Much of my life is spent working, which, I think, is normal and to be expected. Much of my life is also spent driving to and from work–much more than I would ever have expected. Books on tape have helped me salvage some sanity after a year of 90 minute commutes (90 minutes each way, that is). Neil Gaiman is, by far, my favorite author to listen to.
I’ve listened to histories and biographies. I’ve listened to George R. R. Martin’s “The World of Ice and Fire” three times (that’s a lot of driving). It was strange at first, listening to someone read me stories as an adult, but not at all unenjoyable. When I listen to a story read properly, I am awakened to nuances that might have escaped me, had I thought up the voices and their inflections myself. I was surprised by the influence that the tone of voice of the reader could have on my perception of the character. Maybe “tone” is inadequate. I don’t mean timber or pitch, although I could see both of these elements becoming distracting in certain situations. I mean emotional tone or–even more important–visceral connection to the material.
This is why I love it when the author is also the narrator. And I love even more when the narrator and author are Neil Gaiman. When Neil reads his books, he brings them to life. I love hearing him read aloud his collections of short stories. “Smoke and Mirrors” actually made me want to try my hand at artistic writing again (which says a lot for someone who must write for work each day and is more than a little bit sick of looking at a computer screen). The characters from “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and “The Graveyard Book” became so real inside my car, that starting my long trek to work became a little like revisiting old friends.
Alright, I did imply by the title that this post would be brief, so I will stop waxing on about Neil Gaiman’s audio books. But I do whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone planning a road trip anytime soon; or really just to anyone.