Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Suddenly, I’m in two book clubs at work. They’re both very small but great ways to discover books I normally wouldn’t read. With the quarantine at full force, I’ve noticed a huge jump in elibrary hold times. There are routinely more than a hundred people waiting for books now. I’d love to see an analysis of ebook demand since the coronavirus started. Maybe I’ll just do it myself if I could get the data somehow. I’ll say it again, libraries are incredible. It’s almost unthinkable what you can get for free (or with your sunk cost taxes). Anyway, with the surge in demand, this book wasn’t available in ebook format, so I had to resort to audiobook. Since I didn’t take any notes, I won’t do the normal ten quotes. Instead, I’ll talk about some pros and cons of audiobooks.

I liked being able to “read” even when I was tired and wanted to close my eyes. I also found it to be much more engaging than my podcast listening. On an average podcast, I’m paying attention but barely retaining anything. Somehow, knowing that it’s a book, I really focused on every word. That said, the narration was mildly unsettling. It was weird to listen to one narrator using different voices for different characters, and it was very difficult to keep track of the character names in the beginning. Another difference between ebooks and audiobooks was that I could see on the app beforehand the duration of each chapter. With ebooks, I’d intermittently check what % progress I’m at, but this number doesn’t really give me a sense of how much longer the book would take since some books are way denser than others. The % progress number can also be thrown off by a huge appendix or bibliography. At first, I was shocked by how long the audiobook would take. Most chapters were 30 minutes+, and the book had 20 chapters. In retrospect though, that’s about 10 hours. I doubt I could have finished the ebook in less than 10 hours given how slow I typically read. That said, 10 hours was sticker shock, so I tried to speed up the audio. I ended up settling for 1.25x since 1.5x was way too fast for comprehension, even though I can usually watch Youtube videos at 1.5x. I suspect that visuals really help. Speaking of visuals, the most surprising part of the audiobook experience was that I had much more vivid visual images of the characters and settings in my head compared to reading an ebook. With my eyes closed for most of the audiobook, I had room in my mind to conjure up my version of the plot as if I were watching a TV show.

All in all, this book took me back to growing up in suburbia. The story really struck me as American, both the good and bad. I was lukewarm on most of the characters, but I think it’s because they were all so real with human flaws. Without a doubt, the audiobook format shaped a lot of how I felt about the book. Going forward, I’d still rather read than listen to books. If this quarantine keeps up though, I might not have a choice.

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