“I listen to a lot of books on audio. It works for me. But certain more literary friends of mine say it doesn’t quite count as reading. Part of me wants to read more, but I find it much easier to listen. What do you think? Should I care?”
I wouldn’t place also a great deal stock in what your “literary” good friends say they sound like bores. When it comes down to it, persons who consider about reading in terms of what “counts”—those who piously log their day-to-day reading metrics and tally up the titles they’ve consumed on Goodreads—don’t look to basically get pleasure from books all that a great deal. Their moralistic gloom is evident in the extent to which reading has come to resemble workout, with readers tracking their word-count metrics, attempting to strengthen their speed, and joining clubs to preserve them accountable.
While some disciples of this culture are speedy to dismiss audiobooks as a shortcut, they can not look to agree on why, precisely, listening is an inferior type of engagement. Some cite research that have shown persons who listen to books retain significantly less than these who study them, which is bound up with how tempting it is to do other issues whilst listening. (As simple as it is to multitask with audiobooks, the type does make it tougher to return, right after a spell of distraction, to the passage exactly where your thoughts began to wander.) Others insist that audiobooks eradicate the reader’s duty to interpret issues like irony, tone, and inflection, offered that the particular person recording does the operate of conveying emotion. According to this rather tenuous logic, listening to audiobooks is inferior precisely due to the fact it is easier—because it lacks the element of suffering that is incontrovertible proof of accomplishment, the identical way soreness is proof of a genuine exercise.
The bigger difficulty, on the other hand, is in viewing books as a indicates to some other finish. Many persons who aspire to study much more are motivated by the guarantee that performing so will avert cognitive decline, strengthen brain connectivity, or enhance emotional intelligence. Even the obsession with retention assumes that the goal of reading is to absorb understanding or nuggets of trivia that 1 can use to demonstrate cultural literacy or becoming “well read.” What all of this obscures is the possibility that books could possibly be a supply of intrinsic pleasure, an finish in themselves. I’d be prepared to bet, Easy Listening, that your earliest experiences with the joy of literature have been aural. Most of us have been study to by adults ahead of we discovered to study ourselves, and listening to audiobooks recalls the distinctive delight of becoming told a story: the rhythms of the prose created incarnate in a human voice the dialog animated by way of the overall performance of a skillful reader the ease with which our eyes, liberated from the web page, are absolutely free to roam about the bedroom (or the aerobics area, or the landscape beyond the auto windshield) so as to superior consider the actions of the narrative playing out.
Oral storytelling predates writing by millennia, and quite a few of the oldest stories in our literary canon existed for centuries as bardic tales ahead of they have been place down in print. The Homeric epics probably originated with bards who told them about fires and improvised their central plot points, which have been passed down and adapted from 1 generation to the subsequent. Evolutionary biologists have all sorts of conjectures about the utilitarian function of these rituals—storytelling could have emerged to deepen neighborhood bonds or model unfamiliar scenarios in techniques that could possibly have improved possibilities of survival—but I doubt that members of these cultures have been consciously pondering, as so quite a few readers are currently, about how narrative exposure could possibly increase their quick-term memory or sharpen their capacity for empathy. Rather, they listened to stories due to the fact they have been, pretty just, transfixed by their energy.
These early stories have been largely composed in verse, at a time when poetry, music, and storytelling have been frequently so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. And I suspect that audiobook fans are at least partly drawn to listening due to the fact it is simpler to discern the melodic qualities of prose, which frequently get lost when we swiftly scan a web page of text with no basically hearing the words in our heads. There is some proof that listening, as opposed to reading, engages the proper hemisphere of the brain, which is much more closely connected with music, poetry, and spirituality. This could possibly clarify why some religious texts are developed to be study aloud. The scholar Karen Armstrong lately pointed out that the term qur’ān indicates “recitation” and that the scripture’s quite a few repetitions and variations take on their complete impact only when they are voiced by a gifted reciter who can, as she place it, “help people to slow down their mental processes and enter a different mode of consciousness.”
If you are like most persons I know, you most likely obtain it tough to recall the final time a book—regardless of how you consumed it—succeeded in altering your consciousness. Even your need to “read more” consists of a whiff of compulsion, suggesting that quite a few books you have encountered have failed to reside up to their transcendent prospective. Anxieties about post-literacy have a tendency to concentrate obsessively on the query of medium, and audiobooks are frequently hailed as 1 of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, alongside social media, visual entertainment, and the decline in interest spans. But it appears to me that there exists a much more apparent explanation for why reading frequently feels so dull: Most books are pretty terrible. The vast majority of them are uninspired, unconvincing, and poorly written. This has usually been the case (certainly there have been some flops even amongst these bardic epics of yore), although it is a truth that grows much more elusive when we are led to think that reading is not supposed to be enjoyable. When a culture falls prey to an obsession with “reading challenges” and day-to-day word count ambitions, it is all also simple to turn into inured to the shoddiness of the texts we’ve selected and much more tough to object to the offensive top quality of quite a few of the books on provide.