Monday, February 4, 2013

The Exciting World of Audiobooks

Working in a bookstore, I have hundreds of books pass through my hands every week. Many look interesting, and some make it to my To Read List. It may not sound like much, but that's a lot of books, and the list is very, very long. The list gets longer also through my boyfriend who keeps picking me up books at used book sales and brings over books from his personal collection that he thinks I'd enjoy. How am I to get through all of these books?? I work two jobs six days a week and the seventh day is reserved for Game Night. Aside from a few minutes before bedtime, I don't have a lot of me time. Sometimes, if a book is really good, and I want to get through it, I'll stay up until 4am reading, sleeping until 11am, only to rush around to get ready for work the next day and feel sick and sleepy. 

Some friends have recently supplied a helpful suggestion that, so far, is working out very well! Audiobooks.   I spend up to an hour driving everyday to and from work, and I have both iPod access and a CD players installed in my car. I really should have considered this sooner. When I was in high school and early college, I worked at a library and sometimes listened to audiobooks while I pushed a cart around the library, putting books away, since they let us wear headphones to make the pretty menial tasks a little easier to bear. (It honestly didn't bother me much. I love libraries.) 

After all the read-along books on cassette and record - yes, I had records as a kid - the first audiobook I listened to was Taming the Star Runner by S. E. Hinton. It was sort of funny listening to a book. The way I pictured things in my head was different than reading, probably because there weren't any words in front of my eyes to get in the way. Recalling scenes later occurred in pictures in my head rather than appearing as words on the page. It has always been easier for me to remember things that have been written down, or printed, so this was a unique experience for me. 

The first audiobook I chose this time around was America the Book (the Audiobook) by the staff at the Daily Show with Jon Stewert on Comedy Central. I'd been meaning to read it since it came out, I just never got around to it. I didn't realize at first that it was abridged, but I decided it was all right. I finished it on my way to work, then on my trip to Kalamazoo for my brother's surprise birthday party. Having something different to listen to in the car on such a long, and too familiar drive was wonderful. It was also fun to listen to Jon Stewert reading the text (I have had a crush on Jon Stewert since he had his show on Mtv), and Stephen Colbert doing the end-chapter activities. Also, Samantha Bee's supplemental "how we do it in Canada" segments were cute. I love Samantha Bee, too.

When returning America the Book to the library, I had just enough time to grab another audiobook before running off through a rainstorm to work. The selection at the downtown library branch, however, is far more extensive than it is at the much littler branch I usually go to, and I felt at a loss. "Maybe they have some French language CDs for the upcoming trip to Montreal," I wondered. If they did, they did not keep them with the audiobooks, and I didn't have time to hunt them down. I tried to remember what all the Dewey Decimals meant as I perused the shelves so I could narrow in on a particular section that might interest me, then a title jumped out at me. 

It was a book I had seen on display at Crazy Wisdom and had mentally added to my To Read List. How perfect! I grabbed it. It is called Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. The audiobook is read by the author, Conor Grennan. Listening to the author read his own book is, I am convinced, the best way to go. He uses Nepali names that I would never get even close to correct on my own by just reading them. He also better imitates other people's voices and accents than a person who has never been to Nepal, and can convey exactly what sentiment he intended in the original writing. 

Some of the reviews I found on Goodreads say that Conor comes off as basically being a self-righteous ass, which does not come across in the audiobook at all. He is quite candid about being a clueless dolt when he first arrived, only wishing to have a story to impress the ladies he would one day meet at bars. He definitely made some remarks that he fully admits were pushy or not appropriate, but I don't think this made him a jerk. His struggles with the different ways that Nepal operates from America echoes sentiments I have heard other Americans abroad express. (I have the opposite problem. I struggle with the way America does things. Or doesn't, as the case may be.)

The story that Conor tells is intensely moving. I find myself often laughing out loud, cheering, or tearing up during his narration. I can't wait to get back in the car and hear more! And I regret having to turn it off to go inside, out of the cold. But not only am I enjoying the story, I am re-thinking my life. I miss traveling, and I want to do something good in the world. One my debts are paid off, could I do a stint abroad, too? I have a friend who is teaching English in Taiwan, and many friends have lived and worked in Japan, teaching English among other things. I've certainly had my own adventures, but life just leaves me feeling impatient lately because I know this isn't what I really want to be doing, it's just what I have to do to pay my bills. I find this profoundly depressing. 

They say the new year is the time to begin new things, pen new chapters in our lives, and I have started submitting stories again. I just need to do more! But like I said at the opening of this entry, I'm finding it difficult to find time to read, let alone pursue my other passions. There's no choice but to keep going. Maybe one day, through extremely hard work, I'll find happiness. 

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