much more enjoyable than reading them aloud. Also, we like Cherry Jones reading Kate DiCamillo's books, and Stockard Channing reading the Ramona the Pest books.
Annie in CO