Binging on audiobooks

I joined the Chicago Public Library a few weeks ago, and surprisingly, I’ve listened to more audiobooks than books I’ve physically checked out. But, maybe it’s not so surprising. I switched my commute up and am on the bus, which makes me queasy if I read.  So I listen to my podcasts and now also audiobooks.

iPhone screenshot
The Hoopla App

The way it works: I can checkout audiobooks through the library using either the Hoopla or Overdrive apps on my phone. Then, like the podcasts, I can download them and access them without wifi or using data. I like the Hoopla app better because it seems to load more quickly and is a little bit more user friendly to search for books. However, Overdrive has a larger selection so I’ve been using it more.

I recently finished listening to The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and The Haters by Jesse Andrews. To me, they were oddly similar. In the obvious way, they both have artistic main characters. The Interestings is about a group of friends–actors, dancers, animators, musicians–that met at a summer camp as teenagers and then remained friends through adulthood. The Haters is actually a young adult book about teens who’ve run away from jazz camp to go on tour.

Both books also dealt with sex a lot. I’m no prude, but to be listening to some sections of each book while on a crowded city bus creeping up Michigan Avenue was embarrassing. 

What I really want to write about though, is characters that aren’t likeable. In both novels, I couldn’t identify super closely with any of the characters, and to be honest, some annoyed me a great deal. In fact, both novels feature characters named Ash, and I really hated them. They just seemed uninterested in others and had strange attitudes that were a cross between stuck-up and selfish and also unhelpful. Basically, not the type of person I’m looking to be friends with in real life.

However, (and it’s a giant however) I really liked listening to both books. The Interestings made for a unique view of friendship over time. Sometimes I really liked Jules, the main character, or sometimes I liked Figman better. I also really liked the setting of a hippy summer camp in the 70s all the way into the present and events I remember from my lifetime.

I liked The Haters because it was crazy to me that three random teens would decide to form a band and just leave Pennsylvania to try playing at random bars in the South. No way, in any state of mind, would I ever do that.

So what I’m coming to realize, and with reading The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, is that I can like a book even if I don’t love any of the characters, or even like them. I don’t have to identify with them or see parts of myself in them. It’s been a good stretch of the mind to think why I don’t like these fictitious people, and why I’m glad they’re not real. Although they could be somewhere.

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