Audio books

by Brian Clarey

I’ve always been an avid reader, from the time I was about 3 years old. Seriously. By the time I was in kindergarten, my teacher allowed me to go free-range in the library while my booger-eating peers were fumbling their way through the alphabet.

As a kid, I’d hole up in my room and knock out whole volumes, read by flashlight into the late hours when I should have been sleeping. When I was 13 I read Stephen King’s The Stand in a single binge that lasted almost a week.

I was a little too young to be reading that one.

I still love to read — a pretty good thing for a man in my business — but most of the printed words that I consume these days are on a screen, usually journalism and, often, under a tight deadline. When it comes time to read for pleasure, these days I generally fall asleep after a page or two, the book propped on my face like a dead bird.

And really, I don’t have the time anyway.

I fell into audio books in much the same way crack cocaine users find their way into their habit: The first one was free with the download of an app on my phone. I nabbed Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and listened to it on a solo drive down to Louisiana. Nobody understands the semicolon like Capote, and the text was such that I could almost hear that wonderful piece of punctuation as I sped through the Deep South.

More followed: A couple Jonathan Franzen novels, a couple bestsellers, a full theatrical reading of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a bunch of sci-fi. I listen while I’m cooking, working in the yard or exercising, sometimes when I’m in the car — the whole family burned through The Martian on a drive to Florida. And I get something out of it that I don’t from listening to music or podcasts, though I still do both of those things.

The audiobooks keep me connected to the written word, a love that has driven my life and career from the beginning. All writers know that the only way to get better at the craft is to read great writing. And though I’m busy AF, I can still knock out a book a week.

But if I’m laying down, I still fall asleep after a couple of minutes.