I've always loved hearing books. There's something about hearing a book read to you, even if you love reading yourself. One of my fondest early memories is of my mother reading me Heidi, a book I'd already read. Nevertheless, I loved listening to her voice reciting the words. And in my turn when I became a mother, I read books to my children, forming a bond through love for books and stories.
I started listening to audiobooks maybe twenty years, when I realized that audiobooks made it possible for me to do all I needed to do in my busy life while still consuming novels. At that time, I was driving around the state of New Jersey, lobbying legislators to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Hours on the road were made tolerable because I was listening to thrillers and mysteries. I could listen to books while I cooked, washed dishes, while I exercised, and before going to sleep (although listening to a thriller right before bed is not generally a good idea).
But it's not just the fact that audiobooks make it possible to "read" while busily engaged in other activities - multitasking being the all the rage in the 21st century. Audiobooks are a different kind of experience than reading a print book.
I just finished listened to the audiobook of my own novel, Nerve Attack, read by the talented Pavi Proczko, and I loved hearing it. Yes, I wrote and know the story, although I haven't re-read it for almost two years. And yes, part of the enjoyment of listening to one's own work is certainly the ego boost - the this is a damn good story and OMG - I wrote it kind of moment.
But what I really loved about hearing the book was the bringing to life of characters whom I created and love. When I write a novel, the characters have a reality in my mind - although I'm quite aware that they are fictional. But listening to the book, when read by a gifted actor who creates different voices for each character, takes those characters out of my imagination and gives them a solidity. Kolya, Alex, Jonathan, Elizabeth, Dmitri are no longer just in my mind. They've become real. (Yes, I know it sounds a little crazy - but I'm a writer, so by definition, I live in imaginary worlds with imaginary friends - so sanity isn't a given.)
And that's what I get from any well read audiobook - experiencing the characters as real people with individual voices. It's a joining between the reader and listener. It's creating a life for those characters outside of my mind. And while I still treasure the individual and private pleasure of reading a print book, I also treasure that coming to life that I get from an audiobook.
How about you? Do you listen to audiobooks?