One day while visiting a city library I browsed through their discards to see if I wanted anything for my own collection. That day I bought my first audio books.
No, technically that’s not true. I have many, many personal development books and presentations on cassette tapes. Cassette tapes. They may as well be eight tracks. Someday I may figure out a way to convert this investment of hundreds of dollars to CDs. Until then, I keep them. If I wanted to listen to them at home I’m sure we’ve got a cassette player kicking around somewhere.
However, my preferred listening time is when I’m driving. And for that reason I give any books on cassettes a wide berth. I also have never paid full retail. Naturally, this has limited my choices to what I find at second hand stores and library clearance bins. It reminds me of Forrest Gump’s pronouncement that “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Selection may vary.
This crapshoot of choice has broadened my horizons, though I haven’t been able to start the one about a werewolf. Others, like a James Patterson one, felt like someone was poking my eardrum. The formulaic writing and inadequacy of his word choices felt like an insult.
On the up side, the randomness of buying what someone else has discarded has introduced me to authors like Tami Hoag who I’d never experienced before.
There is a decided difference between reading a book and listening to one. Granted, it’s just as easy to be distracted using either format. With the audio books I shut it off during city driving. I need undivided focus for both the driving and the listening. With a book in hand, it’s easy to glaze over the boring parts or lose focus depending on what’s happening in the room or how tired one is.
I’ve learned that, while I always considered myself a visual person, I am captivated by beautifully lyrical words well performed. Recently I finished Frank McCourt’s Tis, read by the author. I laughed out loud at his self-effacing, honest portrayal of his own naiveté. Sidney Poitier’s memoir Measure of a Man featured his silky, sexy voice.
I’ve found some gems that warrant re-listening: The Secret Life of Bees, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, The Tin Roof Blowdown, A Cup of Friendship, The Alchemist. I found Joan Didion’s The Magical Year of Thinking a tough slog on paper, yet loved it on CD. Surely the change was in me, not the memoir itself.
Sometimes, I try to kill two birds with one stone: be entertained and learn. I loved Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Romancing the Ordinary, Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You, Deepak Chopra’s Grow Younger, Live Longer, Howard Dully’s My Lobotomy. Thrillers provide outright escapism.
Soon I’m gonna need a cross Canada road trip for Ayn Rand’s 50 CDs unabridged Atlas Shrugged, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.