Audiobook vs Reading the Book

I was a reading purist for years. To read a book, you need to read the book. Then I had kids. The rest is a familiar tale of being too tired and busy to think, let alone read. Somewhere in there, it occurred to me that I could remain a purist and never access literature again – or admit the paucity of me-time in my life and go with an audiobook. The first one was Madame Bovary – listened to while my son played in his playpen and I input data for a client. It felt as though I’d taken my son along on a much-needed vacation.

Fast forward to four years ago. I’d managed to read some mysteries and action books, but nothing that had any heft to it. As I spent yet another day driving to various places, I realized I could listen to audiobooks. At first, they were the books I needed to read for research for my writing projects. Then I started to listen to books I just wanted to read.

All of this leads me to my question: How does listening to a book affect my reception of that book?

Specifically, I’m thinking of Dune, by Frank Herbert. I chose Dune because it was a long book that was not technical in nature. I knew I was hooked when I started circling the block and taking a long way home. I was as immersed in the world of the book as I always am when I’m reading the book myself.

I don’t know about you, but I hear a book when I read. It’s not at all unusual for me to have an accent when I first put a book down. I have been disoriented when I finish a book and find myself on my very own couch. I assume most avid readers experience something along these lines.

The standout moment in Dune was when the narrator called out, “Mwadeeb!” I can still hear it. It still gives me chills. I would have heard it in my mind, but who knows if I would have heard it the same way. It remains the key moment in the book for me. It informed the events that followed.

Since then, I’ve paid attention to the impact of the narrator on my perception of the books and events in the books I’ve listened to. I’m not entirely sure where I come out on this question. How about you?

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