Audiobooks Are Giving Me Life

In June, my work commute increased to 80 miles per day. Over the weeks, I’ve grown tired of listening to the morning shows (they’re pretty much all the same) and my five CDs (the rest were stolen last year). I listened to a popular YouTube vlogger for a few weeks, but eventually, I found it annoying to keep listening to someone that shares some, but not the most important, of my core values.

I love storytelling, and sometime in early August, I had the bright idea to turn to audiobooks. I’m still unsure why this didn’t occur to me earlier. After all, I’m a faithful public library cardholder and I can access free audiobooks.

Part of my delay is the fact that I love the act of reading. Doesn’t matter if it’s a hard copy or e-book. I like to see the words, for my imagination to record and reenact the narrative. I’m someone who reads the punctuation and pays close attention to the construction of paragraphs.

I had only ever listened to one audiobook, and this was several years ago during a six-hour road trip. Prior to August, I didn’t have to consider audiobooks. Circumstances didn’t necessitate it.

Since then, I’ve listened to four audiobooks, although I’ve only completed two. I began with Dawn by Octavia Butler via Audible. I’m on a mission to read the remainder of Butler’s books that I’ve neglected for too many years. I highly recommend the audiobook edition of Dawn. The narrative and narrator are easy to follow, and Butler’s descriptions and world building are like fertilizer to the imagination.

Let me pause for a moment to offer a word of caution. I’m about 99% sure that all drivers have zoned out while operating a vehicle. This occurs whenever your mind wanders and your brain kicks into autopilot. You’re coasting along, mind over in la la land, but you never hit a pedestrian or cause an accident. It’s easy to zone out while listening to a book.

After Dawn, I craved more science fiction, so I selected Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen beyond the opening chapters. The narrator speaks with an accent, and I couldn’t devote additional focus to both the sound of her words and the visualization of the characters and scenes without risking my safety. I’ll have to consume this book the old-fashioned way.

I was determined to find another option to fill my commute and suddenly remembered that Stephanie (fellow BLLC co-founder) had read and recommended An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Excellent audiobook choice! The story is told from the perspective of multiple characters, and two people narrate it. An American Marriage is a strong, highly interesting story that’s steeped in Black American culture, and more importantly, it’s delicious to the ear! I was about 60% through the story when I accidentally hit the progress bar in the Hoopla app, forcing the app to restart from Chapter 1. Needless to say, I was pissed.

Let me pause to add another word of caution. Audible is a great audiobook platform, but it’s not cheap. With Audible, you can access the table of contents. You can also slide along the progress bar to fast forward or rewind. You cannot do this with Hoopla, which is a free app for library patrons. There are no TOC. So goes the adage, “You get what you pay for.” I’m still hurting, but eventually, I’ll jump back into An American Marriage, but I’m going to continue via the e-book.

I just wrapped up Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, a collection of political and cultural essays. A few of the essays and accounts didn’t resonate with my Black, Southern, lesbian, feminist, or womanly sensibilities. But, many were so damn good I look forward to actually reading them. That’s a testament to not only the solid writing and content, but the narration as well. Consuming Bad Feminist was funny though. I felt fed and empowered at moments, and saddened in others. And, I probably shouldn’t have listened to certain essays— covering topics such as race in America, Trayvon Martin, racial profiling, etc.— while traveling to work in particular. Such topics elicited a range of emotions and thoughts, and it was sometimes hard to walk into the workplace with a welcoming disposition and spend the next nine hours with certain folks.

I don’t know what book I’ll choose next, but I look forward to more audial “reading”— which, really, is experiencing the oldest form of storytelling.

[Post originally published at the Black Lesbian Literary Collective.]

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