Now That’s What Love Sounds Like Part 4

So for those just tuning in, this is a 4-part series on my love of audiobooks.  You can catch up by checking out Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

Voices Among the Stars

Audiobooks changed me and when I say I have a deep love of audiobooks, it means I worry about a time when I may lose my hearing (C’mon science, forget jet-packs, cures for hearing loss are my priority).  It means I am almost never without an audiobook.  I have them on my phone, on my iPod (which comes with me almost as much as my phone), on my computers, on my tablet, and in my car.  I spend more hours listening to audiobooks in a week than I do watching screens, twiddling away on social media, or any other single activity, with the exception of sleep, probably.

The thing is, by the time I found Adams in audiobook form, I had already attempted suicide and even in finding Adams, I wasn’t out of the danger yet.  I was in my own teenage black hole of despair, anger, self-harm, and depression—a cliché for sure, but still one that felt very real to the 16-year old me.  I needed to find an escape or way out from my own self and the harm I was inflicting.  Adams’ voice opened the door and other audiobooks carried me through to the other side to safety and prosperity.  That may seem strange and to be fair, other factors also helped, but audiobooks became a companion in my life at a time when I needed to hear other voices; when I needed to be exposed to adventures, ideas, and new ways of seeing things.

In the early days, at least where I lived, what was available in audio was limited.  It was before the days of Audible and the near limitless possibility of audiobooks (never mind, nearly universal unabridged books).  The genres were few, and some were more abundant than others.  I know self-help was popular since the demographic for audiobooks was often geared towards professionals—not teenagers.  I know I listened to some of those, but I have no real recollection.  Instead, I more clearly recall authors like Steve Alten, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler.
Book cover to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

No audiobook drew me as much those from Adams’ Hitchhiker's series, but all audiobooks were opportunities to visit new places and experience new stories.  Keep in mind, my love of audiobooks did not come at a loss of physical books.  Since Star Wars and Sara Douglass, I have been an active reader.  In fact, I could spend the rest of my life reading books and I still wouldn’t make a sufficient dent in the never-ending stack of “to read” books.  But audiobooks provide me with more stories to enjoy that I wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise.  More importantly, audiobooks are an amazing medium of experiencing a story.

If successful, the author has created an amazing textual work, be it fiction or nonfiction. The author has allowed for that work to be transformed from a textual experience into an oral one.  A narrator (sometimes, the author but not always and that’s often for the better) picks up those words, gets close with a microphone and breathes life into the words, animating them and imbuing them with emphasis, tone, accent, and cadence.  The narrator changes up voices and pace and responds to the beats of the story.  All of which is captured and transformed in order for it to be released into my speakers or headphones.  Though time and space stand between author, narrator, and me, the listener, the second I presses play, I am now in a very intimate space of having one artist perform the work of another—from the author’s hands to the narrator’s mouth to my ears.  It is storytelling in a way that our ancestors could not imagine but which would resonate with them deeply.  It is primal, and it is moving.

The hours I spent listening kept my mind occupied and away from the other things I could be thinking and obsessing about.  They also showed me other things in the world, much more challenging things than I would likely ever see with my middle-class, white, heteronormative upbringing.  They framed new ideas for me and helped me to see my problems in different lights.  They showed me there was indeed a galaxy to explore out there.

My love of audiobooks continues to this day.  While I continued to listen to audiobooks (thousands at this point), I also managed to do more with them.  I eventually got the opportunity to review them for several magazines (Library Journal, Audiofile Magazine, Publishers Weekly) and websites (CurledUp.com and BookLoons.com).  I even became a judge for the Audies, the audiobook industry’s prestigious awards for the best productions of a given year.  I have even gotten the pleasure of interview more than two-dozen audiobook narrators over the years, allowing me to geek out and ask all the nerdy questions I could ever imagine.

I cannot imagine my life without audiobooks.  This profound for the written word in motion stemmed from an offhand encounter with Douglas Adams that was not remedied until he spoke his words into my ears.  And when I finally understood what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was telling me, I was ready to grab my towel and travel the stars.





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