From the Trenches: Audio Books and the Experience of Listening

Each summer, One Story opens our blog to the interns in a section we like to call “From the Trenches”. Our first piece is by Abby Ryder-Huth, on the magic of reading work out loud. Don’t have someone to read to you? Then I’d suggest tuning in to Public Radio’s Selected Shorts to hear great short stories read by top actors of stage and screen. (Full disclosure: I recently joined this show as commentator/sidekick.) Go here to find your time/station or listen to free podcasts. -HT

NPR’s story last weekend about Alice Ozma’s book The Reading Promise caught my attention: every single night for almost nine years, from when she was in fourth grade up till her first day of college, Ozma’s dad read to her. Even on prom night. Taking a break in between hair-styling and corsage-pinning to pause and listen to a story is probably not what most people did before prom; reading aloud and being read to are things that seem to have been mostly written off for people without young children, who are themselves no longer young children. It feels kind of decadent to be read to now. You have to really listen, which at once is very easy and can be done almost anywhere, but also forces you to slow down and focus your attention on just the sounds of the language.

Storytelling too then manages to be a throwback to childhood/the world pre-printed book, while also being a (not so) innovative way for more people to experience more literature. Publishers Weekly recently took a look at the audio book industry (June is apparently Audio Book Month), which you can read about here. There’s an interview with celebrated audio book narrator Scott Brick that got me thinking how reading a story aloud really changes your own experience of it. Prose is usually not judged with the same criteria as poetry, but sound and rhythm can just as easily be crucial to a paragraph of fiction as to a stanza (for a very in-depth look at sonic sentence construction, check out Gary Lutz’s lecture, “The Sentence is a Lonely Place,” as printed in the Believer.) Reading “Tiger” on the train this morning, there were passages I wanted to read to the people around me, if only just to listen to how they sounded.

So if you have any favorite stories to listen to or read aloud, or thoughts on how hearing a story affects your experience of it, let us know—if a party ever gets too tiresome, reading a great story aloud is sure to make up for most of the dull ones.

1 thought on “From the Trenches: Audio Books and the Experience of Listening

  1. A really great blog reminding me of how much I love being read to and reading out loud. Thanks for posting this!
    I’m looking forward to checking out the links to other sites and readings too!

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