Thursday, 18 December 2014

But I Digress | Baby's First Audiobook

Confession time, folks: I'd never listened to an audiobook from beginning to end till 2014. Till this autumn, even.

In my defence, I had tried at various points in the past... but the time I have to spend simply listening is limited. Plus I suck at it, utterly: I have restless hands, so to listen to something I have to be doing something else at the same time. The dishes, for instance. Or driving. 

But I only do so many dishes; I only drive so far.

And there are things I listen to as often as possible. I've been a podcast fan for many years, as long-time TSS readers will recall, so between the Bombcast, Idle Thumbs, Rocket Talk, and the Skiffy and Fanty Show, there's been, before now, more than enough to keep my ears occupied—and I haven't even mentioned BBC Radio 4! There's always something fascinating on there, so on those rare occasions when my podcast supply ran dry, I tended to tune into Woman's Hour or whatnot.

But my circumstances, of late, have changed. Since the Summer I've been commuting to and from work—whihc is an hour and change away—twice a week. Then, sometime in September, the radio in my car broke, and no-one that I've taken it to in subsequent months has been able to identify why.

I ran out of podcasts stored on my phone pretty much immediately, and whilst I did waste an age looking for a few new ones, I came to my senses eventually. I tried streaming some radio, too, but I have a silly small data allowance, and I realised this was going to cost me a small fortune. 

So I bought myself an audiobook. More Fool Me by Stephen Fry, and read by said. He hasn't come up often on The Speculative Scotsman at bottom because he isn't either of those things—speculative or Scottish—but I'm a huge fan of the man, and I'd enjoyed the bits of his autobiography he shared at his live book launch.

More Fool Me lasted me a couple of weeks, and though I had significant problems with it as an autobigraphy—it's repetitive, incomplete and unbelievably brief—to my surprise, I enjoyed the experience of hearing it hugely.

So I doubled down when, all too quickly, it was finished: I bought the audiobook of Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, which I'd been meaning to read since its release.

It's proven to be a completely different experience from More Fool Me. In the first instance, one of the two speakers reads his chapters with such bombast that his voice has been hard to get past. Other problems: this audiobook is fifty-odd hours in full, with long-ass chapters and few suitable stopping points. As such, I frequently find myself flabberghasted by the narrative, picking up as I must in the middle of a chapter. 

I've gone from one extreme to the other, I fear, and so you see: baby's first audiobook may well be baby's last... unless you lend a helping hand.

What I want from an audiobook, it seems, is something accessible. Sometimes that dovetails with my tastes. Something not too long overall, and read without the intrusion that's ruined (the audiobook of) Words of Radiance for me.

Recommend a friend?


  1. Try the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the original BBC radio plays. Really excellent and short enough chunks to work for a commute.

  2. Just catching up on my book blogs, only just read this. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, I am a house-husband at the moment, the best (without question) audiobook I've heard in years is "Angelmaker" by Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman. Utterly fabulous.

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