Oral Storytelling: Yea or Nay?

I can’t listen to music when I’m reading, and often not when I’m writing, but I can listen to stories when I’m drawing, painting, collaging, or visually creating. Funny how the brain works that way.

Currently I’m working on an art project and listening to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I absolutely love it.

There’s something uniquely intimate about the voice– about simply speaking and listening. Perhaps books on tape remind me of bedtime stories and the days when teachers used to gather all the kids up in a circle and read to us from picture books, and then Judy Blume, Choose Your Own Adventure, and then, in middle school, the Harry Potter series.

I love reading stories aloud as much as I love listening to them. When my little sister was old enough I in turn read her the Harry Potter series, putting on voices for Harry and the professors and even a French accent for Fleur Delacour. When I taught English in Japan I read simple stories to my more advanced students and loved it.

But to the point: for this Forum Friday, I want to know what your thoughts are on books on tape.

  1. Do you like listening to audio books?
  2. What have you listened to? What was your favorite?
  3. What are your thoughts on reading a book versus listening to one?

23 thoughts on “Oral Storytelling: Yea or Nay?

  1. The narrator is so important and can make or break the story. My family listened to Maze Runner on our way to Mount Rushmore. A loooooong drive. The reader was so fantastic. I later read the book reviews on Amazon and they were not great. People thought the book was just, meh. I wanted to reply to them all and say, ” Listen to the CD!”

    So yes. I do like audio books, but will stop if the narrator is not great.


    • Hi, Jenna! Yes, of course– the reader makes all the difference!

      What I find interesting about “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (what I’m listening to now) is that there are several readers. I suppose that’s appropriate for a book of this nature where there is more than one narrator, and often dialogue is not marked with “he said,” “she said,” etc.

      Thanks much for reading and sharing your thoughts πŸ™‚

      • Hmmm – that’s odd. The few I’ve listened to it’s been all the same reader. He or she alters their voice to take on each character. The guy who did Maze Runner had a tough job – it was mostly teen boy characters. I could tell each time he switched as to who was talking. I was amazed.

        I’m looking forward to listening to more. Enjoy your book. πŸ™‚


    • Really! Not even when you were little? I remember when I was too young to read I used to “read” along with picture books that had audio accompaniment.

      I highly recommend giving it a try– even if it’s while you’re making dinner, or doing the laundry, or driving, or drawing. I’d love to hear about your experience and impressions!

      • When I was little I’m sure I did, but not as an adult. Audio books are pretty expensive here so I haven’t given them much of a thought. I’m not sure if my library has any, I don’t go there much because I prefer to own the books I read rather than borrow, but I might check it out and see. Since I’ve joined goodreads and seen a fair amount of reviews of audio books I’ve become more curious.

  2. I enjoy books on tape, and I agree with the above comment. The narrator must be good, or it gets turned off really quick. My goal is to get the War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and oh I can’t remember the third one on tape this year and listen to them. Tried to read the books, snore fests all of them. I must have music on when I write though, MotorHead is my go to song list.

  3. I have become devoted to listening to classic literature on CDs (or as audio downloads) at night before bedtime. It is incredibly relaxing to follow along with the stories and hear the beauty of the language. If I drift off the sleep, I just pick up where I last remember leaving off.

    • I haven’t listened to that many audio books either, but with how much I love listening to stories I really can’t say why. I think there are places in my daily/weekly routine that would make good opportunities to listen, so I’ll incorporate some more πŸ™‚

      What have been some of your favorite curl up and read before bed books?

  4. Seeing the title I thought the subject might have been the traditional Gaelic storytellers of old who passed on knowledge and legend alike down through the generations. But no, never listened to an audio book 😦

  5. Certainly my father, under the right conditions and after a pint, would talk for hours about old Ireland, and us children would be rapt. Sort of traditional I think πŸ™‚ Maybe a blog post coming up there.

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