In Praise of the Audio Re-Read

Cassandra Neace

Staff Writer

Cassandra Neace is a high school English teacher in Houston. When she's not in the classroom, she reads books and writes about them. She prides herself on her ability to recommend a book for most any occasion. She can be found on Instagram @read_write_make

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It was in the days when I still had a pretty regular, and highly annoying, commute. I had finally gotten over my aversion to audiobooks (I talk about my first time with Rachel S. here), but I was still trying to figure out what sort of audiobook listener I wanted to be.

I noticed, in talking to other audiobook aficionados, that many of them tended to have a type of book that they gravitated toward when doing their reading by audio. Often, they used audiobooks as a way to fill a gap in their print reading. They listened to the books they would like to read, if only they had more time. They used audio to catch up on the mystery series they started reading when they were still in college. Or they listened to the nonfiction titles that they couldn’t quite stay awake for during that hour of reading that they get in before bed at night.

My original plan was to use audio as a means of catching up on the big titles that I had missed out on over the last few years. I concentrated on books that had been published from 2000-2010 and that I would have probably read, based on my current taste in books. And that plan worked for me. I read Water for Elephants and Stardust with that thought in mind. And then, I went to an event at Murder by the Book for the author of a book that I had just devoured – Ready Player OneI had already read the print, but I couldn’t wait to get a copy signed by Ernie Cline. I had loved every word, and I thought it would be impossible to love it any more.

But then he played a sample of the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton. I was hooked. At that point, I had limited experience in the world of audiobooks, but I was pretty sure that I would never find such a perfect pairing of book and narrator. I couldn’t imagine not listening to it. So I did. Two weeks after finishing the book and wishing I had the time to dive right back in, I turned it on in the car and found excuses to take the long way home for work just so I could listen a little longer.

Audio Re-Read Collage

Audiobooks are a great way to fill in your print reading gaps. This is true. But they have proven, for me, to be an even better way of revisiting the books that I already love so much. After finishing Ready Player One, I immediately looked up some of my favorites:  Geek Love  by Katherine Dunn, narrated by Christina Moore; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, narrated by Stephen Hoye;  and Neverwhere written and narrated by Neil Gaiman. I’ve listened to all or part of them time and time again.

It’s kind of like when I was a kid, and I requested that my mom read the same story books before bed each and every night. I never got tired of them. Sure, I already know the story, but that just means it doesn’t matter if I get distracted for a minute. I can jump right back into the book and be carried away by the skilled narration.

I’m not the only one at the Riot who feels this way. Rachel S. is revisiting Moby Dick via audiobook (and there are a ton of ways to do that).  At Christmas, Johann will listen to Neil Gaiman’s reading of his poem “Nicholas was…” and Rachel M. does an audio re-read of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Peter has a couple of go-to listens:

It’s Anansi Boys , American Gods, and Going Postal for me. I could revisit them endlessly. Also, the first volume of Harlan Ellison’s Short Stories on Audible, because his reading of “‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said The Ticktock Man” is one of my favorite things ever. 

I keep a close watch on the sales, ready to snap up titles for books that I loved in print but that I think I would love just as much in audio. When I find myself sitting in traffic (which is a super-common occurrence in the city of Houston), I scroll through the titles on my Audible app, and I pick something that I know I will love, but that I will be able to walk away from without feeling as though I’m missing out. Next up, with just those thoughts in mind: The Fault in Our Stars  and The Martian

How about you? Are you a fan of the audio re-read? What titles would you be tempted to download and revisit?


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