Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Books on Tape

I'm an avid reader, but could never really get into books on tape. While I started reading the Harry Potter series alongside a colorfully narrated tape, and our beloved Colin Firth now narrates, it's something that I find almost distracting at times. I have a family friend who loves recorded books, because it allows them to "read while driving or in the bathtub."

In the first instance, it's not completely applicable because I don't currently drive in the city. The second reason at first creeped me out. Another person's voice in the bathroom with you while you shave your legs?!?! Yuck! And then I started listening to NPR, like an old person. 

Anyhow, tangent aside, reading to me is a solitary, extremely internalized experience. Some devout listeners argue that when there is a voice narrating the story, characters and scenes really "come to life," but I think it can lose its authenticity. 

I've also always praised literature as the great transformer. It is the same story, and yet is different to every reader. I'm quite convinced that some of the uniqueness that each reader brings to the book is lost when they are passively listening to someone's narration. Actively reading allows you to enhance characters, imagining their inflection, cadence, and rhythm. Passively listening puts the power not in your hands, but in the narrator's. They control how you understand the once malleable text. 

Moreover, listening instead of reading encourages a sort of attentiveness apathy. We are less inclined to pick up themes, nuances, plot quirks when we listen, because we are not actively digesting it. Just like college, a lecture is great, but the notes and slides are usually what end up helping you the most. You can't just listen, because let's be honest, our mind is more likely to wander. 

And do you really want a wandering mind in the middle of a tenacious battle of words, a glorious expedition, or a heart-wrenching goodbye? Not exactly. These books are meant to take command of your life, influence your actions. So why not be active?

Photo of Coffman Memorial Union Bookstore, via @sarahcarlsonetc Instagram.

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