- ABOUT US
Karlie Tipton, Associate Editor
Photo by STEVEN WALKER
By Karlie Tipton
February 19, 2015
When I say I read a lot of books, there is always a small footnote. I do read as often as I can, but my book consumption ratio is about one reading to two listening. Explaining this qualifier, I often get an eye roll: “So and so read that book too, but she actually read-read it.” The implication, I believe, is that reading with one’s eyes is a more worthwhile endeavor than listening with one’s ears.
I would never discount the benefits of the written word. Flipping page after page of a good book transports me from my bedroom to Margaret Mitchell’s Georgia or Toni Morrison’s Ohio. The other day, my husband asked me if we spend too much time together. I him no—sometimes I feel so engrossed in my stories that I forget he’s there. Of course, my job is heavily dependent on my ability to read closely in order to make ideas flow more easily or catch mistakes, and practice makes perfect.
However, there are many ways in which recorded books are just as helpful in developing my skills as a reporter, writer, and overall professional. There’s the obvious fact that the more you listen, the better you become at listening. I just started a fantastic rendition of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man read by actor Peter Francis James. It’s fairly complicated, so if I happen to zone out during a paragraph or two, who knows when I’ll be able to figure out where I lost my way. When one of those sixteen discs is playing, I have to be absolutely rapt, as if I will be required to report on every detail. Hearing the sounds of words, feeling them bounce around in my ear canal also allows me to appreciate the multiple dimensions of good writing, and therefore reflect on and, hopefully, improve my own. Exposure to narrators like Bryan Cranston—The Things We Carried—or Jeremy Irons (my favorite)—Lolita—who speak with such authority and poise must be at least a little contagious.
There are other practical benefits to listening to audiobooks—they are much less dangerous to partake of in moving vehicles and can be enjoyed with your eyes closed, though not at the same time. But I’m not trying to convert anyone here. Some readers would never trader the joy of holding an author’s hard work in their hands, and that’s just fine. All I ask is that, if anyone ever mentions they really like listening to books, maybe the appropriate response is just to be happy that person is consuming literature in any form.