I am a book lover. But I'm cheap. Well, hardly flush with cash. That's the main thing. If I had tons of money to toss around I'd buy hardbacks left and right. But my general M.O. is this:
Hear of book.
Find book in library.
Love book? –> Get hardback.
Like book? –> Return. Consider paperback some other time. Maybe read again.
Hate book? –> Return. Wash from memory.
Nowhere in there does "buy original hardback, unread" tend to fall in. I just can't spend upwards of $30 to get the best version of a book. And if I really like a book, I want something that lasts.
This all led up to the fact that I'm actually listening to my very first audio book, and it's a story I never would have picked up in print form. First of all, I'm really not a fan in theory of audio books. Reading is not the same as listening. And I'm generally not a fan of the pulp crime books that seem to come out by the dozens written by men with bold Anglo-Saxon names: James Patterson, Ed McBain, Brad Meltzer. But: Tell me something's free, and I'll take a sniff.
That's how I ended up listening to Brad Meltzer's "The Millionaires." Boing Boing said it was free on iTunes, so off I went. Hey, if I hate it, there's not even a book to find a new home for. I just delete.
Listening to a book this long (technically it's my second audio book; I'd read Stephen King's "The Mist" years ago, then listened to it on an audio book later on, but that's a novella and I had read the darn thing first) is an odd sensation. It's one man's voice — Tony Goldwyn — doing all the voices, and all the narration. And he has a rich, pointed tone that is the equivalent of drinking too much Evian — nice at first, then suddenly too, too much. The voice reminds me of those guys who do voice-overs for movies: A lot of drama, a lot of intonation, a lot of emphasis. And a lot of accents.
The two main characters, Oliver and Charlie, are brothers who conspire to steal $3 million from the private bank they work for. Suffice it to say, everything goes horribly wrong. But I wonder if, had I been reading it, if Charlie would be as goddamned obnoxious as he appears to be in hearing it. I imagine Meltzer wrote him to be endearingly charming; read by Hicks he's on my last nerve.
It's an oddly intimate experience, too, having this one person's voice in your head so much. I listen on the way to work and on the way home, so that's about an hour or so each day, bouncing around up there. I'm picturing it as I listen, so it's as if the whole thing was a play taking place on the subway. But it's more than that — I'm plunged into the story more closely than I ever have been reading. I do read a lot, which means I read fast, which means I don't read every word. Here, you have no choice.
I'm still not sure that I'm sold on audio books; I'm certainly not going to pony a lot of money up for them. But then again, I haven't finished "The Millionaires." More when that happens.
In other book-related news, the New York Times says these five books are the best novels of the year. I've decided to be ambitious and read them. At first, I thought, "Maybe I'll try and read them before the end of the year!" Then I saw how many people were in line ahead of me (see the far column).
In the case of "Then We Came to the End," I think the title will refer to the end of 2008 in terms of when I will likely get a hold of that book.