My father became an avid “listener” of books at the end of his life as his eyesight gave out. The player and an endless supply of books on tape (in his category of choice) came to him free of charge thanks to an association for the blind in California. It was a lifesaver! My father liked to boast, “I’m a slow reader, but a fast listener.”
I’ve become an avid “listener” of books now as well. I listen to them while exercising, driving in the car, doing chores, and as I’m falling to sleep (see below).
Where to buy audiobooks
I mainly buy my books from Audible.com and listen to them on the Audible app on my iPhone. One nice thing about Audible.com is that you can return a book if you don’t like it, so I’ve become more experimental in my choices. (To return, go to the help menu on their website. It’s easy.) I’ve recently discovered AudioBooks.com and its app, and like it very much, as well.
Falling to sleep to an audiobook
I’ve become fond of listening to an audiobook while falling asleep. (I use a Bluetooth eyemask.) To listen to a book before sleeping, set the app to turn off after a period of time. I usually choose 30 minutes. Ideally, I will fall asleep before it clicks off. Often, the next day, I will backtrack back to a point I remember.
For falling to sleep, it’s important to choose a book that isn’t too dramatic and that has a soothing narration. For me, it’s best to choose books I’m already familiar with.
The most popular audiobook of the year?
No surprise here: it was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale.
My personal top ten audiobooks
All these are great books, but listening to an audiobook edition adds another dimension of pleasure to the experience. Some I end up buying in print as well because I want to savour the book on a sentence-by-sentence level. I also like being able to share a book I adore with friends.
I listened to dozens of audiobooks this year, and it was difficult to cull it down to only 10. Here they are, not in any particular order:
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, narrated by the author.
This is my current fave to listen to while falling asleep and the first from AudioBooks.com I’ve ordered. I’ve read the book once in print and once as a Kindle e-book, so it doesn’t matter if I gap out now and then. Macdonald has a wonderful voice.
All Things Consoled; a daughter’s memoir by Elizabeth Hay, narrated by the author.
I adore this memoir about Hay dealing with her ageing parents, and her voice is low and soothing. It’s a good one to fall to sleep to, but you might want to listen to it twice, in order to catch every word. Hay is a wonderful writer.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author.
Frank, honest and inspiring. This is a good falling-asleep book, but you’ll want to repeat chapters you missed.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar, narrated by Juliet Stevenson,
I love most any book narrated by the actor Juliet Stevenson; her voice is golden! This is a knock-out historical novel (with just a little fantasy). It’s one of the ones I ended up ordering in print, as well, because I loved it so much.
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
This mystery novel of sexual obsession is unusual for Juliet Stevenson — and me. Not recommended for sleeping, however!
Calypso by David Sedaris, narrated by the author.
I’m a Sedaris fan, and I think Calypso is his best yet. He’s a charming reader.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, narrated by Cathleen McCarron.
Room With a View by E. M. Forster, narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
I listened to this twice and plan to listen to it again. It’s a beautiful novel and an excellent audio edition for falling asleep.
Note: there are a number of audio editions of this classic. Be sure to choose the one narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, narrated by Juliet Steveson.
Another Juliet Stevenson recommendation! Henry James is certainly the last author whose work I would describe as compelling or gripping, but this novel is both. I could finally understand why it’s considered a masterpiece.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, narrated by the author.
I adored this memoir about the science life — and learned a lot into the bargain. Eccentric, moving, extremely well-written. The author is an excellent narrator.
Happy listening! What were your favourite audiobooks this year?
I’ve been visually challenged this summer. Two cataract surgeries have made reading difficult. That’s a problem for a writer! For a time I felt like Mr. Magoo.
Having worn glasses for over 50 years, it felt strange not to be wearing them. Plus, there was this thing called vanity: frankly, I look better in glasses. I had a reading/speech on The Game of Hope to give to a fairly large crowd, so (confession) I ordered plain $15 frames on Amazon, just for the “look” of them.
Ah, that was better! I felt more like myself.
I printed out my reading in a large font so that I could read it and highlighted dialogue.
(I bend the corners of the pages to make them easier to turn.)
As a visually challenged writer, I’ve been exploring using dictation when writing on a computer. I’m doing this now, in fact. Que padre!
Fortunately (or not), I’m not the sort of person to throw things out, so I went through a drawer of old eyeglasses and found a pair that made light reading and computer work more manageable.
Even so, reading is a strain, so I’ve been “reading” audible editions like crazy — and loving them. I will be putting up a post about a number of outstanding titles soon.
All in all, these adjustments have led to interesting discoveries. Colors are so much more vivid now. The blues! I might feel like Mr. Magoo when it comes to reading, but I’m more like Alice in Wonderland in this beautiful, many-hued world.
I’m writing this in Toronto, a long way from home. Tomorrow I have a full schedule of two interviews, a book store signing, and then, in the evening, a book launch of The Game of Hope.
I sent off the final corrections to The Game of Hope last October, and since then I’ve been researching and outlining my next YA novel about a young falconer in Elizabethan England. There are no raptors in The Game of Hope, so I thought it time to reacquaint myself fully with Hortense’s world before having to answer questions about it.
Fortunately, I was able to download the audio edition of The Game of Hope this morning, and on the long drive down to Toronto today, I listened to it. And was charmed! Say hey! I think it’s quite a good story, and the narration by Janick Hebert is simply delightful.
Canadians can now get the audio edition of The Game of Hope on Audible, Kobo, Google Play or on Overdrive through your public library. On June 23, it will be available in the US.
I sincerely recommend it!
Anyone else out there still warmed by the glow of Harry and Megan? I have been!
This is my favorite photo of the pair in the open carriage. (It was snapped by Yui Mok, a photographer based in the UK, as their carriage went under an overpass.)
I initially intended to write this blog about an interesting article about writing historical fiction. However, “The Tourist, the Expat and the Native: A Traveler’s Approach to Crafting Historical Fiction,” by Mary Volmer deserves more than a passing reference. More on that anon…
For now, Hortense is about to meet the man she loves, and — frankly! — I’m curious to hear what happens!
Toronto photo by Sidra Saeed on Unsplash.
Hilary Clinton’s HARD CHOICES was a game-changer for me. It’s going on my “Best of the Year” list.
Many dismiss this book as campaign positioning. I see it as far more. I think it’s a valuable historical document, a very detailed account of what one term as US Secretary of State entails. I also think it’s Clinton’s “for the record” legacy.
I came away extremely impressed with what she accomplished—or tried to accomplish—and impressed, as well, with the role of the US in attempting to keep world peace. The world is a tinder box of explosives; the job of the US Secretary of State is critical!
Hilary’s “Smart Power” approach—diplomacy being the most important part of the equation—strikes me as sound. She makes very strong arguments for environmental protection and equality for women worldwide being key to both US security and economic development. She is a tireless advocate of Democracy. She’s a little more of a Hawk than I like, but that’s easy for someone not in the thick of it to think. Her humanitarian values are front and centre.
I came away from reading Hard Choices wanting to campaign for Hilary for President. I’m no longer a U.S. Citizen, but the U.S., like it or not, has an enormous effect on the well-being of the world—my world—and whoever is running that country will have a profound effect on my life and the lives of those I hold dear.
I highly recommend this book as an overview of the extremely serious problems in the world today. (It would be a worthy task for any book club to take on. The discussions would be heated, without a doubt!)
I’m both heartened and alarmed after reading this book: heartened because of the worthy work being done, and alarmed at how how fragile things are. A party less inclined to effective diplomacy and one that does not recognize key dangers (one that denies global warming, for example!) could spell disaster for our world—my world.
I rarely speak out on political issues. Some of my wonderful readers and very good friends are not in agreement with my views, I know, and would be inclined to dismiss anything written by Hilary Clinton. I urge you to read her book, and then let’s discuss.
Note: I listened to the Audible edition—all 27 hours of it!— and I highly recommend it, with a few cautions. The lion’s share of this very long and detailed book is narrated by Hilary, and she does a fantastic job. I didn’t care for the other narrator, Kathleen Chalfant; she puts too much emotion into her voice, which, for me, is distracting. Fortunately, she only narrates the short opening and closing sections, which are not the meat of the book.