Talking Books – who knew?!
The sad truth of it is – believe it or not – that there are people amongst us for whom the joys of a talking book are unknown. They have read books and listened to music but inexplicably never listened to a book. It is unlikely that this is the result of a deliberate bias […]
The sad truth of it is – believe it or not – that there are people amongst us for whom the joys of a talking book are unknown. They have read books and listened to music but inexplicably never listened to a book. It is unlikely that this is the result of a deliberate bias against such an excellent format, but rather a suspicion of the unknown and a subconscious fear that it is a stepping stone to nasal hair and a hearing horn. If this were true, it would be the most entertaining step to decrepitude; it is however a portal to another world when the eyes are engaged elsewhere.
The advantages of the talking book over the printed version are many; who, for example has the time to familiarise themselves with the history of everything in the world, which Bill Bryson jotted down several years ago in his work A short history of nearly everything. I don’t know how long it took to write, but reading it takes quite a chunk of a person’s free time. This is all very well for those with unlimited leisure, a private income and household staff; for the rest of us – not so much. This is where the talking book comes into its own. You can drive and listen, iron and listen, make home brew and listen, or construct shelves and listen. In the time it takes to be entertained by Keith Richards’s autobiography, for example, you could probably fit a kitchen – it is astonishing what a memory that man has given his recreational habits. You could probably rebuild London in a shorter time than it takes to enjoy Samuel Pepy’s diary.
The car is an excellent place to use a talking book. It is not uncommon to spend ten hours a week on the journey to and from work, listening to the inane drivel of a radio presenter or the depressing gloom fest of the more serious political analysts,. Even one’s own music collections can become over familiar. Not so the talking book. Whether you prefer a thriller or romance, fiction or biography, history or comedy, there is a talking book for you. Take your mind off work with Henning Mankell or Emma Donoghue, Eoin Colfer or Candace Bushnell, Dickens or Cecilia Ahern.
According to those who know such things, everyone gave up on their new year’s resolutions last month,, but if you are still walking or running you’ll be glad to know that talking books are also available from your local library on pre-loaded mp3 players. Simply plug in the earphones, pop the tiny player into whatever nylon sports thing you’re wearing and off you go. You’ll soon forget the pain in your legs if you’re listening to Twelve years a slave by Solomon Northrup.
Every story is read by a professional actor, most of whom are well known from their stage, screen and television careers. Matthew Crawley from Downton – or Dan Stevens as his mother calls him – reads Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale for example and Sandy Toksvig narrates her own hilarious advice on modern manners in her work Peas & Queues. Barak Obama himself narrated Dreams from my father and the aforementioned Keith Richards mumbled through his autobiography Life with the help of his good friend and admirer Johnny Depp.
And all this is not just for adults. There is a huge variety of talking books available for children – all the best authors, stories and readers. When you’ve exhausted your repertoire of bedtime stories, you can hand over to David Walliams narrating his own book Demon dentist or Roald Dahl’s BFG, or Stephen Fry reading any of the books from the Harry Potter series. Or, you can hook them up to the pre-loaded mp3 books in the back of the car and never have to answer the question ‘are we there yet?’ again.
By Lesley Kavanagh
Ask the staff in your local Library to show you the Talking Book Section on your next visit!