Friday, August 22, 2014

Bedtime Stories

I have taken to audiobooks. I always hated them. When I was a kid, they came on tapes, usually in plastic boxes that squeaked oddly when you opened them. The tapes were in compressed sections, with little posts that held the tape in place. They were usually recorded badly, at least in my experience, with lots of hissing and white noise along with the voice of the narrator. They were dreadful and I hated them.

It didn't help that, when I was very young, people would give you books on tape, or stories on tape, that were designed to put the fear of God into little children. They were heavy-handed, Old Testament-type stories in which Johnny was a terrible child because he was a liar, and he was going to Hell if he wasn't careful, because Hell is a real place, and Johnny is there now because he failed to be obedient and hold his mommy's hand when he crossed the street, in addition to being a liar. They usually were based around rules, like the Ten Commandments, with catchy songs about not murdering people. Mum hated them because they were all about rules and scaring children. They were always given to us by other families from church who had terrified their own children with the same stories already.

Then they invented Veggie Tales, and things improved for everyone.

When I started at the library, I had to buy audiobooks for the collection. I had no idea how to pick out an audiobook. It became a thing of choosing the most popular books and getting their audio double. So, if I ordered If I Stay, I would get the audio to go along with it, if someone wanted the audio instead of the do-it-yourself model, a paperback or hardcover book. Audiobooks, to me, were what you got when you didn't like reading. They were for the sort of people who like graphic novels because they can look at pictures instead of reading*.

Time passed and I got Francis Focus. Francis does not have a connector for my iPod. This is only because I have not made an appointment to switch out his current stereo for the one I have sitting in a box in my room. I had a long drive to make, and I decided that putting up with terrible music, which is all we get on local radio, would not be acceptable for my drive through Indiana, home of terrible radio stations. I decided to check out a book I'd been wanting to read for ages, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. This was a lucky choice. The narrator was perfect. She was funny and managed to change her voice just enough for me to believe someone else was talking, and she didn't just read words, she ACTED them.

This was unprecedented for me. An audiobook that was CLEVER. Well made. Entertaining.

I listened to all the other Flavia de Luce mysteries, and when they were done, I gave up. I started listening to Welcome To Night Vale on my phone. this meant I could listen while I ran, which was awesome. It was even better than listening to stories in the car. I could be entertained while I was miserable, and this was the best thing ever. I finished all the old episodes and had to wait for ages for new ones. By then, I was hooked on stories while I ran, and running without a story to listen to was unthinkable. I had to do something, so I tried listening to a Terry Pratchett book as I ran every day. And that wasn't enough, so I started listening before I fell asleep at night. And when that book was over, I wanted more, so I checked out a bunch from the library. And then I joined Audible because the idea of making the library order tons of audiobooks narrated by Stephen Briggs just because I enjoy his narration seemed like an abuse of power.

And now I can sort of sleep at night. I listen to a story, and it makes me stop thinking. I turn off the obsessive voice in my head that analyzes all the things that are happening in my life, all the things I should do, all the things I didn't do properly, and all the things that COULD happen but haven't yet. Instead I listen to stories, and I relax. The Audible app has a little timer that lets you set it for whatever time you like, or to the end of the chapter, so you don't have the book playing all night while you sleep. And there isn't any light to keep you awake.

I've gone from sleeping a few hours a night to sleeping a full six hours, sometimes MORE. I feel rested. I feel better. And the best thing is, there were no pills! I mean, this audibook thing is ragingly addictive, so you do have to worry about that. All books are addictive, though. (Except for maybe My Parents Open Carry. That book isn't addictive, it's just disturbing.)

Have any of you tried audiobooks as treatment for insomnia? Do you have a favorite audiobook narrator? Leave your answers in the comments so I know what to listen to next!

*This was before I started reading all the amazing graphic novels people are writing (and illustrating). Have you read Smile? I loved Smile. And Stitches by David Small was amazing. It made me cry.


  1. In case I haven't told you- I find your blog clever and hilarious! Keep it up! Teri c.