Listening with Others: A Reboot for Screen-weary Eyes

Listening with Others: A Reboot for Screen-weary Eyes

In many communities, social events that take place in public continue to be curtailed. Book groups and other media fans who enjoy the social aspects of sharing their enthusiasm (and critiques) have either moved online to video chatting platforms or on furlough. Many of us experience intensified screen time — for work, to keep as close as we can to family and friends, and to find out who’s saying what about our imminent future. All this has some yearning to enjoy an experience at the same time they know others are enjoying it while also giving screen-weary eyes a rest. Here’s a new — really an old — way to do all that.

AudioFile Magazine launched Audiobook Break last month. Since it’s delivered via podcast, you can catch up any time you like and on whatever podcast platform you use. It’s also available on Lit Hub Radio. The initial title that’s unfolding, in three half-hour episodes each week, is Charles Dickens’s own favorite novel, David Copperfield, with British actor Nicholas Bolton performing courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks. Dickens became the choice because hearing his novels chapter by chapter, across time and in multiple households, is how his contemporary readers experienced his stories. They first appeared in serialized form in magazines, and the installments were shared aloud by the best reader in the family, with everyone else listening together.

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That’s just the kind of experience AudioFile hopes to share with anyone anywhere who misses sharing in person conversations about stories and also feels exhausted from looking into every size screen through much of the day. Here’s a way to share a book-based experience without Zoom and with your own friends, family, or people you don’t know in some other place who are also taking an Audiobook Break with a master storyteller and a masterful voice actor.

Audiobook Break also provides an opportunity to dip into audiobook listening — or whet the listening appetite of someone near and dear to you who hasn’t yet discovered this art form. Because David Copperfield was serialized at its first publication, every chapter offers some action and plot building so no need to wonder if an episode will be too slow or too complicated to follow. You’ll be experiencing it just as Dickens expected his readers to discover the story’s characters and events.

A chapter is released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can listen the same day or listen in a weekend binge. You can even download the print text if you want to follow along with Boulton’s reading because Project Gutenbergprovides that for free.

Sometimes there’s an old solution to a new problem. Audiobook Break is exactly that: a way to experience book community even when having to remain relatively isolated socially; a way to read while giving your overworked eyes a much-needed rest; and a nicely scaled format, freely available, for experiencing the crafts of fine storytelling and exemplary audiobook narration.

Take a whirl through Dickens’s most autobiographical novel. Follow the hero’s journey from infancy to youth to love and loss to mature adulthood. No need to rush through Audiobook Break. Once you’ve downloaded the episodes you can take those restorative breaks whenever you need them.