THE LIBRARY LOOKOUT COLUMN: Audiobooks offer a different way to read

When someone feels passionate about something, they love to talk about it and share that passion with others.

Have you heard that I’m a book nerd? I’m also a new-ish mom of a 17-month-old, so the time in my life to sit and leisurely read is currently on hold — also, just time to sit. My newest love and passion: audiobooks.

Sara Hahn

Before working in libraries, I’d never considered reading an audiobook. Yes, I do consider listening to an audiobook “reading” so we can save that debate for another day. I realized that, while attempting to convince readers looking for a print title that was checked out to enjoy the audiobook instead, I didn’t know what it was like to listen to one.

Because I work in Children and Teen services I decided to try something that I knew I would enjoy the storyline of, so I chose “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins for my maiden audio voyage.

To say that the narration and presentation of the book exceeded my expectations would be a tragic understatement because it was fabulous. With sound effects straight from the cinematic version of the story bringing it to life through my ears, what had I been missing in my 25 years of loving books?

Now, over 8 years later, I have nurtured my love of reading through narration.

The biggest surprise to me is that when I listen to an audiobook, the imagery is often more vivid than when I read a print book, as I can hear different character voices, accents, dialects and often even background sounds and effects.

Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” was my first audiobook with a setting other than America or a dystopian world, and hearing the accents of the British narrators, and different voices for each character made the story come alive to me in a new way.

I vividly recall the added sound effect of the train coming to a stop with the squeal of brakes on tracks and the hiss of steam as my car suddenly transformed into the 7 a.m. to Euston Station, London.

With new listens come new narrators, and my current and long-time favorite is Imogen Church. I enjoy her vocal inflection and overall narration so much that I’ve decided what I would read based on searching her as a narrator and then sorting by reviews. She is the usual narrator for one of my favorite authors, Ruth Ware, which works out perfectly. Ware’s deep plots and twisted storylines blend nicely with Church’s natural Scottish accent which doesn’t overpower the stories but reminds me I’m not in North Carolina while listening.

Most recently, I started listening to a Colleen Hoover favorite, “Confess,” and hearing Auburn’s character triggered something in my memory. It took a moment to realize that she sounded exactly like Harper from Megan Miranda’s “Such a Quiet Place.” With a quick search, I realized that the narrators had completely different names so I tried to dismiss the idea of them being the same. I kept listening and trying to concentrate on the story, but the voice inflections and word pronunciations were too close for me to shake it. With a little digging, I realized that Elizabeth Louise (Auburn) and Rebekkah Ross (Harper) are pseudonyms and I was right.

If you’ve never considered reading through your ears instead of your eyes, check out a new title in your Libby app with your library card and discover a potential new love. Read while you wash dishes, wind down in the evening or drive (as long as you aren’t more focused on plot twists than stop signs).

If you need help navigating Libby, call your library and let us get you listening. Happy “reading!”

Currently Reading: “Confess” by Colleen Hoover

Children’s Book Highlight: “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister

Sara Hahn is children and youth services librarian at the Stanly County Public Library.