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Reading is fundamental

It's kinda weird that I don't really read much anymore. For most of my life, most especially in my youth I always had a book or two around and when pickings were scarce I would read just about anything. I'm probably one of a very few straight men who can say they read every single book in The Babysitter's Club series for instance. Nowadays, if I do pick up a book it'll be in audiobook form.

The first audiobook that really hooked me was a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I had seen the movie previous and as I recall, it stank and had no influence on my choice at the time. I had stopped in at the Metuchen Public Library and I was looking for an audiobook, any audiobook that would occupy some of my time as I commuted to and from the university. I would have liked something from the fantasy genre but I was willing to sacrifice that for the one criteria that was a deal killer, it could not be an abridged book. The idea of reading a book, especially a novel, that someone else had pre-pruned was a repugnant thought. So what lead me to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was the fact it was in a huge plastic bag full of cassette tapes and had an unabridged sticker.

The book hooked me completely. I was so engrossed in the story and by the person they had found to read it that I would spend hours sitting in my car after driving home, unwilling to stop the story and go inside. Soon after I discovered that some enterprising souls had started to convert audiobooks on tape to digital mp3 files and that these were sometimes available on old school file sharing problems. I still read physical books in those days, buying them in large lots every once and a while but I found the idea of being read to comforting. It was also a good way to pass the time as well as forcing a slower pace on the story. I always speedread my way through books, and what I kept and retained afterward was very different than what I retained when I had to listen to a book over the course of 30 hours rather than reading it in 6. There was often more time to think about the story itself while it was unfolding and I would spend a lot more time reflecting upon it.

One thing that did drive me sort of crazy with audiobooks is in cases where I had read the physical book first (which was usually the case in those days) I would come up with my own pronunciations for names and places and whatnot. In those times where the audiobook would conflict, it was like nails on a chalkboard. Nowadays where the reverse holds true where I often experience the audiobook first and then (or never) the print book, a new problem has cropped up. Take Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire which I'm just about finished with. I went through half the book thinking one of the damn characters was damned after a breed of sausage dog, dachshund. I thought it was kinda weird at the time, but most of the other characters had nicknames, Ham, Breeze, Clubs, etc. I mean, I did think it weird that they would actually call dachshunds dachshunds, given that it was a completely different world with presumably no Germans around. As you no doubt have already figured, his name turned out to actually be Dockson. All that time trying to figure out how he had gotten his nickname wasted for no good outcome.

The other thing that the switch to audiobooks has brought about is that I no longer sample much when it comes to books. It's that whole difference between 6 hours vs 30 hours thing. The time investment keeps me from trying lots of book that in the old days I would have sped through the book of a series to see if I liked it but now it feel like a major commitment and so I try far fewer authors and series, usually keeping only to those that have received some acclaim already. Still, all in all, there are worse ways to pass the time than audiobooks and after all, who doesn't like to be told bedtime stories.

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