Thursday, September 30, 2010

Making car rides entertaining with minimal risk of arrest

The drive from my home in Central Oregon to the Emerald City Writers' Conference in Seattle is 7-8 hours each way. Even broken up with a pit-stop in Salem to see my parents, that's a helluva long time to be in the car with nothing to amuse me but the occasional glimpse of a passing motorist picking his nose.

This is where audiobooks come in handy. Pythagoras and I first borrowed one from the library about ten years ago on a drive to Nevada where traffic is so sparse we didn't even have nose pickers to amuse us. We listened to James Patterson's KISS THE GIRLS and cracked up every time the narrator dramatically growled "tick-cock."

Since Pythagoras' daily commute is less than two miles and mine is a flight of stairs down to my writing computer, we don't really listen to audiobooks during the week. Still, they do come in handy. Two years ago, Pythagoras accepted a temporary job in a town 2.5 hours away. We spent 10 months living in different places and visiting each other on weekends (a lovely way to celebrate your 10th year of marriage).

I credit audiobooks not only with keeping us sane on many late-night drives, but also with exposing me to books I might not have read otherwise. I was curious about Barbara Kingsolver's ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE (a memoir of a year spent deliberately eating only food produced in their town) but knew it was one of those books that would never rise to the top of my to-be-read pile. I found it on audiobook and spent several memorable car trips pretending Barbara was sitting there in the passenger seat sharing my bag of Doritos and reading me her story.

For this trip to the Emerald City conference, I've loaded my iPhone with several selections to make the miles pass quickly. It's got me wondering whether my books will ever be done in audio format. I looked at my contract this morning just to see if it's mentioned, but I got bored reading and only managed to confirm that the phrase "audio rights" is indeed in there (along with about 8 million other words that make me very sleepy).

The very idea blows my mind. I listen to Cynthia Nixon reading the Emily Giffin novel currently in my player and think, "could she someday be reading the Strip Battleship scene from MAKING WAVES?"

Probably not, but the thought amuses me even more than the nose picking thing.

Do you enjoy audiobooks? If so, are there certain books you'll listen to while reserving others for reading yourself? How do you think it changes things to listen to a book instead of reading it yourself? Please share.

I'm busy cracking up at the thought of Cynthia Nixon uttering the line "Oh baby! I want to rub your cheese doodle 'til my hands turn orange!"


Kari Lynn Dell said...

I confess. I've never read Harry Potter. After listening to the first one on audio, I was so entranced by the narrator I had to do the same for the next three books.

And then people started dying and I wimped out. Yes, even Harry Potter was to harsh for me.

Patty Blount said...

Strip Battleship?

I'm intrigued.

I have never listened to audio book but have heard the Harry Potter series is excellent due mainly to the narrator.

Will have to try one someday.

Stephanie said...

I have honestly never listened to a audio book, but I can definitely see the appeal! I used to listen to music at the gym, but it just didn't make the time go by fast enough. I started reading at the gym on my Sony Reader and that helped A LOT! I wonder if an audio book would be just as good????

That last line made me LOL! Which Emily Giffin is that?? I don't remember reading that line before!

Linda G. said...

Snort! Strip Battleship is still my favorite scene. And I did read it out lout to TG. ;)

I love audio books for long trips. Douglas Adams Hitchhikers series got us through many an 8-hour trip to the beach.

~ M said...

The Harry Potter series does indeed have amazing audio books. I also particularly enjoy listening to David Sedaris' stuff in audio book form because he narrates himself and I find his stories even funnier when I get to hear him tell them. Plus, you actually get to hear him imitate Liza Minnelli rather than having to imagine it.

The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman also has amazing audio books. They're narrated by Pullman and the characters are all done by different actors so it's like listening to play. They're fantastically fun.

Claire Dawn said...

I've never listened to an audiobook. I'm pretty much never anywhere that I could listen to a book, where I couldn't just read it instead.

Delia said...

I don't listen to audio books. They always sound to me as if the emphasis is all wrong because it's never how I would emphasize things. Stupid, I know, but there it is.

I may have to check into Harry Potter, though. It might be good to keep the kiddos in line during trips.

Oh, and I could totally see Cythia Nixon doing the cheese doodle line.

Jen J. Danna said...

I love audiobooks! Honestly, between working full time and trying to write full time all while juggling a husband and two kids, if it wasn't for audiobook, I might never 'read' because I simply don't have time to sit down and read if it isn't for my own writing. So I listen in the car, on my iPod while I do dishes or cook dinner or if I'm doing something repetitive in the lab. I absolutely couldn't live without them!

And to add to the comments on the Harry Potter narrator above (that's Jim Dale, BTW), I'd be happy listening to him read the dictionary, he's so good (and I'm REALLY picky about my narrators...)!

j.leigh.bailey said...

I love audiobooks. In fact, I'm almost completely out of touch with music because I always have a book in the player instead of listening to the radio.

I do have a quirk with it, though. I can only listen to books that I've already read. I get so caught up in new stories that I'm afraid I'll forget that I'm driving and rear-end someone! Also, I tend to buy them rather than check them out from the library, and their expensive enough that I don't want o risk paying that much for a book I'll hate. Luckily, I usually read the books I like more than once anyway.

Stormy said...

Having a good hour commute in the morning (and, coincidentally, one in the afternoon), I've amassed several audiobooks - everything from "Time Traveler's Wife" to the "Sleeping Beauty" trilogy. (ugh, and I allowed to admit I've read/listened to that?) I can't think of a better way to multi-task!

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

I have never actually listened to an audio book. Haven't been on a long car ride in a while, either. I can see the appeal. But of course the way my life is now, I'd be listening to, "We hippos love our belly b's. They're round and cute and funny. And there's a place we take them to when summer days are sunny."

Name THAT book! LOL

lora96 said...

I've never listened to an audio book. Although I commuted over an hour each way to college every weekend for two years finishing my master's, it never occured to me to listen to CD's of someone reading a novel at 5AM when I had to leave.

I wish I had.

Cynthia Nixon would have a great sardonic voice for a read-aloud. I think my library only has westerns on audio, sadly.

Bookewyrme said...

I am a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, but the even I'll admit, reading the books is sometimes a bit of a chore. The audio-books versions are an entirely different story, however. My first introduction to those books was via audio-book (back when they were actually cassette-tapes, not cds!), and my mother and I would listen to them in the car on the way to town in the morning. A great way to pass the time! The Narrator even sings the songs!

Enjoy your audio-books and your conference! ^_^

Dominique said...

Audiobooks are the stuff of magic. I've listened to the HP audiobooks so many times, I've got an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Potter. Right now, I'm working my way through Lord of the Rings 2. :)

Ricky Bush said...

Naw, I'd rather keep a look out for someone picking their nose. Seriously, though, I've never tried them out, but just might do it someday.

Trina said...

I listened to all of Hemingway's books on audio and was absolutely stunned and in love with the writing. The narrator was first class and had the right voice (old, kind of gravelly) for his stories. When I attempted to read a Hemingway novel, though, I couldn't do it.
I've tried other audio books, but couldn't get past the first ten minutes. I'm sure if Cynthia Nixon is narrating a Strip Battleship scene, there will be a reason for me to try again.


Mary Brebner said...

Cheeze doodle? Not a big audiobook fan myself (I get impatient & want them to read faster-faster, come one baby! Oops. Got carried away.), I'd totally listen to Cynthia Nixon reading the cheeze doodle excerpt.

Jason said...

I've never listened to an audiobook. At the times I might - such as commuting to work or on the treadmill - I usually have music going. I don't think an audiobook would be a good idea though - then I have to pay attention. I usually zone out a bit in those instances, letting my mind wander to possible stories of my own or tackling some issue that needs to be resolved. If I was listening to an audiobook I'd probably end up doing the same thing and miss a lot. I prefer the curled up on the couch method of taking in my fiction, with a cup of coffee and purring cats. :)

Lynne Kelly Hoenig said...

I agree with the Harry Potter audiobook love!

I have trouble paying attention to audiobooks when I'm driving, but once in a while I'll get one for a book I already read and loved. The Life of Pi is amazing, and I recently listened to The Poisonwood Bible and really enjoyed that one too.

You know what's weird? I just discovered this recently, but when I'm painting a room in my house I can listen to an audiobook and really pay attention to it and remember it well later on. Completely different from when I'm in the car; after five minutes I'll have no idea what's going on. Wish I'd known about this kinesthetic connection in college. I'd have painted my dorm room every week while listening to professor's lectures on tape.

Tawna Fenske said...

Kari Lynn, wow, I'm amazed at how many people seem to dig the Harry Potter audiobooks! I read the first book and wasn't that into it, but maybe I'll have to try listening to a couple.

Patty, yup, Strip Battleship. It's a scene in MAKING WAVES, and was very well-researched :)

Stephanie, the cheese doodle line is mine (it's from MAKING WAVES). It's just that I've been listening to Cynthia Nixon read Emily Giffin's HEART OF THE MATTER so now I'm imagining her reading my books :)

Linda G, yes, but did you PLAY Strip Battleship? I highly recommend it!

M, good suggestion, I bet the David Sedaris audiobooks are hysterical! I love him.

Claire Dawn, I'm the same way when I'm not in the car much, but when it's road trip time, bring on the audiobooks!

Delia, you think I should call up Cynthia Nixon now and see if she wants to audition?

Jen, one of my critique partners is the same way with audiobooks -- it's the only way she can find time to keep up on her reading.

j.leigh, that's fascinating about only listening to books you've already read! So how do you choose?

Stormy, do you buy your audiobooks or check them out at the library? Ours recently started doing digital audiobook downloads, which is a godsend. I've got a ton of them loaded on my iPhone right now.

Elizabeth Flora Ross, er...I have no idea what book that is. I do like hippos though :)

lora96, check your library to see if they do digital downloads of audiobooks. It's a whole new world for me now that I'm not juggling CDs or having to remember to run to the library all the time.

bookwyrme, cassettes! I think that first "Kiss the Girls" audiobook was on cassette. Man, that makes me feel old.

Dominique, OK, I definitely have to get those Harry Potter audiobooks since everyone's making such a big deal about them!

Ricky, you're right, the nose picking IS entertaining.

Trina, good idea using audiobooks to catch up on classics!

Mary, I tried to find one of my wackiest lines and the Cheese Doodle one was my first pick. The other was something along the lines of, "it was without a doubt the most disturbingly huge vibrator she had ever seen."

Jason, I love music in the car on shorter trips, but for long ones, there's no beating the audiobook.

Lynne Kelly, so what you're saying is that you'll paint my house if I just bring out a couple good audiobooks?

Thanks for reading, guys!

adam.purple said...

I can actually picture the Cynthia Nixon thing, but it would have to be with a deadpan delivery.

Christi Goddard said...

My dad's been a truck driver for over thirty years, and his favorite invention ever is the audiobook. Because of audiobooks, he's more well-read than I am. And, because of him, I have an audio library of my own. Audiobooks are the best way to spend those long drives to Colorado or Illinois from Texas, which I make often. They are also handy listening when I'm at work.

My dad says he will not read my books until they are in audio format, which means I might have to break down and create my own audiobooks. Picky bastard.

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