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What are you listening to?

As posted here before, I have begun to explore audio books in addition to hard copy books and e-books. In the past month or two I have tried several audio history books, one about Winston Churchill. Kudos to the actor who reads the narrative for his ability to get into character for Churchill, Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, and French, British, and American soldiers and politicians. No wonder audio books retail for more than the hard cover versions. There is a lot of talent going into these productions.

I wanted to try fiction, but was cautious. I enjoy beautifully crafted sentences, the ones that verge on poetry and bring the reader into the scene. Like letting a Hershey’s Kiss melt in your mouth. With the audio book, you go at the actor’s speed, not your own. If you miss something and need to hear it again, you have to find the device and backspace, much more cumbersome than flipping back a page. I started one book by Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain) and it was good, but after half a chapter I realized I wanted to see his words.

I looked for something somewhat lighter by my favorite historical novelist, Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell does a lot of “Westerns” set in medieval times, the Hundred Years War, and the American Civil War. His signature character is Richard Sharpe of the 95th Rifles fighting the French in 1809. I burned through those dozen books twenty years ago. Sharpe made it to the little screen in the 90s starring Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) and I rented the DVDs. The audio titles were available through the library so I checked one out in the process of lots of careful tapping on the screen of the iPhone.

Audio books are listened to, but unlike the days when a family gathered around the radio, frowned at bad news, laughed at Fibber McGhee and Molly, and choked back the tears at The Guiding Light. People today generally need something else to do during audio entertainment, work, drive, or walk away and let the radio play to an empty room. That’s too bad. There is so much wonderful music, high quality news, and now literature available that one should devote the entire mind to the experience. Alas, listening requires only a quarter to a half of our brain power so it’s useful to have something else going on such as driving or walking or working out. But if you are driving or walking or working out an audio book is a pretty good way to spend your time.

Next: How are you listening?

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