Read with your ears

By Lee, guest blogger

Some books are just meant to be listened to. Such is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Clay Jensen receives a package of seven cassette tapes anonymously in the mail. It takes him a little while to find the correct hardware to play the tapes, but once he starts listening he can't stop: Hannah Baker -- the girl he'd been crushing on most of the summer and school year; the girl who took too many pills just a few weeks ago -- has left him a message. A message for Clay and the other people who made her life so unbearable that she felt she had no choice but to end it. Clay must listen to the seven tapes, and then pass them on to the next person -- the next of the 13 reasons why.

This is the kind of book that cries out for audio interpretation: one of the voices is actually supposed to be playing in your earphones!  Two accomplished readers, Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman, play the roles of Clay and Hannah and they are terrific. Both read with genuine emotion -- grief and anger. Just like Clay -- you can't stop listening. You can't stop from moving on to the next cassette to understand what happened to Hannah. And -- most effectively in this story, I thought -- like Clay, you can't help hoping that someone is going to help Hannah, rather than harm her. But at the same time, you know that Hannah is dead, and that you are hoping in vain.

Just in case I've piqued your curiosity about audiobooks, here are a few facts from the Audio Publishers Association:

15 percent of all books sold are audiobooks, a $1-billion market.

28 percent of us report listening to an audiobook in the previous year.

In 2006, digital downloads totaled 7.1 percent of the market; this year they are 18 percent.

I spent a lot of time listening to books (I've logged over 600 hours this year!). If you are looking for good listening suggestions, try these lists.

Get those earbuds in!

Lee is a Youth Librarian with School Corps. School Corps, works to increase the information literacy of Multnomah County students.