The Case For Rereading on Audio

This is a guest post from Carina Pereira. Carina was born in ’87, in Portugal. Moved to Belgium in 2011. A collector of owl-shaped things, and a stubborn, but not very gifted, guitar apprentice. Whiles away the time by improvising stand-up comedy routines she’ll never get to perform. Books are a life-long affair, audiobooks a recent lover. Ravenclaw. Maid by day, writer by night.


Many people who are into audiobooks nowadays (including myself) started out by having a feeling that listening to books, rather than reading them, was cheating. A terrifying fear that we would get home and have all our printed books waiting for us with a disappointed look on their covers, pointing to a compromising MP3 file on our iPods. Fortunately, the same way that choosing ebooks doesn’t erase the magic of a story, and it allows us to never run out of material to read (even if you can’t get that new book smell), audiobooks can actually add to an already fantastic tale.

One of my favourite books is The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read the story a couple of times and eventually I bumped into a YouTube video of the author reading it to an audience on one of his book tours. I was so captivated by his reading that I ended up listening to the whole thing on a loop, five times in a row. Not only did I memorise many more details about the book while saving time – as I usually listen to audiobooks while doing chores at home, or at work – I’ve also learned new things about the characters and about the pace of the story.

Intonation can change the way we perceive a character and a situation, and having a story read by the author is the perfect way to understand what they actually wanted to convey with a specific line. Many times, whilst listening to some of my favourite books, I realise that I had misinterpreted a character’s intention, because the intonation I had given in my own head to a certain dialogue was off. Even if the reader isn’t the author, you will end up questioning the reader’s choices of voices and accents, and it will allow you to open up your mind the next time you read a book. It may even help you understand characters’ actions better.

Plus, how many times have we fallen in love with a book, just to be unable to remember most of it months later? People ask you about certain scenes, and you’ve already went on and on about how much you love that book, but for the love of all that’s sacred, you can’t remember that important bit! You know well how the book made you feel, but you’re still disappointed that you can’t remember crucial things about a book that meant so much to you. Audiobooks come to save the day here, too: because you can listen to a book faster than you can read it, and you can listen to it while doing chores, they create the perfect opportunity to listen to your favourite books over and over again, which will not only allow you to find new things at every listen, but you will memorize the story a lot better. All this without feeling guilty about the huge pile of printed books still to read on your bedside table. Audiobooks are not the main course, they’re a complement.

Audiobooks are a thing of beauty, and getting to know a story and its characters even better than you’d normally would can’t be considered cheating. You can add them up on your Goodreads challenge with a clean conscience: it’s really not what it looks like, honey.

Meet Annotated: a new podcast about books, reading, and language. Download it for free on Apple Podcasts or Google Play.
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