Read or Listen?

This month our book club is reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. I didn’t realize how popular this book is until I searched for it on the websites of my local libraries. There were hundreds of requests at one library but only fifteen at the other, and that’s where I placed a hold. As weeks went by, I grew concerned that the book wouldn’t arrive in time for our book club meeting. So, at the suggestion of a friend, I downloaded the audio edition through a lending service offered at one of the libraries. It’s hard to believe, but this is only the second time I’ve listened to a book. As someone who has been intimately connected to libraries for almost my entire life, it’s amazing that before 2017 I’d never listened to an audiobook!

I don’t know why I avoided audiobooks for so long, especially after colleagues and friends had touted the advantages of listening to a book while mired in L.A. traffic, or spoke of the excellent work of a particular narrator. Maybe I felt that I wouldn’t actually be reading the book and appreciating the written word firsthand. Though I avoided audiobooks for a long time, I am now a convert. I’m not a fast reader. Sometimes I’ll get stuck on a paragraph; my mind will wander (I’ll be thinking about such banal topics as what I’ll cook for dinner or the horribly rude driver I encountered in traffic the day before), and I won’t absorb what I’m reading. I might have to read the paragraph a few times before the words sink in. That doesn’t happen to me with an audiobook. You see, I’m a very good listener and always have been. I listen more than I talk. I can listen to an audiobook and not miss a word, even if I’m also giving myself a manicure or cooking lunch. I finish the book faster than I could if I were reading it. This doesn’t mean, though, that I’ll abandon the physical book for the audio version. A book can be read on a plane or in bed without the need to plug in earbuds. For me, a book is a friend I’ll never give up.

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