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Heard Any Good Books Lately?

Monday 29, 2018 at 8:23 AM

Hinsdale Library

In 1932, The American Foundation for the Blind began creating recordings of books on vinyl records. (About 15 minutes of speech per side.)

In 2017, audiobooks were a two billion-dollar industry. The Audio Publishers Association reported that 2016 was the third consecutive year that audiobook sales expanded by nearly 20 percent.

It took the cassette tape boom of the 1980s to introduce audiobooks to a wide, car-driving audience. And, fans and publishers have never looked back.

“Now, you’re a librarian, Karen,” you may be saying to yourself. “Burdened with an English degree, no less. Surely you don’t approve of people taking the easy way out and having their books read to them!”

That’s where you’re wrong, my friend. My colleagues and I approve of and heartily endorse any way that people can find and enjoy stories and information. Whether stone tablet, scroll, or digital download, we just want the format to be convenient and reliable for you.

Just a couple of years ago cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote for the Washington Post, “comparing audio books to cheating is like meeting a friend at Disneyland and saying: ‘You took a bus here? I drove myself, you big cheater.’” (“Is Listening to a Book ‘Cheating’?” July 21, 2016)

In addition to hundreds of books on CD, the Hinsdale Public Library also offers audiobooks to download or stream on your computer, tablet or phone. Visit and click the top bar “EBOOKS & EAUDIOBOOKS.” Of the platforms we offer, Hoopla is my favorite for audiobooks. It has a huge selection, and their titles are always available. (No waiting lists!)

If you’re already a fan, you know that the narrator has a huge impact on how much you enjoy the listening experience. It’s not surprising that some of our most popular audiobooks are those that are read by the author.

Could anyone but Julie Andrews do justice to her charming autobiography “Home: A Memoir of My Early Years?” And who would dare try to re-interpret David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” Natural raconteurs, comedians make especially engaging narrators. Try titles written and read by Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Trevor Noah, and Jim Gaffigan.

Many of our best stage and screen actors have narrated audiobooks, as well. One of my all-time favorites “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline is read actor Wil Wheaton. Claire Danes masterfully narrates Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Sissy Spacek seems born to the world of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Tony-Award winner Lin-Manual Miranda and Karen Olivo bring out the snap of Junot Diaz’s dazzling wordplay in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

So remember, audiobooks are—not cheating; available on CD or free download from your library, and one of life’s most enjoyable ways to multitask.

Karen Kleckner Keefe is the Executive Director of Hinsdale Public Library