Sit back, relax, and leave the reading to us!

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By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System

Remember when you were young the warm and comforting experience of sitting in your mother’s or father’s lap, or beside a beloved grandparent listening intently to a story they were reading to you from a book. Was there a time when you could not wait for your favorite teacher to read another exciting of chapter of a tale of two children living secretly in a museum? They all had ways to bring the stories they read to life. They more than just readers, for me they became performers and storytellers with a slight change of voice for each character or an occasional added sound effect or two. The wonderful children’s books “Charlotte’s Web” and the “Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” were introduced to me this way. Of course now that we are adults, some will say we should never have someone read to us. At the Darlington County Library System we say they are WRONG! Yes, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a story by just listening to a recorded or audio book!

June marks the official beginning of summer. It is a time for spending long hours soaking up sun on a beach, cutting the grass on a warm evening, experiencing cool breezes at a mountain retreat, or taking a road trip to a special place. All of these are ideal times to listen to and enjoy a great audio book. This is why June is National Audio Book Month. The Darlington County Library is your place to find the best in audio books.

The Library has thousands of audio books you can check out. There are over 5,000 audio books you can check out at any of our four locations, Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill. If we don’t have it, we can order it or borrow it from another library as we are a member of the Palmetto Library consortium. You have access to well over 10,000 more audio books through our free interlibrary loan service from member libraries. Available online for download from our website 24/7 at are about 1,500 audio books through Overdrive. I can guarantee you that almost all your favorite author’s books are in audio book form too. Because demand exploded with the advent of cassettes, CDs, and now digital downloads, publishers are simultaneously releasing the audio book version of the book on the same day as the print version.

A pleasant surprise is to find your favorite author has read their book for the audio book version. Toni Morrison, Mark Doty, Gore Vidal, Barbara Kingsolver, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Augusten Burroughs, Frank McCourt, Stephen King, Alice Sebold, David McCullough, Elizabeth Gilbert, and President Barack Obama are among the authors who have read their book for the audio book version. It takes a very special author to be able to bring their story alive through reading it. Many writers simply don’t have the vocal skills that make for a great audio book narrator.

Professional actors, some famous and some not so famous, have been tapped to read books. Among those are Wil Wheaton, Blair Brown, James Marsters, Alan Rickman, Lynn Redgrave, Sissy Spacek, Jeremy Irons, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, and Eric Idle. On occasion, you might even have an ensemble of actors reading on the audio book.

One not so famous actor who found fame as an audio book reader is George Guidall. His distinctive voice and style has helped bring hundreds of stories alive. Stardom for him as an audio book reader started with just a few random reading jobs that exploded into a full time career that includes speaking tours. He is even better known than some of the authors whose books he has read for an audio book version.

Many narrators are not an author or actor. Some have become recognized “stars” in their own right as narrators. Scott Brick began narrating audiobooks in 1999. He has become a popular choice for publishers and authors. Today, he is the narrator of over 600 audio books. He and George Guidall are among my favorite narrators.

I have to confess, I am a fan of audio books. Yes, I do still read books. From a very practical point of view audio books are a convenience. It is impossible for me to read a book while driving a car, mowing the yard, slicing vegetables, or painting a room. If you are like me, you can only take so much talk radio or recorded music before you are looking for the off switch. Eleven years ago I listened to my first audio book. At the time, I began a list. That list now stands at 336 audio books! I enjoy my favorite author’s tales as performed by a narrator who can use their skills to deliver a story with theatrical flair. Among my most listened to authors are David Baldacci (16), Steve Berry (10), Vince Flynn (7), James Rollins (7), and Harry Turtledove (9).
If you need a reason more serious than just convenience to justify taking the plunge into audio books, let me suggest these:

• The listener’s reading level is not an issue
• Increases vocabulary skills
• Improves speaking and writing skills
• Experience the art of storytelling, an important tradition in human history
• The imagination is engaged to create mental images of the story
• Improves listening skills in a multimedia world
• Tasks become more enjoyable
• Stay current with the popular books and the latest releases from favorite authors
• Improves multi-tasking skills
• Learn while you listen

Remember, there are many occasions and reasons for you to enjoy listening to a good story by your favorite author. So start today by sitting back, relaxing, and recapturing that experience of having a great book read to you by listening to an audio book from the Library!

Author: Jana Pye

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