10/21/09

Is reading a book the same as listening to it?

I belong to a book club. It's fairly new and it is my first. We have only read two books so far, American Wife (blech) and Life of Pi (the most astonishing end, and slowest burn to a book I have ever read. I thought about that book way more after I read it, than when I was reading it!) And now, in the spirit of Halloween, we are reading Stephen King's Duma Key. This is the first Stephen King book that I have read in decades and it has been fun so far. I am only 40 pages in and have 700 to go, so I know that I will be cramming as we meet soon, but I will finish reading it.

Some of the members of the club, have just revealed that they are listening to the book instead of reading it. And I am wondering is if listening to the book on tape is the same as reading it? It feels like cheating to me. Although I love the idea of books on tape as a form of entertainment, I wonder if it is really possible to grasp the whole experience of holding a book in one's hands, curling up on the couch and losing yourself in the words on the page. When you read, you can see how the author chose to string words together, how the punctuation informed where the emphasis was in the sentence and the voice of the narrator and the characters are the ones you give to it and not that of the actor hired to do the read.

I also worry that not reading, makes us become lazier, and dependent on receiving all our information, rather than actively pursuing it. We sit and watch movies, and television and listen to the radio and browse the internet...all things I do and enjoy, but it takes concentration to read and I think it is important to work those muscles. Not to mention it's wonderful to read a remarkable passage and be able to go back and reread it, to savor the words, to put the book done, catch one's breath and read it again. And books can be on your shelf, each one a reminder of a time and place in your life, an afternoon or week spent losing yourself in the words between the covers. They are lasting. Unlike so many things that come and go...there is still the power of the printed word, as long as there are people to read them.

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