Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Listening to Long Books

In the next couple days I should be wrapping up listening to War and Peace. The unabridged reading I'd found ran to about 60 hours, which covered two months of commuting. Though Tolstoy has his frustrations, I've been glad to get through War and Peace again, at a rather more leisurely pace than when reading it for college, and thus retaining more. And using the commute time to do it seems like an enjoyable way to pass time that would otherwise be spent listening to the news or some such.

I've been trying to decide what to listen to next. My criteria are basically:

- Sufficient length that the book fill most of a month (thus, at least 20 hours -- 1/3 the length of War and Peace)
- The sort of book that I feel like I ought to read or re-read, but am unlikely to find the time to get to any time soon
- I'm trying to avoid strictly fun-read books, of the sort I'd tear through by staying up late or reading all through a weekend, in that when in the past I've tried listening to that sort of page-turner-ish book, I've ended up ditching the audio book half way through and tearing through the rest in print where I can find out What Happens faster.
- Something that isn't such a prose masterwork (or something I'd want to flip around and take notes on) that I'd feel hampered by listening rather than reading.

Possibilities I've got in mind thus far are staying Russian by switching to Dostoevsky and listening to Crime and Punishment or The Idiot (both of which, I must confess, I've never read, though I read and loved Brothers Karamazov) or switching to Dickens and listening to Bleak House.

Does anyone have suggestions for other long books which might be suitable for listening? (At the rate of one a month, there should be plenty of room on the wish list.)

22 comments:

Lauren said...

I usually get my ideas for long audio books from Masterpiece Theater, but perhaps you're made of more intellectual stock. My rec's via this method are The Way We Live Now, Vanity Fair, and The Forsyth Saga (in that order). Also Gulliver's Travels is fun on tape, and it's episodic which I like in audio books if I need to stop and start.

BettyDuffy said...

Tried to read Don Quixote recently, and wished I had an audio book.

Darwin said...

Lauren,

I usually get my ideas for long audio books from Masterpiece Theater, but perhaps you're made of more intellectual stock.

Not at all -- that's how I ended up with Bleak House.

JMB said...

Love Bleak House! We listened to "Into Thin Air" on our cross country driving adventure last summer. The kids hated it, but we really enjoyed it. I know it's not "intellectual", but it's enjoyable.

Maiki said...

I don't know if there is a copy available, but "100 years of solitude?"

Ok, this is not a single book, but I also enjoy the "Barchester Series" by Anthony Trollope.

thaddeus said...

I'm 15 minutes away from finishing The Count of Monte Cristo and would highly recommend it. At 47 hours it isn't quite Tolstoy-long, but it's kept me entertained for a few months. Make sure it's the version read by John Lee.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

The audio version of Don Quixote is pretty good. It's about 40 hours.

I've also heard that the Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative is excellent. It runs about 120 hours in three volumes.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

One other suggestion. I am almost finished with the audio version of Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang, which runs about 25 hours. It's good, and has filled in some gaps in my historical knowledge. My only hesitation in recommending it is that the book is kind of bleak (as befits the subject matter). I'm not sure if I would want to listen to an hour of it a day for a whole month.

Mrs. N said...

My husband really liked Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, I never did get around to finishing it. It's better than average historical fiction, the narrator has a pleasant voice and it's 41 hours long. The prose is nice to listen to but not so gripping that I'd want to read the book instead, and personally I found that the architectural discussions made more sense when listened to than they likely would have if I'd been reading them.

mrsdarwin said...

Mrs. N, I haven't read Pillars of the Earth, but I love your criteria for a good listening book.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

The Tale of Genji.

Mrs. N said...

Mrs. Darwin, I simply cannot listen to an audiobook if the narrator does not have a pleasant voice. My rather strict criteria for this means that I rarely listen to books that are read by women or Americans - unless they have a nice round, soft tone to their voices. One of my favorites to listen to is Simon Jones, also anything read by Derek Jacobi sounds wonderful. The worst I've come across is The Spiderwick Chronicles(mindless listening while knitting) which were very unfortunately narrated by Mark Hamill.

mrsdarwin said...

Mrs. N, I agree with you about Derek Jacobi, with one exception. I tried to listen to him read Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time and had to stop halfway through. Daughter of Time ought to be a perfect audio book, but there's an American character in it, and Jacobi - so wonderful with other voices - just couldn't get it. I suppose if you or I tried to read with an English accent we'd end up coming out with bits and snippets of accent from every part of England, and it was the same with Jacobi's American accent. It was Chicago and Brooklyn and Philadelphia and Georgia and Omaha all rolled into one. Eventually I started laughing, and finally it drove me up the wall.

However, he was excellent narrating The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (a great favorite of our family's).

Anonymous said...

Infinite Jest

rhinemouse said...

I would campaign for Crime and Punishment, though I at least found it to be a page-turner by the end (finished in one four-hour gulp), so it might fail on that count.

You could, of course, always attempt Les Miserables, because what is the point of a book without a 40-page digression on the Paris sewers?

Darwin said...

Hmmm. That's right, I was listening to Shelby Foote's Civil War a while back, but left off when we moved and I had to return it to the library. That would be a good one.

Don Quixote and Count of Monte Cristo also would be interesting.

Tale of Genji would be a fascinating choice, but sadly there doesn't appear to be an audio book.

Julie D. said...

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susannah Clarke. I couldn't get into the printed book but could have listened to even more of the audiobook. And it was long ... but good.

Olivia D said...

I would do a little research on Pillars of the Earth before investing any time and money into it. Pretty graphic novel, but maybe that's just me.

(i read your blog quite often and have never commented, but felt the need to put my .02 in here as some passages in the book still haunt me.)

My vote lies with Dostoevsky. Or what about something like Moby Dick?

Julie D. said...

Since someone brought up Pillars of the Earth, I must agree with Olivia ... and will go even further. Ahem. I detested that book, even though I was given it as a gift and, therefore, tried my hardest to like it. Approach with caution for modern mind-set hiding behind a mask of history.

Julie D. said...

Oops, I meant to put this link.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, "Crime and Punishment" was one of the few books I was forced to read in high school which I ended up absolutely loving. That said, I didn't care for "Karamazov", so your tastes might not match mine.

Amber said...

We bought a fantastic recording of crime and punishment from audible a few years back and I have slowly been listening to it. The reader is amazing! What an incredibly intense story - listening in commute chunks would probably be a good thing!

Sorry about the no caps, I'm being lazy w/ my iPad...