Expanding my reading experiences

Full disclosure: I work for the company that published the book that I will be talking about today. I was not involved in this book, but I do know the author.

A few months ago, I realized that I read the same kinds of books. I read mostly Young Adult contemporary books, many of the same authors and authors that those authors thank in their acknowledgments of their books over and over. I mean, if you read, let’s say the acknowledgments of a Gayle Forman book, those authors are mainly the ones I read. Maureen Johnson thanks most of the same authors on her back page, as does John Green, Libba Bray, Rainbow Rowell, etc.

Because of this, I signed up for Uppercase so I would get new books by authors I was unfamiliar with and expand my reading safe zone. It’s also why I started this blog, I wanted to find people to connect to and find books outside my usual reading.

One other thing that has pushed my reading limits is working for Stitched Smile Publications, which is a horror publisher. Horror wouldn’t be my number one favorite thing, but when I was applying for internships as I finished up my master’s degree, I liked that it was outside of my regular comfort zone. Thankfully, the CEO agreed, and I’ve been editing for them for about a year.

Late last spring, Stitched released a book that felt different than other releases we’d done in the time I’ve been there (it was all of 3 months, but you know when things just feel different). This release was Drudging up Memories by AJ Brown. It’s a zombie apocalypse book. I, as previously mentioned, don’t read a lot of those, so being a part of this horror community I wanted to check it out.

I started reading this book in August. Over Labor Day weekend, I moved and lost the book.

I still have no idea where the physical copy of this book is.

Then in October, when the podcast I talked about last week debuted. I got audible and was guilted into listening to the Alexander Hamilton biography, and not too long after that the audiobook version of Drudging up Memories was released.

So before I continue talking about the book, I’m going to talk about something that either everyone does, or makes me a crazy person. Even writing makes me feel like I might be a crazy person, so if you do this, tell me.

I don’t read books in my own voice. Like, the voice in my head reading the book. For a while, the voice that read me books was one of my high school English teachers. I, because I am a normal human, have a cassette tape of my teacher reading parts of The Great Gatsby, and because I liked their reading aloud voice, that teacher read me A Prayer for Owen Meany in my head. Then  I stumbled head first into Nerdfighteria, and John Green read the first chapter of Paper Towns over the internet, and well, John Green read me books in my head for, like, 6 years. This is a little weird with a female narrator, but I made it work. Then I heard Maureen Johnson’s voice, and I would use hers for some books. Sometimes, I will use my friend Jen’s voice for a change-up but rarely do I hear my own voice in my voice as I read a book.

This particular, I’m going to call it a quirk,  made Drudging up Memories an odd book to read. As I mentioned earlier, I know the author. I have been on Skype calls with him as part of my job. I know his voice, but translating that voice into a reading voice wasn’t as easy as it usually is and this book wasn’t a book that worked with my go to male narrator, John Green. AJ Brown, and the main character of the book, Hank Walker, are southern. All my go to narrators have either neutral or northern accents. To feel the book, it had to be read with that accent. Like reading Harry Potter. Reading Hagrid’s dialogue feels weird in an American accent. You, or at least I, had to read it with an English-accented narrator in my head to have the narrative feel authentic to me.

The audiobook for this novel had the pieces fit into place for me as a reader. The narrator, John Malone, was the perfect voice I needed to get deeply into the book. This novel is very different from what I usually read, as I’ve mentioned, but not just because of its subject matter. For most of the book, there is only one character. Just one man against a dying world. There are flashbacks to before the world– for lack of a better term–ended, but mostly it’s a man a stuffed bear in a bunny costume. It’s a deeply emotional book, which I think is different from the average zombie apocalypse novel.
I have seen some bloggers talk about how they can’t do audiobooks, which is totally cool, to each their own, but I thought I was that kind of person until recently. I think it’s worth giving them a try if you haven’t. Audible does give you a free book with a trial, and I’m pretty sure that there are ways to find books online for free somewhere. My town library has audiobooks. If small town New Hampshire has audiobooks in their libraries, I’m willing to bet towns and cities with more people than cows also have audiobooks.

I like being read to in general. I always enjoyed that part of English class. I think that’s why I like audiobooks. It also lets me do other things, like do work or drive while “reading.” I can read more books this way. I, literally, never would have finished the Alexander Hamilton biography if I was reading it. I would have given up when it hit the Federalist Papers, but with the audiobook, two hours and that deep political– read boring as heck– part of the book was over.

It was kind of perfect that I lost the physical copy of Drudging up Memories, I got more out of it listening to it than I did reading it the “regular” way. The voice was better, felt more right.

I think that it’s important to read and experience books in different ways, expand your comfort zone and dip your toes in a different genre or medium. I think that here in the book blogging community, we stick to our comfort zones so that what we write about we are experts in. Sometimes it’s nice to jump out. Try something new. You might just surprise yourself with how much you like it.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

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