07 February 2013

Why Can’t I Listen To Audio Books?

Back in the days of cassette tapes, I experimented with the idea that listening to audio books would help me get through my growing to-be-read list. To get started, I bought the novel  A Dark-Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara, with Sophie Ward doing the reading. The total listening time of the two cassettes was three hours. I wish I could tell you how much I enjoyed the novel, but I don’t remember whether I enjoyed it or not. I don’t even remember what it was about.
The problem was as I sat in my easy chair listening to the book, I couldn’t keep my mind on what the reader was saying because I kept nodding off. I think, but I’m not sure, that I finally fell asleep. No, it wasn’t the voice of the reader. Later that same year, I bought a CD about ancient cultures and, as with the novel, I don’t remember finishing it because I believe I fell asleep again.
I can listen to old radio programs like “The Shadow,” “The Green Hornet” or “Inner Sanctum” without dozing off because I hear the different voices of the different characters. Listening to the single voice reading a book on a cassette or CD, however, seems to put me to sleep no matter how good the reader is.
No matter how much I think about it, I can’t solve the puzzle of why I can’t listen to audio books. So, I’ve decided not to try to listen to War and Peace on an audio book. 
Any method that encourages people to read should not be dismissed. Audio books are not only good for readers with poor eye sight but also for readers who, provided they can stay awake, want to reduce that pile of to-be-read books or reread the classics.


  1. Lou, if you could figure it out, you could market it to insomniacs. :)

  2. Do read A Dark Adapted Eye the old fashioned way- it's terrific.

  3. Do read A Dark Adapted Eye the old fashioned way- it's terrific.

  4. I'm with Janice on this one--great book.

  5. When I was still working I used to listen to audio books on the way to and from work. With a 30 minute commute I found I could easily add one book a month to my reading this way utilizing what was otherwise down time. With retirement my wife and I listen only on road trips -- we are doing two Ken Follett books this year to and from the south. My son listens only to audio books -- he is severely dyslexic and has a very difficult time reading printed matter. A godsend for him. Between us we gobble two books a month from Audible. I prefer printed (or Nook) versions of books but this alternative certainly has its place.

  6. Louis, I found this post very timely indeed!

    Just last week, I bought my dad (another “Louis”) a small “boom box” CD player and a 4-disc set of BBC-produced radio broadcasts of 6 Sherlock Holmes short stories in play form. We’ve since discussed what audio books I might pick up for him.

    A voracious reader, prior to losing most of his vision, my father was overjoyed to get the radio plays, and hopes the audio books will also work well. And, because the little “boom box” is so small and light, he can carry it around with him to his home office, his recliner in the family room, or to his bedroom at night.

    In reference to falling asleep: I wonder if one of your parents or caregivers read you to sleep as a child. I know some folks whose parents drove them around and around, to lull them to sleep, when they were very little. And, for those folks, a long car ride always knocks them right out. Could the same thing be happening to you, when you hear an audio book?

    A case of “Caveat Auditor” perhaps?? LOL

  7. My grandmother was blind and subscribed to "Talking Books" or some such organization. She would receive a bulky, heavy package containing vinyl records, probably six or eight to the box. She listened to many books that way. The reader usually droned on in such a way that she nodded off for most of the readings. But she hardly missed a day.

    The technology has changed a little since then.

  8. I used to work in medical transcription & for that reason I would *never* buy or rent audio books! Listening would seem like work to me.

  9. Janice and David, I searched the online catalogue of my local public library, but it didn’t have the print edition. Luckily, it had the electronic edition, which I downloaded to my iPad.

    Dixon, no, my mom didn’t read me to sleep. Usually, I was so tired from playing outside, even in winter, that nobody had to make me go to sleep. Sometimes I went to sleep where ever I happen to be sitting or lying down and my mom or one of uncles would pick me up and put me to bed. Haven't tried listening to audio books while driving, and don't think I'll even experiment.

  10. Louis, I only listen to books when driving or when walking for exercise,
    . If I fall asleep during either of those, I am in trouble.

  11. Louis, I have that problem with most books but they help while I'm driving.

    I enjoyed the first few Stephanie Plum novels because I was entertained by the reader's hilarious Jersey accent, but the replacement reader didn't seem right after that.

    I also loved Jim Dale's reading of the Harry Potter novels; in fact, I preferred the audio books to the movies. I haven't yet heard the Stephen Fry reading, but Jim Dale would be hard to beat.


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