Listening to Audio Books Do You Really Read?

“I hear Lots of audio books. It works for me. But some of my literary friends say that it’s not quite considered reading. Part of me wants read more, but I find it much easier to listen to. What do you think? Should I care? “

-Easy to hear

Send Easy,

I won’t put too much into what your “literary” friends say; they sound like boreholes. Speaking of which, people who think of reading in terms of “counting”—that is, the people who obediently record their daily readings and tally the titles they have consumed on Goodreads—see like not really enjoying those books much. Their moral gloom is evident in the extent to which reading is like exercise, with readers tracking their word count stats, trying to improve their speed, and taking part in quizzes. club to hold them accountable.

While some followers of this culture are quick to dismiss audiobooks as a shortcut, they can’t seem to agree on exactly why, listening is an inferior form of interaction. Several studies have shown that people who listen to books remember less than those who read them, which is bound by how engaging it is to do other things while listening. (It’s as easy as multitasking with audiobooks, but this form makes it hard to return, after a period of distraction, to the part where your mind begins to wander.) Others press. argues that audiobooks remove the responsibility of the reader to interpret such things as irony, tone, and expression, assuming that the recorder does the job of conveying the emotion. By this rather simple logic, listening to audiobooks is exactly worse because it’s easier – because it lacks the element of suffering that is uncontrollable proof of achievement, in the same way that pain is proof. of a real workout.

The bigger problem, however, lies in seeing books as a means to an end. Many people’s desire to read more is motivated by the promise that doing so will prevent cognitive decline, improve brain connectivity, or increase emotional intelligence. Even the obsession with retention assumes that the purpose of reading is to absorb knowledge or trivia that one can use to demonstrate literacy or “read well”. What all of this obscures is the possibility that books can be an intrinsic source of joy, an end in itself. I’m willing to bet, Easy Listening, that your first experiences with the joys of literature were sound. Most of us were read to by adults before we taught ourselves how to read, and listening to audio books recalls the particular pleasure of being told a story: the rhythm of the prose translated into a human voice. ; animated dialog through the expression of a skillful reader; the ease with which our eyes, freed from the page, freely roam around the bedroom (or the aerobics room, or the landscape outside the car windshield) to better visualize the The action of the story is taking place.

Oral storytelling predates many millennia, and many of the oldest stories in our literature have survived for centuries as oral stories before they were printed. The Homeric epic is likely rooted in the mirrors that told them around the fires and improvised their central plot points, passed down and adapted from generation to generation. Evolutionary biologists have all sorts of conjectures about the utilitarian function of these rituals — storytelling may have emerged to deepen community bonds or model unfamiliar situations in ways that might increase the chances of survival — but I suspect that members of these cultures consciously thought, like so many readers today, about how narrative exposure might increase enhance their short-term memory or enhance their empathy. Instead, they listen to stories because they are, quite simply, overcome by their power.

These early stories were largely composed in poetry, at a time when poetry, music, and storytelling were often so intertwined that they were indistinguishable. And I suspect that aficionados of audiobooks are at least in part attracted to listening because it readily recognizes the melodiousness of prose, which is often lost when we skim a page of text without really hear it in your head. There is some evidence that listening, as opposed to reading, engages the right hemisphere of the brain, which is more closely associated with music, poetry, and spirituality. This may explain why some religious texts are designed to be read aloud. Scholar Karen Armstrong recently pointed out that the term quran means “recitation” and the many repetitions and variations of the bible come into full effect only when they are voiced by a gifted reciter who can, as she puts it, “helps people slow down their mental processes and enter a different mode of consciousness. “

If you’re like most people I know, it’s probably hard for you to recall the last time a book — no matter how you’ve used it — succeeded in changing your consciousness. Even your desire to “read more” contains compulsion, suggesting that many of the books you have encountered have not reached their transcendent potential. Anxieties about post-literacy tend to focus obsessively on the question of media, and audiobooks are often hailed as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, along with social media, entertainment visual and attentional pacing. But to me, there seems to be a clearer explanation for why reading often feels dull: Most books are terrible. Most of them are written unattractively, unconvincingly, and poorly. This happens all the time (certainly there are some failures even among your dull epics), although it is a fact that becomes more and more elusive as we come to believe that reading is not possible. deem interesting. When a culture falls into an obsession with “reading challenges” and daily word-counting goals, it’s all too easy to go awry in the texts we’ve chosen and all the more difficult. objected to the unsettling quality of many of the books on offer.


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