"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Audiobook Syndrome

I touched in this on Tuesday's post, but it's like I can't stop myself.
First off, I love listening to audiobooks.
  • In the car (not with the kids - I do talk to them instead).
  • While exercising.
  • If a book is good enough, I'll even listen while cleaning.
Audiobooks are fantastic. The readers have to be some of the most talented people I know, and being able to read a book while doing something else is such a great use of time.
But I've come to the conclusion I need to stop listening to series on audiobooks. I actually came to this conclusion many series ago, but I can't seem to stop myself. Here's how it generally goes.

First book - I love it. It's brilliant. The narrator gives such life to the characters.

Second book - Small flaws begin to stick out. Adverbs scream out at me. Characters repeat some dialogue which was used in book one. I notice it, and it starts to tickle my brain somewhere.

Third book - Every time the main character does something stupid, I cuss at her/him. They do the dumbest things in every situation, really, they shouldn't be because they've had two books before this to learn from their mistakes. Have they learned nothing? And every time they talk, I want to scream. By now dialogue repeats enough to drive anyone nuts.


I really want to point out this is strictly an audiobook thing. The books are really great. And I guarantee that 90% of the time, if I were reading the same books, I'd never notice any of these annoyances. But having someone read it to me makes everything stand out.
(Sidenote: I see things "planted" by the writer - do you?)

So why do I keep listening to series on audiobooks?
I guess secretly I keep hoping I'll find a series where this won't happen. I actually managed to get through about eight Janet Evanovich audiobooks and loved each and every one. Then I finally hit my limit. Her dialogue is exceptional, however, which might account for how I got through so many. I also listened to probably 10 Terry Pratchett books before they changed the narrator. I couldn't go with the change; I loved the old narrator, and had to give up the new books.

So my question - Do you listen to audiobooks, and what's the best series you've listened to?


Kelly said...

Definitely Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"!!

And, for adults: I like Denise Mina's mysteries on audio. I like the reader and I didn't notice any of the annoying things you mention in your post :)

PJ Hoover said...

Right on about His Dark Materials, Kelly! These were great on audiobook. I really cared about the characters at the end of The Amber Spyglass.
I have not read Denise Mina, but I'll have to check them out.

Vivian said...

You'll have to spill all about the series...

My problem with audiobooks is it all depends on the narrator (actor/actress). Some narrators are so amazing, I'm pulled into the story, and others make me notice every little irritating thing. Which is also why it's good, because it helps me study the sentence structure when I write. Personally, though, I don't really enjoy the audiobooks because it's such a hit or miss with the narrator.

The only series I've listened to are the chapter book ones for Junie B. Jones. They are plain hysterical (only if you get the audiobooks narrated by Lana Quintal. Otherwise, forget it.)

Oh, actually, the Percy Jackson ones are good so far. Third grader is listening to them with me...so far we've listened to the first two.

ndixon said...

It is fascinating how we absorb the audio differently to the written words. I personaly believe that if we gove the audio as much focused attention as a printed book, we will absorb it in greater detail - your account of recognising the same dialogue across different books seems to support that.

I am currently publishing an audiobook prior to the print version, and have found from an author's viewpoint, that now and then an element has to be re-ordered or re-worked for a better flow to the audio.

Jim D said...

Harry Potter.

I think the narrator is Jim Dale and he does a great job.

Jim D. (Danielson, not Dale)

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Vivian, I read the Percy Jackson ones, but I have to imagine those would be fantastic on audio. I've actually been thinking about getting them anyway just so I can listen to the voice. It's just amazing. Junie B. Jones are a great suggestion! My kids would like those.

Hi Neil, what a neat idea to publish the audio book first. I've been guilty of recording myself reading my stuff aloud and listening, but not enough. I should make this a required part of my revision process! And with technology, I think the audio is as important as the printed page!

PJ Hoover said...

Too bad, Jim. You could be rich and famous.
So two votes for Harry Potter. We are driving on vacation this summer and I was going to play The Hobbit for the kids, but maybe I'll go with Harry instead.

Amy said...

When we were driving to gymnastics every day, it was 60-75 minutes round trip. We worked our way through a LOT of audiobooks.

Jim Dale is the only reason I've made it through all the Harry Potter Books.

Without audiobooks, Narnia would a be a handful of movies.

Same for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

A great narrator can save a book that's hard to get through, for whatever reason.

The Blue Balliet books (Independent Readers) made great audiobooks, too.

We also listened to the Traveling Pants series on audio...but the narrator really bugged me and ultimately affected how I viewed the series.

beth said...

I love audio books! I listen to them while doing chores--it makes me not hate doing the chores so much.

I LOVE the Jim Dale Harry Potter Audio books :)

Heard The Spellman Files--not as good, but in all fiarness this was a book I'd probably not like if I were to read it. The narrator was good.

I really like The Pink Carnation. Good historical romance.

I'd like to get the Percy Jackson series...if I love a book, I want the audio version so I can relive it!

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Amy, my kids have listened to and loved the Narnia books. I read two of them when I was younger (TLW&TW and TVOTDT). And I loved Tolkien on audio. I think The Hobbit would be perfect for my kids right now! They do make driving great, don't they!

Hi Beth! That's why I'm thinking I'll get the Percy books on audio also. Maybe some of the brilliant writing will sink in to me :) The Pink Carnation sounds great. I'll have to check it out. If only my electric mopping thing I use weren't so loud, audiobooks would make even mopping fun.

Jen Robinson said...

I love audiobooks, too. When I was walking a lot, I listened to MANY (currently sidelined by a knee injury, but I'll probably try listening while riding my exercise bike).

I listened to the first 3 Percy Jackson books on audio, and thought that they were all great. In fact, I read the fourth one (because I didn't want to wait), but I found I missed the narration (especially the voice of Blackjack), and I imagine I'll listen to that one, also.

I also give the thumbs up to His Dark Materials.

For me, what happens isn't no much a problem with series books. But I find that listening intensifies things for me. So, if I like it, I really really like it (Twilight and Life As We Knew It come to mind), but if I have trouble getting into a book, then I just can't keep going at all (Angus Thongs, Bartimaeus). I didn't like Christine Falls on audio (adult mystery), which a lot of people recommended highly, though I think if I could have read it, glossing over some description, I would probably have enjoyed it.

I also HATE when they change the narrator during a series. Very bad form. The Inkheart series did that.

Lenore said...

I cannot listen to audio books. I drift off to sleep. Gotta keep the eyeballs working :)

TJBrown said...

I only listen on long trips and because I don't take that many... I never noticed:)

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Jen! I read all the Percy books, and funny enough I always wondered about the voice of Blackjack - like it would be so much better to hear it rather than read it. I wonder how much RR took that into account when writing it.
And I'm totally with you - Loved Twilight. Bartimeaus I had troubles with. I made it through book one but gave up very shortly into Book 2.

Hi Lenore - They are great if you are doing something else you need to do. Exercising. Driving. Cleaning. It's rare (and only when I have maybe a half hour left that I end up doing nothing while listening.

So Teri, does that mean Read my Lips will or won't come out on audio?

RR2 said...

I almost never listened to audio books until one day I couldn't find a book copy of the third book in The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I took out the audio and listened and the reader is rather good (although I admit that sometimes I stopped listening and had to relisten).

I really want to listen to the audiobook of the King of Attolia. I'm interested to hear how the reader would read the characters (since to me, all the characters have incredibly distinct voices).

Jen Robinson said...

PJ, one of the kids asked Rick that question at his recent event here in San Jose. He said that he absolutely thinks about how the audio version is going to sound when he's writing the books. I think that someone who creates a character who is only heard inside of another character's head is probably tuned into the audio.

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Reader Rabbit 2, Garth Nix has been on my 'to listen to' list forever. And I've heard of King of Attolia but will have to check it out again.
And, you know, there are times in the audio when I miss something, but I almost never go back and rewind. I always hope it will work its way out in my mind.

Jen, really good point. I forgot Blackjack only spoke in Percy's head. Thanks!

Lenore said...

Can't do driving - tried that with Hamlet and failed.

But cleaning - now there's an idea!

keri mikulski :) said...

I'm going to start. What a great idea especially when you're a mommy. Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

Yes, cleaning, Lenore! Anything to make it more fun.

Keri, time is precious once you have kids, isn't it? When I think on all the free time I used to have, it boggles the mind!

Deanna Roy said...

I can only read certain books on audio. If the plot is too intricate or too intense, I get lost. Lately I've been reading all the books by Tracy Chavalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Falling Angels, The Lady and the Unicorn) and LOVE them. I actually didn't like the books nearly so much, but the accents and different characters reading make it into a lovely audio play.

PJ Hoover said...

Hi Deanna, I totally know what you mean about the book being too complex. Especially since backing up in an audiobook is hard while driving the car! The narrators reading the books are amazing and can really shine when they have accents to work with! Thanks for stopping by.