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Saving Time with Audiobooks

I might be the only person neurotic enough to worry that I will die without having read enough books. Some books, like Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia or Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (no offense?), will probably not create an existential void if I never crack them open. But others contain stories and worlds so well wrought that they could change my life, and perhaps make me even more neurotic (i.e., What if the last book I read was the best one and I’ll never read anything better?). In order to cram as much story as I can into my life, I’ve identified areas that produce stress, like a commute around the Boston area or listening to the news, and have replaced them or supplemented them with audiobooks.

Gone are the days of chopping onions and weeping for no reason. Now, at least I can weep while listening to Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me with a gin and tonic. No, it isn’t all about weeping–luckily, there is flu-season to think about, too. Flu-vaccine or not, some of us will be inevitably become couch-bound for a few unpleasant days. I’m not a doctor, or a medical professional, but while you’re drinking fluids and destroying boxes of tissues, I’d recommend listening to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series or maybe something terrifying like Stephen King’s It to remind you that things could always be magically better, or terrifyingly worse–like magic-killer-clown-in-your-sink worse. Plus, if you play it loud enough, it even helps drown out the annoying sniffling and coughing that your loved ones (and coworkers) put up with.

As a graduate student, listening to audiobooks on what I affectionately call “chipmunk” speed, which is the book played at double-speed, has helped me get through Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina when I had only one week to read it. I refuse to rush other books, like Toni Morrison’s Sula, which is read by Ms. Morrison herself and feels like the Nobel Prize winning author is reading me a complicated and beautiful bedtime story. And, as a continuation of that sappy thought: having your favorite author read their novel or memoir comes as close to real magic as I can imagine.

On a more serious note, listening to audiobooks has improved my quality of life during moments that otherwise feel unproductive or monotonous. I’ve also used them to re-experience stories that I may not have had time to read again (i.e., Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Classic Fairy Tales) or learn about something that I would have felt guilty devoting time to (i.e., Animal husbandry, bee keeping) if I never thought about it again after closing the book. It is extremely convenient to use audiobooks, too; I keep mine on my phone, so that I can slowly chip away at the hundreds of thousands of books I’ve never read.

Audiobooks are available, for free, through the Morrill Memorial Library, and can be downloaded to your phone or tablet with the Overdrive and Libby applications.

Samuel Simas is the technology assistant at the Morrill Memorial library; he is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. Read Samuel’s column in the October 13th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.


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