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Armchair BEA: Beyond Books

Day 2 of Book Expo America (BEA) and today we’re talking about ways of experiences beyond the traditional formats of the printed word.

I’ve seen many BEA participants share their love of graphic novels today but since this doesn’t light my fire  I’m going to talk about the spoken rather than the written word. And by the spoken word I don’t just mean narrated versions of novels that you used to get on cassette tape but now more commonly find in compact disc format. I’m talking also about podcasts.

Both of these make the daily drive to work rather more enjoyable than listening to the usual blah blah from politicians on the news programs. They’ve also sustained me through many long car journeys and kept me going in the gym when I would much rather be somewhere else but persevere because of course I know it;s good for me and I really don’t to have to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Something I’ve discovered is that my tastes in audio books is rather different to the books I actually read. Normally I don’t read much crime fiction but oddly, when it comes to an audio version, that’s the genre that seems to work best for me. I find I can listen to them and enjoy the plot etc but I don’t have to listen so closely that I can’t watch what’s happening on the road. More literary novels however, seem to require deeper concentration than is safe. So in the car I’ve worked my way through many of the authors you’d expect − like Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Ian Rankin − mixed with a few writers of historical crime fiction like Ellis Peeters and Bernard Knight.  When I run out of options amongst the collection in the library, I turn to the podcasts of George Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series and I’ve found some fairly old recordings featuring Agatha Christie’s Poirot in the ITunes library.

But when it comes to something to distract me while I’m on the cross trainer or the treadmill, I find I can listen to programs that require more concentration. Podcasts discussing books and reading are good (like the Guardian Books Podcast or The Readers) though it gets frustrating when I don’t have a pen handy to write down the name of a book I’ve just heard about!  Through ITunes U I’ve also been able to pretend I’m sitting in a lecture theatre at an Australian university listening to discussions on  children’s literature or in an American university hearing thoughts on key themes in King Lear. It certainly helps the minutes tick away.

Let me know if you’ve come across some good book related podcasts – I’ll start putting a list together and share that at some point in the future.



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