Can I Really Say I “Read” An Audiobook?

img_7913Up until the last few years, I never listened to audiobooks. There are a lot of reasons that don’t have anything to do with snobbery: I retain more when I read vs. listen, my mind wanders more when I listen, it’s harder to go back and re-read passages, I can’t highlight, etc.

But the bigger reason, for me, is that listening to audiobooks seemed kind of passive to me. I don’t love TV, primarily because I know that my brain isn’t doing much if I’m just consuming a show. I worried that audiobooks had that same passivity.

It’s silly, because if I think about it, listening to audiobooks is actually harder work for me than reading a book the traditional way. It requires me to direct my concentration in a way that’s much more automatic for me in traditional reading.

I decided to look it up, to see how audiobooks are consumed by the brain. Rather than wondering and worrying about it, I looked to the science. Here’s a good article on it, but the bottom line is that your brain sees them essentially the same way.

I’m not the only one asking this question. When I did an internet search about audiobooks vs. traditional reading, apparently many people struggle with this issue.

I keep a list of how many books I read each year, and two or three of them for the past two years have been audiobooks. I’ve actually struggled with whether or not to “count” them.

What’s the point of reading a book? For me, it’s about enjoyment. In some cases, it’s about learning. It’s also to synthesize information and be able to discuss it meaningfully with others. I can do all that with audiobooks.

I recently reread On Writing, by Stephen King. (Great book, incidentally, even if you’re not a writer.) He reads tons of books, and casually mentioned that he also reads audiobooks. If it’s good enough for Stephen King, it’s good enough for me. Once I gave myself permission to look at audiobooks as reading, I started seeing chunks in my day where I could be reading: doing yard work, in the car, cleaning up the kitchen… the list goes on.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Where do you stand on audiobooks vs. traditional books?

A to Z Challenge 2017!

staytuned500x500April is coming, and with it, the Blogging A to Z Challenge. For one month, minus Sundays, participants blog daily and follow the 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s fun, and all types of bloggers are encouraged to participate.

I started doing the A to Z Challenge back in 2012, and for the first three years, I didn’t do any particular topic… I just wrote about whatever came to mind.

In 2015, I did, “Things I Love,” and last year’s theme was “Books That Influenced Me.” (On a related note, I’m sorry that I don’t have an easy way to access archives, but if you want to look back at any of my posts, you can type “A is for” into the search bar. All my A to Z blogs start with the letter of the day.)

This challenge is a great way to “meet” other bloggers and find other interesting blogs.

On March 20, I’ll be revealing my theme (and hopefully will know what it is and have most of my posts written by then). The theme was much easier for me, and stopped some of the panicked searching for a topic that I did in other years.

Will you be joining?

Outgrowing Favorites

img_7812-2When I was a kid, I loved to make lists of my “favorites.” Favorite music, books, movies colors. Best friends, ranked.

Recently, my dad asked me if the Beatles were still my favorite music group. I hesitated before saying, “Well… one of my favorites.”

The truth is that I don’t really have favorites anymore. I can give you a list of maybe the 10 things I listen to most, or the 10 books I love best, but I don’t have one singular thing at the top of any list anymore.

Is it part of growing older? Is it part of my tastes becoming more discerning? Or is it part of that whole decision making process? You know how when you’re a kid, you’re so sure you have all the answers? And then you grow up and you’re like, “Why am I no longer sure of anything?”

I no longer have a single favorite author, but a list of authors I love. Even if I love a particular book, I don’t go out of my way to read everything that author’s written. I have playlists instead of listening to albums. Maybe that’s a good thing, the sign of a mind with broad interests.

Still, I kind of miss the simplicity of being able to declare: “This is my favorite.”

How about you? Has your ability to pick favorites changed as you’ve grown up?

The Santa Clarita Diet, A Breath of Freshly (Decaying) Air

img_7547You know, I don’t get tired of zombie stories. When it’s one I’ve seen before, then of course it’s less interesting. But when it brings something new and fun, I’m all in.

I’ve already binge-watched the entire 10 episodes of the Santa Clarita Diet, on Netflix. We intended to watch a couple episodes, but before we knew it, they were all gone. Like potato chips, I couldn’t have just one.

On the gore-o-meter, I suppose it’s pretty high. It didn’t even give me a twinge (I have a really strong stomach), but my husband got a little queasy after the fact. There is a lot of blood. And vomit. And dead bodies. And body parts. If you’re into horror movies and The Walking Dead, it probably won’t bother you. If not… maybe you don’t want to watch it while eating anything with tomato sauce.

I love anything with Drew Barrymore, and she brings her goofy brand of humor to this family sitcom. Timothy Olyphant pretty great too. In fact, I loved everyone on the show. I really thought that Skyler Gisondo as the geek next door stole the show. Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved geeks, and he’s awkward and lovable.

When she first becomes a zombie, Sheila (Drew Barrymore) is completely controlled by her id. Since she was so uptight when she was alive, everyone notices the difference. She went from stereotypical suburban mom to giving out advice on fulfilling your desires. And taking no crap from anyone. Yeah, she needs to eat, but the show doesn’t just focus on her quest for human flesh (though there is that), but also on her trying to navigate the world she lives in with very little impulse control.

The writers don’t tell us how Sheila contracted her zombie-ism. She quips that it might be because of bad clams, but there’s no “real” speculation. I’m hoping that we find out, but for right now, I’m just along for the ride.

It’s too early to tell if there’s going to be a Season 2, but I certainly hope so.

Have you seen it yet? What did you think?

Be Useful, or Shut Up!

img_7580Recently, my husband and I watched a movie called Monsters, an interesting horror movie about a photographer and his boss’s daughter trying to get back home. They need to travel through an “infected” area, where they could be attacked by aliens.

There were many things I liked about this movie. Overall, if you’re into horror movies, and you’re looking for something different, I recommend it.

When I was watching this movie, I realized that there are certain characters I loathe in books in movies. Those are the characters, usually female, who are deadweight but presented as a legitimate main character.

In this particular movie, the boss’s daughter makes demands while others are engaged in battle. Not out of any malice, but just things like, “What’s going on?” and “Hurry up because if you don’t, we’ll die.”

I hate stuff like that. It makes me want to punch those characters. Seriously. “I knew this was a crisis, but now that you’ve said to go faster, I understand that I was dawdling. Thanks!”

I always talk during movies at home (not at the theater… I’m not a jerk!), and when a character like this comes on, I give them helpful hints on how not to be a useless, annoying blockhead. In this case, it was something like, “Be useful, or shut up.”

Of course, I can’t stand that kind of person in real life either. So I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise…

What characters do you hate?

Don’t Judge a Gas Station By Its Murdery Exterior

A few times a year, I drive from Texas to Arizona, and back again. It’s a 14 hour drive total, and I generally do it in two days. Why? you ask. Great question. It’s because my parents live in Arizona, and I go to visit them. Why not fly? you ask. Also a fantastic question. It’s because I have a 14 year old lab mix who is not happy when I leave her behind with my husband. Version 2She likes him well enough… until I go away. So I make the drive with two dogs in tow. Which makes it even more fun.

 

So anyway, I was driving home from Arizona when I realized that the cup of coffee I’d had wasn’t a spectacular idea. I was in the middle of nowhere, praying for a gas station. I was listening to the audiobook of Food: A Love Story, by Jim Gaffigan. While the book is great, I was at the part where he was describing poutine. And, I don’t know… for some reason, I had to turn it off. It just added to my torture. When I saw the sign telling me that salvation was in a half mile, I almost cried.

When I got off the exit, I didn’t see the gas station at first. The road bent left, and the first thing I saw was this:

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By this point, even if that had been the gas station, I probably would have gone in. It was like that.

The one I was looking for was right after it, and while it looked better than the abandoned, busted down one, it still looked a little… murdery. There were signs all over about “fresh jerky.” (This is an Arizona thing. Roadside stands are always advertising fresh jerky.) I texted my husband with my location, just in case the jerky was made from the flesh of desperate travelers.

I did my business, and then, wanting a drink, I wandered inside. I know, I know… I never learn, right? The inside had nuts and jerky on shelves along the walls, with handcrafted items in the center. It actually was quite homey. I ended up buying a wind chime (because I love wind chimes). While I was paying, the cashier offered me a sample of jerky. When I declined, she then said, “We have sugar free jerky, in case that’s your concern.” I wasn’t sure what to say to that, except to murmur, “No thanks.”

Do I look like I’m worried about the sugar content of jerky? Was she trying to get me to eat it because it actually contains a sedative, and that’s how they get a fresh supply?

I really liked the place, so the next time I’m traveling that way, I’ll probably stop in. Maybe I’m pushing my luck, but it’s hard to find really nice wind chimes.

Why I’ve Started Giving Books As Gifts

I’ve always been a lousy gift giver. I want to give great gifts, but my brain mostly doesn’t work that way. My sister-in-law is one of those talented people who always seems to know the perfect gift. Over the years, she’s gotten me a subscription to Writer’s Digest, a subscription to the Book of the Month Club, and Alice In Wonderland pajamas. And this clock:

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Every once in awhile, I’ll be out somewhere and spot the perfect thing. But mostly… not.

A few years ago, I had an inspiration to start requesting other people’s favorite books as gifts. It seemed like a fun idea, and I liked seeing what other people picked. Then I realized that one thing I know pretty well is books. People come to me for recommendations, and since I read across many genres, I’m usually pretty good at figuring out what others will like.

As adults, most of us no longer want to receive more stuff. Sticking to consumables just makes sense to me, but does anyone really want to receive more food at Christmas?

Enter books. They’re personal gifts that never expire. They’re decorative. They’re fun. And best of all, they’re thoughtful gifts that I can actually give. It’s fun to think about what each person on my shopping list might like.

What’s the best gift you’ve given or received?