The Awesome-ness of Audiobooks

Marielle Genovesi, Arts Editor

When I was a kid before the existence of smart phones or built in DVD players, and even before I had a Walkman, long car rides with my family usually meant that my dog was squished between my two brothers and I, there was a hefty bag of snacks to chomp on and that there most definitely was a book on tape to listen to [most likely from the Harry Potter series, but not always].
Lately I have been thinking a lot about orally told stories. Maybe it is the courses I have taken in which we discuss the importance of oral traditions to various cultures, or maybe it’s the fact that during my training [for track] I listened to two books on my iPod to help the miles fly by. But something else has gotten me thinking that listening to stories is not only something I miss and value from my childhood, but maybe a pastime that is on its way back.
Recently, I began listening to the popular podcast “Serial,” after hearing about it from both friends and family. The series is produced by Sarah Koenig of “This American Life,” a weekly public radio show listened to by thousands across the country. The first season of the podcast investigates a 1999 murder in Baltimore County, Maryland. The story is gripping as if it were a mystery novel, yet it is the true story of Adnan Syed, convicted and sentenced for murdering his High School aged ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Koenig seeks to explore the gray areas of Syed’s case, at the core of which it seems there were many uncertainties. The listener is just as uncertain as Koenig of Syed’s conviction, during one episode of the 12-episode series he seems to be guilty, and the next the listener seems certain that Syed is innocent. The podcast is as riveting as watching a TV show in my opinion, if you haven’t listened, you might want to start.
But my point here wasn’t to discuss the “Serial” podcast, but more to consider the concept of it. Although podcasts have been around for a while, and obviously books on tape even longer, as well as oral stories for thousands of years, I wonder if we college kids have forgotten the beauty of a book on tape, or of a story read aloud. I even wonder, as a person who still listens to books on tape, and as a fairly busy English major, what integrating oral stories into college curriculums might do. Or maybe how listening to any kind of literature, even just for fun, can be beneficial.
With the popularity of podcasts like “Serial” could listening to stories become something as popularly regarded as TV series? Or are we too visually oriented to listen to stories?

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