Saturday, March 2, 2013

Harry Potter: Eyeballs to Earbuds

Today is one of those days when I wonder why there isn't a profession that would allow me to do nothing but read books of my own choosing 10 hours a day and get paid like a rock star. Hard to understand why that job doesn't exist.

Like most people, I've bounced around from hobby to hobby in my life, with a few that have stuck - scrapbooking, running, and reading. When I think about it, I'm not sure reading really counts as a hobby. If something is as essential to your happiness and well being as breathing, eating, or sleeping, should you still define it as a hobby?

I recently combined two of my passions - running and reading. Given that for the last several months I've spent a cumulative 6ish hours a week wearing out the soles of my Saucony sneakers, I've listened to my fair share of "motivational music playlists" with the same songs. Even with 80+ songs on a playlist, at some point, you've heard them all waaaay too many times.

Time for a new solution. Audiobooks.

Lucky for me, the Fayetteville Public Library has a collection of audiobooks for check out. Free. And not just obscure titles - best sellers, classics, etc. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been working my way through the Harry Potter series. I've read all of the books a bazillion times, but this is the first time I've listened to them.

You know what? Totally different. I  hear things I don't remember - nuances in the words and the language, and more than that, the interpretation of the emotion and inflection behind the words. I guess when I read, I hear them in my head the same way, every time. But listening to the narrator's interpretation gives a new richness and depth to the characters.

Don't you love good books that you can read over and over, never get tired of, and even find new things in the story every time you read them? What is it about some books that makes them enjoyable on the fifteenth - or even twentieth - reading?

I love J.K. Rowling's series, in part because she makes the characters so alive in the pages. The more I read them, and now hear them, I realize that I also love them because the writing is so engaging. As I've listened to them, I've been struck by how deliberate and artful her word choices are; her sentence structure is; her balance of dialogue and narrative thoughts to move the story along. I think in every English major there aspires the Great American Writer, but knowing a book as well as I know all of the Harry Potter books makes me realize just how difficult and unique a thing it is to write well.

So here's to audiobooks bringing favorite books to life. And here's to books you can read countless times and love as much or more every time. I'd love to hear what your own personal classics are, so if you would, take a moment and give me a title or two to add to my list.

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