The Oral Tradition + Giveaway

Last week, I attended my first book reading! A few of us from Dorchester trooped down to Lady Jane’s Salon, the only reading series devoted to romance fiction in the city. The group meets on the first Monday of every month at Madame X in Manhattan. For only $5 or a gently-used romance novel, you can hear your favorite authors read from their latest works in a cozy venue with a bar, velvet-lined chairs, and very red decor. One of our beloved authors, Leanna Renee Hieber, is a founder of Lady Jane’s, along with Hope Tarr, Ron Hogan, and Maya Rodale.

Having books read to me reminded me of audiobooks. If you think about it, the tradition of sharing stories aloud is much older than the concept of writing them down. Audiobooks are our modern take on the oral tradition, and boy, are they great for long trips and boring commutes. Nowadays, they’re made even more convenient by the prevalence of iPods and smartphones.

I place listening to a book somewhere between reading a book and watching a film. You still get to use your imagination, but the voices and narration are filled in for you. It’s definitely a different experience than reading words on a page, and whether it is a good or bad experience often depends on the reader. For example, Leanna did a great job at Lady Jane’s. She read an excerpt from The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, and it was fantastic. With her theater background, she was able to bring life to her characters with different voices and inflections. Click here to listen to Leanna read an excerpt from her book, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.


It got me thinking—what makes for an enjoyable listening experience? For one, the reader has to be very familiar with the book and its characters in order to give an accurate reading and establish the correct tone for the story. This makes the authors themselves the best candidates, but not everyone is a public speaker (I’m certainly not!) and not everyone can read line after line without stumbling over their words. Volume, clarity and reading speed can also make or break a listening experience. Flexibility of voice is a big deal when it comes to readings and audiobooks, too; after all, nobody wants to listen to monotonous readings that make steamy romances or terrifying horror novels sound like textbooks. A reader’s voice needs to be able to illustrate different genders, ages, and even accents. In a similar vein, a reader who uses obnoxious voices to differentiate the characters can ruin a book. The reader shouldn’t distract the listener from the story itself. It’s a delicate balance!

I also started wondering if the gender of the reader might also contribute to setting a certain mood for a reading or an audiobook. The way male readers pitch female voices can be jarring, and vice versa. Genre may even play a part in determining the success of an audiobook or book reading. Female readers may be more suited to reading romance, while male readers may be more suited for horror and westerns. Click here to listen to a male voice reading The 13th  and click here to listen to a female voice reading Erin Kellison’s Shadow Bound . This reading of Cellar is an example of a female voice reading a horror novel. Of course, these are far from rules and restrictions—every listener is looking for something different and a good reader is simply someone who can utilize some or all of the above approaches to provide an enjoyable listening experience .

  Although the written word will always be my favorite way to consume books, audiobooks are a really fun way to experience them, too. They—along with podcasts—keep me company on the commute to and from work (when holding a book could be really hazardous!). After my visit to Lady Jane’s Salon, though, I’ve decided to seek out more live readings to attend in the future. I would definitely recommend them to anyone who loves to lost themselves in a good book. Hearing talented authors read their own words was a very unique and memorable experience.

‘Til next time,

Elaine, intern extraordinaire

Giveaway: We want to know what you think! Love audiobooks? Hate audiobooks? Prefer to listen to a live reading performed by the author? Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker on Audio CD.


8 Responses to The Oral Tradition + Giveaway

  1. Craig Clarke says:

    I love audiobooks and have for decades. It probably stems from being introduced to old-time radio recordings at a young age, but my preferred method of experiencing a story is by ear. (This has been enhanced by having a long commute to work.)

    That is not to say that I don’t enjoy sitting down with a good book, but if there’s an audiobook, I’ll generally pick that over the paper version. In fact, my favorite Kindle feature is the text-to-speech option, which allows me to turn nearly any book into an audiobook — not a professionally performed one, I’ll admit, but it will do for books that don’t have another audio version.

  2. Hope Tarr says:

    Lovely post, Elaine, and indeed Leanna Renee’s readings are always a treat, really more performance art than a strictly speaking “reading.” Then again every author has his or her own style. Some authors abhor reading aloud from their own works. (I never understand this but then again I have quite a bit of Leo in my chart). 🙂

    Fortunately our Lady Jane’s Salon attracts wonderful guest authors who are not only talented writers but gifted orators as well. You can keep abreast of our upcoming programs by following us on Twitter and Facebook as well as our web site at

  3. I love Audio books! I take trips to visit out of state friends and having a great book on makes the trip go by much quicker and I enjoy myself and the drive more. I love a book in hand…but that’s not really an option while driving so I would rather have an audio book than the radio! Clean the house day is far far my enjoyable when a great audio book is playing in the backround… gives you the chance to catch up on a good story and you can save each chapter and have something to look forward to.

    It’s one thing to read an authors words on page and a whole other to hear their voice! Bring on the Audio Book!

  4. Monica Rewiako says:

    I would love to win this!!!

  5. Allison Carroll, Editorial and Web Coordinator says:

    I’m definitely going to seek out more author readings. If they’re anything like Lady Jane’s, I’m sold!

    I’m here to announce the winner of the giveaway. Congratulations Aurora Momcilovich—you’ve been randomly selected to receive a free copy of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber in audiobook format!

    Aurora, please e-mail with your shipping address.

    Allison Carroll
    Editorial and Web Coordinator

  6. dorotha holloway says:

    Audio books help me retain my sanity. Due to failing eyesight, I can’t read many pages at a time.

  7. nylne says:

    My parents grew upn the 50’s when I was a teen ager I listened to old radio shows like dark shadow from titme to time I borrowed audo books from my aunt, it give the character a voice.

  8. Jen says:

    Too bad you won’t be here for the August event! I was about to say that you, Caroline and I should all go again together, but then I remembered you’ll be home by then. =(

    But, yes, to everyone else: I can’t recommend Lady Jane’s Salon enough!

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