Listening to read

This blog post is from Louise, a library assistant at Morley library.

As Leeds Libraries moved across to Borrowbox for Ebooks and Audiobooks, I downloaded the app onto my iPhone to get a feel for it, to have a good look about it so that I could better understand how it works. The app took moments to appear on my home screen and after a short search for my library card, I was in. Have you used it yet? I’ve been really impressed with the service so far, it’s clear to look at, easy to use and it’s sparked a new direction for my reading.

Perhaps like me you’ve never listened to Audiobooks before? Been told they were just for old people or children? You might be surprised at how varied the genres are, from romance, to comedy, thriller, drama, plenty of non-fiction too, biography and languages. I planned to listen to at least one to see how it worked and was very pleased to find it was even better than I had expected.

Some audiobooks I’ve listened to recently:

Breakfast at TiffanysBreakfast At Tiffany’s- Truman Capote, read by Michael C Hall

I’ve see the film, and had the paperback on my shelf for as long as I can remember but for some reason I’ve never got around to reading it. At 2hrs 49 in duration it won’t take over your life but will certainly make an impact on your heart. Michael C Hall, you may know, is the actor who plays Dexter in the TV thriller of the same name. It turns out (and something that borrowers often tell us) that the reader is pretty crucial to whether you will click with an audiobook or not. For this reason the preview option listed next to every audiobook is fantastic, giving you a small sample so that should the reader do something annoying with his intonation, rolling his rrrrrrrrrr’s or similar, you can try another. No fear of not enjoying Michael’s rendering of this classic, I found out later that this edition was especially recorded by Audible for release on Valentine’s Day in 2014.
I had thought that listening would be less of an experience than reading, more of a passive than an active pursuit. But a good writer engages so fully with your senses that the language itself finds its way to you. You might see it as an extra layering or texture in the story. I am so glad to have read this, I hope you’ll try it too.

Alias GraceAlias Grace- Margaret Atwood , read by Sarah Gadon

Not long after reeling from the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale I am on a bit of a Margaret Atwood kick, and really enjoying discovering more of her writing. Alias Grace is a a slow burning work of historical fiction, based on, true events of the 1843 murders of Canadians Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. Grace Marks a young, well-mannered serving maid was convicted of their murders along with James McDermott the Stable hand. In the fashionable society of the time Grace Marks became a thing of fascination, infamous for her title of Murderess.
“Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word – musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.”
Although incarcerated, Grace is hired out as a domestic servant for the governor of the penitentiary and becomes a regular feature of the Governor’s wife’s circle, an object to be lamented and discussed. A committee of Methodist ladies and gentlemen, believing her innocent are working steadily to have her released. They hire a young Psychiatrist, Doctor Simon Jordan to interview Grace, to study her story and to try to find out what happened that fateful day. You know with Atwood that you are getting a feisty heroine who is more than she seems. Can’t recommend this enough to fans of Handmaids tale.

Harry Potter PhilosophersHarry Potter and the Philosophers Stone- JK Rowling, read by Stephen Fry

So I’m in that age group that neither grew up with these books, nor was caught up in the Potter hysteria when they were released. But I do have children who have read and loved these books time and time again. I thought it was high time I gave it a go. I had to wait a little while to listen to this as its perennially popular, but it was as easy as clicking reserve and waiting for an email to arrive. I can hand on heart say I would never have picked up a copy of this book, it’s enormous, and there are too many other great things always to be read but I SO enjoyed listening to it that I intend to listen to the whole series in time. Stephen Fry is just perfect as reader and it’s such a treat to curl up in a chair and listen to him. This would be fantastic to listen together with friends or family, a great story to share.

Carnegies MaidCarnegie’s Maid- Marie Benedict, read by Alana Kerr Collins

Another Historical fiction, that plots the life of a serving maid Clara Kelley to the Pittsburgh family home of industry tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. I was drawn to this as the library I work in was one of those opened as a beneficiary of funds from Carnegie. Clara Kelley is sent to America from her poverty stricken home in Ireland as her farming families’ last hope. After a dreadful voyage in the belly of a ship, during which many of her fellow passengers are wiped out with illness or weakness from starvation, in a moment of luck she is offered a position shortly after stepping onto the dock. I found the description of this time period fascinating, in the 1860’s industry was booming, Clara having left green land finds the new world is dark and soot laden. Besides proving a detailed account of the life of a servant at that time, the customs and rituals there is a great insight into the friction between the new money of the industrialists and America’s oldest families. Andrew Carnegie is a fascinating character, an immigrant himself, determined, self-taught, and hard working, a man who drew a line and began to give and make better where he could. This is a fictionalised account of what may have softened his character later in life and extremely enjoyable.

Little WomenLittle Women- Louisa May Alcott, BBC Radio 4, full cast dramatisation

I chose this a pick me up during some very rainy afternoons travelling between branches. As a dramatisation you get a cast rather than the one reader, and a variety of sound effects and music in places. This is a wonderful, warm listen, and will have you crying on the bus. Just over two hours long it’s easy to finish in one sitting if you choose, and the story is so full of energy and feeling from start to finish. Re reading an old favourite is so comforting, I quite fancy looking up the film again.

Some things I’ve learned from listening along:
1. Don’t let anyone tell you that listening is ‘not as good as’ reading or doesn’t count.
2. The reader is everything, listen to a sample and check you can listen with ease.
3. Try something that you would find challenging or wouldn’t usually read, you’ll be surprised how listening can make the concepts clearer.
4. Listening is perfect for all those times when you’d like to be reading but can’t, in the car, on a noisy bus, washing up, walking to and from work or school, doing the housework, late at night when your eyes are too tired to read. See it as fitting in more reading time in addition to your books.
5. With BorrowBox and a Leeds library card all this is free. I researched a well known providers audio service and found that for a fee I could have one audio book, (ONE!) a month. Enjoy the variety and try something new.

TattooistSome Audiobooks I’m waiting to read next are : The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Anna Karenina.

If you’re having any difficulty using this service from your device or need your pin number please contact your local library, we’d love to help you get started on all this great content.

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