Hooked on audiobooks

I’ve been meaning to check out audiobooks for years and now I’m hooked, obsessed even. I got a nice birthday present of an ipod nano and some itunes vouchers on a recent birthday, so I bought an audiobook instead of music. The convenience of it is fantastic, I’m flying through books much faster than I would have been able to with paper just because it’s hard to get the time (and the silence) to sit down with a book. But with a little ipod I can appreciate a good book cleaning the kitchen, out for a walk, or pottering around the house doing bits and pieces, or even minding the rugrats.

My attention wavers very easily though. Even with a regular book I could quite easily read two pages before realising I wasn’t even listening to myself. Always reminds me of that Laurel and Hardy scene:

Laurel and Hardy “Beau Hunks”

Stan: reads a long letter to Ollie;
Ollie: sighs and looks sad

Stan: What’s the matter Ollie?
Ollie: Didn’t you read it to me!?
Stan: Yeah but I wasn’t listening.

I’ve had much more of a tendency to drift off while listening to a book and doing chores, or out and about, so there was lots of rewinding.

And I fell asleep listening to it every night too. I’ve read myself to sleep for as long as I can remember so an audiobook on a nano is great. No longer do I have to get up and turn the light off when the book hits the ground. And if I’m not falling asleep listening to a book, I’m listening to a podcast. Yes I’m very late to the world of Pod and I’m a total convert!

Sometimes lately I feel like my life is just fleeting away before my eyes. Not getting much done, or at least not much that’s fulfilling,  plonking myself in front of the tv more often than I’d like. Never dreamed I’d be an Apple fanboy but it’s given me a new  lease of life.

So, onto the books. For my first audiobook I asked for recommendations on Facebook and bought the one that was mentioned twice. But then I got the next few straight away and ploughed through them too.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

Didn’t really enjoy this first one unfortunately. I just couldn’t relate to it and didn’t care about any of the characters. I didn’t find much of it entertaining. I really should have gone with my gut because I saw Bolaño compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Garcia’s 100 0f years of solitude is the only novel I decided not to finish. Both of them are Spanish-to-English translations featuring more characters than my brain can process. I had to keep referring to Wikipedia’s list of characters. I get the feeling I just didn’t get it (Savage Detectives), maybe the joke of treating a bunch of poets as if they were the Mexican Mafiosa was supposed to be more entertaining than I found it.

Most of the reviews on Amazon are 5 stars but this one struck a chord with me:

The Savage Detectives, I agree with several recent reviewers, lapses into spectacular and permanent tedium less than half-way through. Bolano has never lost me, until this book. When I reached page 400, knowing there were still a couple hundred pages left, I experienced something akin, I think, to torture.

Life’s too short for just ploughing on with it but I was curious if it would all come together at the end, and it cost 26 fucking euros. So I stuck with it.

The book was narrated by different male actors, who put on appropriate accents and personalities for each of the characters. One outcome of this, with so many characters, is that it can be hard to tell what sex the character is suppsoed to be.  At one point I read of a long love affair between two guys. Then, only towards the end, one of them pronounced to have her period. Doh!

I didn’t really expect the acting you hear in an audiobook. It’s a restrained form of acting. Somewhere between straight narration and a radio play but it does enhance the experience when done well.

The Road

Next on the list was The Road.  I deliberately wanted something a bit more mainstream and  Iliked the sound of The Road. Sounded nice and dark. And it’s impossible to avoid hearing little pieces about it, and a lot of little pieces add up to a big spoiler. Tom Dunne and his guest’s are the biggest offenders. And you don’t need to hear any more about it from me, but  I really enjoyed it. Was 1/4 the length of the previous book too yet was 4 tiems more entertaining.

Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard book

This was apparently awarded audiobook of the year at some ceremony. All the reviews I read were glowing. But not one of them mentioned that it’s a children’s book! With some things I’m still a big kid but not really books. I need something a bit more. It was entertaining, amusing and very well read by Gaiman himself. So, entertaining enough  but still a children’s book and not really in a  way, I thought, that was universal to all ages, like The Curious Incident. So, back to the big boy’s stuff.

George Pelenecanos – The Way Home

Chris Flynn, a runaway Wigga on the right side of the tracks battles against the sobering onset of maturity.  Written by one of  The Wire writers, and narrated by one of The Wire actors (who plays a minor role thiugh). It’s similar in content; really good characters and a good story wrapped around social commentary. In fact I found some of the social commentary, mostly with regards to the treatment of young offenders, a bit forced onto the characters. Similar to how you might contradict dialogue in a movie for explaining a plot. But only a little bit. I mostly really enjoyed The Way Home;  and will buy Pelecanos again.


I’ve wanted to try some nonfiction audio but some reviews I read, of Steve Pinker for example, is that it’s not really suitable as an audiobook. But I got something lighthearted. Notes from a small Island by Bill Bryson, who I love.  I’ve justbought that, and that’s my itunes voucher gone now with the help of Gorillaz latest album. So I’ve  joined Audible. Have these in my listening list:

Juliet, Naked (Unabridged)
Nick Hornby Slam (Unabridged)
Slam (Unabridged)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Unabridged)

The Time Traveler's Wife (Unabridged)

It's Only a Movie (Unabridged)

Any recommendations?

  • Reply Darragh

    April 21, 2010, 10:57 am

    Ahhh fuck, The Savage Detectives is sitting on my beside locker waiting for me to start it.

    I love audiobooks, and have gravitated to them recently. I used to get amateur ones of stuff gone out of copyright on librivox.org. Some of the narrators are actually pretty capable. They have nearly every classic novel you could ask for there for free.

    I’m currently listening to the Wind-up bird chronicle by Murakami (purchased from itunes). It’s 26 hours long, but its going to take me about 40 hours to finish it as I experience the falling asleep effect as you do. It’s a great one though.

    • Reply John

      April 22, 2010, 9:44 pm

      I’ve friends you love the Savage Detectives, and most of the reviews on Amazon are very positive, so don’t let me put you off if you like the sound of it.

      Yeah I’ve checked out Librivox before but I’m not a huge fan of classics. I probably should make more of an effort with them.

      I just finished Time Traveler’s wife a minute ago, which I loved. Off to get something new now. I’ll check out the Wind-up Bird (love that name) but yeah seems scarily long.

  • Reply Al Davis

    April 26, 2010, 4:36 am

    Hey John, how’s things? Al Davis here, I’ve been checking the site for ages (quality work as usual) and been meaning to drop you a bell. Long long time no see, hope life is treating you and the fam well. I’ve 2 kids as well, anyway big hi mate

  • Reply Electric Griddle

    November 22, 2010, 11:30 am

    i love to listen on audiobooks while travelling on a bus, i could learn a lot from it while travelling ,:-

  • Reply Wally

    August 1, 2018, 10:08 am

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