I haven’t had the opportunity to properly read lately. Between jobs and sleep and chores (and lately, illness), I haven’t had the time to completely lose myself in the pages of a good book. For months now my books have lain neglected at the head of my bed. Some afternoons I’d stare at them listlessly, trying to decide what I felt like reading that day. More often than not, I’d end up not reading at all. After years of devouring any book I could get my hands on, I’ve finally hit my wall. Hard. And let me tell you now that losing your reading stride does not bode well for your writing.
To get myself into books again, I tried reading out loud. I used to do that in school when I was having difficulty absorbing the material. I started small, with short story collections. I picked up Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald and read it out loud. It was, as before, a very effective tactic for me and I was soon reading more and more books out loud. The exercise worked a little too well though because that, my friends, is how I developed this new and annoying habit of only being able to read out loud.
The new development was a nightmare for me as I read anywhere – on the road, at my desk, while eating – as long as I can stay still for a significant amount of time. Not everyone appreciates being read to out loud by a stranger and not everyone agrees with my taste in books (imagine the uproar when I began reading The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler). In an effort to curb this new compulsion of mine, I tried speaking softly, essentially mumbling the story under my breath. It seems that the general public also frown on people muttering to themselves, with or without a book to read out of.
And then from the bowels of the mighty Internet came the solution to my problem: audio books!
My salvation was at hand! Freedom from the curse of out loud reading! Until I discovered that I didn’t enjoy simply being read to. I had to be able to see and read the words myself as well. Therefore, I can only get audio books for books already in the library otherwise they’d be completely useless.
Happily, the ever helpful and reliable Internet has much to offer in the area of audio books. I was pleasantly surprised to find many titles having audio books. Some of the more popular ones even allowed you to choose between different narrators (Jim Dale or Stephen Fry to read Harry Potter?). My electronic library grows slowly but surely and I am learning to differentiate between good and bad narrators.
It has taken awhile but I am starting to outgrow reading out loud whenever I’m in public. In the privacy of my own room, however, I read whichever way I feel like, silently or loudly. I’m slowly getting my reading stride back and I made a new and wonderful discovery in audio books. Who wouldn’t get engrossed in the story being read to you by Basil Rathbone (whom I love), Neil Gaiman, Jeremy Irons, or even “The Voice” himself Mr. Alan Rickman?