The first books I remember reading are science fiction. I loved the way SF took me to new worlds; I loved the way it shook up my brain.
I don’t remember learning to read; consequently, I don’t remember being read to as a child. But my folks must have read to me because I knew how to read before I started school, and how else would I have learned?
During the last few years I’ve (re?)discovered the pleasures of being read to. Listening to a good story lightens the load of household tasks, errands, and long drives. Putting books on my Treo lets me take a library with me when I travel, without carrying another suitcase. My computer can read to me, leaving my hands free for making bead creatures.
Audiobooks solve the problem of books printed in unreadable tiny little type. Is it my imagination that more books are like that these days? It can’t just be that I don’t read in the dark like a cat anymore.
I’ve been rereading, via audiobook, the work of Ursula K. Le Guin. Much of her science fiction as well as the Annals of the Western Shore (Gifts, Voices, and Powers) and the Earthsea books (except for Tehanu — Where, oh where is the audiobook of Tehanu?) are available as audio downloads. I don’t reread books often, but Le Guin’s work stands up to multiple readings, giving me the opportunity to appreciate the world-building, the social extrapolation, the humor.
One particular pleasure is being read to by the author. Some of us, though adequate readers of our own work, are well served by pros such as the late Anna Fields. But when a writer is also a good reader, the authorial voice adds something extra.
Le Guin’s Catwings series is a perfect example. I’m listening to Catwings Return again as I write this, getting a little snuffly as the Catwings go in search of Mrs Jane Tabby. I’m looking forward to her readings of the other Catwings books.
Michael Chabon is another writer who sometimes reads his own work, for example, Summerland. It’s his homage to the quest novel; if anyone had told me I’d be enthralled by a baseball book, I’d’ve laughed at them.
Chabon often makes me laugh, not at him but with him, as when his Wonder Boys protagonist waits for his soon-to-be-ex-wife outside the Baxter building, where she works at the Richards Reed Company, with her friends Ben and Sue. This doesn’t even come out of left field; but fellow Fantastic Four fans will join in a chuckle.
His tour-de-force mystery/sf/alternate history The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won the Nebula and just about ever other award in sight, and deservedly so.
For the ultimate in brain-shaking books, try Peter Watts’ take-no-prisoners SF (the Rifters trilogy: Starfish, Maelstrom, ?ehemoth: ?-Max, and ?ehemoth: Seppuku; and Blindsight). I was a little bit relieved when I couldn’t find them in audio versions (they’re likely to be pretty intense), but I note that now Blindsight is available as an audio download.
But be warned. His stuff might not just shake up your brain. It might explode your entire skull.
This is an expansion of the fiction section of my audible.com guest curator essay, which because of a severe pixel shortage among the Interweebs came out in an abridged version. I don’t like abridged audiobooks, either.
You can find The Moon and the Sun at Book View Cafe, where a new chapter is featured each Sunday. For print copies of The Moon and the Sun and my other SF novels, visit my website’s Basement Full of Books.