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Friday 10th May 2019


I’ve been trying to get into audio books over the last few months with varying success - podcasts are still my preferred dog walking entertainment (either listening or doing). I found audio books very useful when researching guests for RHLSTP and they seem to work well for autobiographies and comedy (The Alan Partridge ones are better than the books in many ways and Limmy’s stuff works very well), but  anything that requires unbroken concentration or can’t accommodate your mind drifting away thinking about something that has been said and then coming back into mind focus a minute or so later is more difficult. I have listened to some more academic stuff - got a long way through Sapiens before deciding that, though interesting, I wasn’t convinced by the research - but mostly those books feel like you need to be able to read them and stop and think and skip back a few pages to check what’s being talked about. Mary Beard’s SPQR is a cracking book, but there’s a lot to take in and it’s mainly not working for me as an audio book - or only in 10 minute chunks of concentration. I also tried listening to Middlemarch, which I’ve never read and again, the waves of incomprehension quickly engulfed me as I tried to keep up with who each character was. I think it will be one I have to sit down and give my full attention to in written form, though I am considering listening to the audio book and having the book in front of me at the same time.
But I am too exhausted and busy for actual reading at the moment and what appealed to me about audio books was that in why hour or so of dog walking a day I can get my way through a book a month and keep my brain active and working. I have got through several first bits of books though, which is better than nothing and have retained more information than I might have thought I was getting.
But this week I have found the ideal level of audio book for me, I think and have been listening to HG Wells’ War of the Worlds read by David Tennant. Now, I am not sure if it’s because Tennant reads it especially well (the books boasts that it is “performed” by him and actually that is a fair description - he is very good) or because it’s a book that I am reasonably familiar with (or at least I read most of Wells’ work as a teenager and have reread a couple since) and stories that had a great effect on me on previous readings (The Time Machine especially was a very important book in making me the time-travel-consequence pedant that I now am) or just because they are great yarns told without too much pretence; Whatever, I have found this an easy and entertaining listen. It’s still thought provoking enough for my mind to drift into considering the themes and the engaging tweeness of aliens attacking Woking and Chobham, but when my focus returns I still know where I am in the story. 
It is an extremely brilliant book and Wells certainly had an extraordinary mind and vision. But I love the little details of late Victorian era - the narrator reveals that he has been trying to master the new bicycle on the week before the attack and I found that an evocative piece of social history. 
It’s a pretty good value audible purchase if you’re into audio books as you get five novels for one credit and I am very much looking forward to revisiting The Invisible Man again too. And The Time Machine of course. Don't think I ever read the other two, so will be able to get more data on whether it's easier to concentrate on an audio book that you are familiar with if I get round to those.

We do need a word of phrase though to describe that mistake that happens every now and again in audio books, where the reader retakes a line, but the editor neglects to edit out the first take. It happens about once every two books and I think is down to the fact that with audio books you edit as you go, basically just “rewinding” over the mistake and starting again. In the long and tedious process of reading a book aloud, it’s not surprising that occasionally a mistake is made. But what should we call that?  

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