Sylvan Lake Municipal Library Programmer Corrie Brown. Submitted photo

The unexpected joy of audiobooks

Before last year, I never had any interest in listening to audiobooks. This is mostly a control issue; I’m a speed reader, so having to give up the pacing control to someone else has always felt daunting and unappealing.

But, this past year I discovered audio-fics on Spotify – fanfiction that has been recorded for audio listening. Those who know me know that the bulk of what I read is fanfiction. When I am deeply invested in a book or a TV series, I want to read more about those characters, and fanfiction is a perfect outlet for that.

Soon, however, I exhausted Spotify’s collection of the fanfics that interested me and found myself still drawn to being able to listen to a story while my hands were occupied with something else. As someone with ADHD, this has been a game-changer. I can play Mahjong or do craft prep or scroll through my never-ending Facebook feed while still being engaged in a story. It has been, to say the least, fantastic.

It has also introduced me to authors and stories I might not have read otherwise, and I’m going to talk about three of them here.

The first is Song For a Whale, by Lynne Kelly. Written by a sign language interpreter, this story features a young deaf girl named Iris, who is struggling to find community and be understood. Readers don’t have to be deaf to identify with Iris, but the author does a beautiful job of illustrating the isolation of speaking a language that so few people take the time to learn.

In Song For a Whale, Iris makes a personal connection with Blue-55, a whale named after the Hertz at which he sings. Blue-55 is also isolated from other whales, because they don’t sing at the same Hertz that he does, and therefore cannot understand him or be understood by him. Iris, skilled with technology, sets out to create a song that Blue-55 can hear, and play it for him, so that he will know that he is not alone, and that someone understands him. And perhaps, by extension, that someone understands her.

It was an absolutely beautiful story, one I will definitely read again.

The next story I want to share is the one I listened to most recently: The Deepest Breath, by Meg Grehan. It is about a young girl named Stevie who struggles with anxiety. Not knowing things fills Stevie with anxiety, while knowing things makes her feel safe, powerful, and in control. The relationship between Stevie and her mother is portrayed beautifully in the story, with such care, understanding, and affection, and yet when Stevie starts to get a “fuzzy feeling in her chest” when she’s around her friend Chloe, she doesn’t know what it means, or if she can talk to her mom about it.

The part of this story that really got to me – cue all of the tears – was when Stevie sought refuge at her public library, seeking information and security, and the librarian made sure to not only provide her with books that helped show her she was not alone but made sure that she knew that there was nothing wrong with her and that she would always be safe at the library. As someone who has many Stevies in my life, I was so happy to see this included in the story.

The Deepest Breath is a wonderful story that touches on anxiety, fear of not being accepted, finding your identity, first love, and the power of books and libraries. I know people who needed this story – and the message it contains – when they were younger, and I am so happy it exists now.

The last audiobook I’m going to touch on was just a fun listen: The One and Only Bob, by Katherine Applegate. This book is narrated by Danny DeVito, and it was one of the best stories that I have listened to on audio. It wasn’t the most emotional or the most impactful book I’ve read, but it was fun, in every sense of the word. As I tweeted to the author, The Only and Only Bob was made for Danny DeVito’s narration, to which she replied, “Danny DeVito IS Bob”. And he so very much is – I don’t think I’ll ever hear the word “snickers” the same way again!

If you loved Matilda, you’ll love The One and Only Bob. You don’t need to have read The One and Only Ivan to enjoy this story, but I definitely recommend reading – or listening to – them both! I know I’m going to start looking for more stories narrated by Danny DeVito!

If you haven’t tried listening to audiobooks before, I definitely recommend giving them a try. You can listen to all of the titles I’ve recommended here on the Library’s Libby app – free with your library card! If you prefer a physical book in your hand, you can get those from the library too.

Reading is reading, no matter the medium. Stories are powerful, and the best ones are ones we want others to read too. I hope you’ll give these ones a listen, and share some of your favourites too!

By Corrie Brown, Sylvan Lake Municipal Library Programmer