So much to read, so little time! We have paperbacks, hardbacks, ebooks, audiobooks, books on CD or MP3, books for iPod, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook and the Sony ereader, magazines, newspapers, as well as emails, blogs and all the other tantalizing material on the internet. And what about professional reading, journals, newsletters, listserve entries and pamphlets? At any given time, I find myself “reading” several magazines or journals, my book club book, a professional book, an escapist utopian science fiction novel, an audiobook on MP3 in my car and an audiobook on my iPhone. One or more of these books is usually on my Kindle, which, in my opinion, is the best thing to happen to reading in centuries. I can put my Kindle down on my nightstand and resume from where I left off on my iPhone while waiting at a restaurant and then pick right back up on my computer at the office. When I want to read in bed before falling asleep, I grab the Kindle from my nightstand and it knows right where I left off on my computer before leaving the office. What a miracle of technology! And I can control the font size to accommodate my less-than-perfect vision. Changing pages just requires the flick of a finger and the Kindle is lighter than most hardbacks and easier to manage nimbly than most paperbacks. Apparently it can even read the book to you with its text to speech feature, although I haven’t found any need to experiment with that yet. An author who is a Facebook friend even suggested putting the Kindle in a zip lock bag to read in the bathtub (and yes, it works great!). Many self-help books, textbooks and professional books are now available for the Kindle and in other ereader formats, as are some journals, magazines and newspapers. Another helpful feature with the Kindle is the ability to download the first chapter of a book before actually purchasing it. I’ve spared myself quite a few duds taking advantage of this feature. This new technology can help even the busiest among us grab precious snippets of blissful reading when presented with a little spare time, no matter what the location or circumstances.
Recently, I find particular delight in audio books. I had eye surgery several years ago and I was unable to spend more than a few minutes reading ordinary written text for months. For me, reading is as necessary to life as eating so this presented a formidable challenge. I decided I would rise to this challenge by exploring the world of audiobooks and I have been a fan ever since. I am a member of Audible, an online audiobook club recently purchased by Amazon. For a basic monthly membership fee of $14.95, I can choose one audiobook each month. I used to get 2 books for $22.95 but I got backlogged so I dropped down to the basic membership and I just buy extras as I need them. The quality of audiobooks has dramatically improved in recent years, with professional readers who have delightful accents, lovely voices and excellent diction. Many audiobooks have unique actors or separate voices for different characters which creates dramatic flair and really enhances the timeless pleasure associated with having someone read to you.
FYI, I have no vested interest in Audible, Kindle or Apple. I just think they offer wonderful products and services to those who love (or have) to read. I’ve done a lot of research on these resources, which you can benefit from without having to reinvent the wheel on this issue unless you choose to do so.
I’ve recently listened to several excellent audiobooks, but one in particular was a real stand-out. For my book club last month, we read a memoir, called “The Kids Are All Right” by Diana Welch, Liz Welch, Amanda Welch and Dan Welch. These four siblings experienced the death of both parents before they were grown. At the time of their mother’s death they ranged in age from 8 to 19 years old. Their parents had not made plans for this eventuality so the children found themselves split up among different families with limited contact with one another and minimal practical or emotional support. They reconnected as young adults and started sharing memories of their parents and childhood experiences. To their surprise (but hopefully not ours), they discovered their memories of the same events were wildly different. So they decided to write about their shared past in a way that would candidly reflect their diverse recollections. The book recounts the time from their father’s death in a car accident, through their mother’s illness and death from cancer 3.5 years later and the time they were separated from one another. It’s a raw, honest, poignant account that will touch you deeply. The siblings abiding love for one another and triumph over adversity is truly inspiring. I was privileged to have Liz Welch “attend” my May book club meeting via Skype. I put my laptop on a stand at the head of my dining room table and dialed her up (by prior arrangement, of course). She was articulate, open, thoughtful, frank and funny. She had marvelous insight, much of which she admitted had come from a wonderful relationship with an excellent therapist (yay us!). The discussion that night was one of the best we’ve ever had. This is no small statement considering my book club has been around for over 20 years and this was not our first meeting with an author in attendance. I highly recommend this book for fellow psychologists since the opportunity to understand real life events from four separate, insightful, articulate members of the same family is a rare opportunity. Take advantage of it, you will be glad you did.