I would love to be the voice for audio books. I have listened to very few audio books, and I have a fierce devotion to books as printed text on paper, but my fancy is taken by the thought of many non-readers learning to love books by listening to them, and I love reading and hearing books read aloud by friends and family.
I also know that the best thing I can do in a classroom full of students who are staring down a daunting reading assignment is to take class time to read, slowly, some of the tricky bits, and to have them read to me. I am not a good reader, and I envy those who are, but I love hearing students mutter, “Ohhhhh” when hearing it aloud disentangles one or two knots that lie between them and comprehension. And I like hearing my students tackle it themselves, from the confident I-was-in-theatre-and-can-even-sing-it-while-pirouetting students to those for whom reading it aloud just adds one more sack of flour to the burden on their back as they trudge toward the final page. I learn a lot about how they understand the book from hearing them read. And I also get the sense that they understand a bit more about me in hearing me read: my love of books, the precise depth of my sarcasm, and the years of education and life experience that allow me to flub a phrase without blushing as though I’ve exposed myself as a rube.
Several good friends of mine are creative writers, and I’ve spent more time going to “readings” by authors whose books I love. Although I still don’t think I quite get it (I mean, I can read it myself, so why don’t they tell me something that’s not in the book?), I will not soon be forgetting Toni Morrison’s voice reading A Mercy at Cornell, or the voices of other authors that come back when I open their books now. I admire the poet friends who, when asked to give a public reading, take the time to read slowly and carefully; I would never have the courage to create that much space around the words, to demand that much attention from the audience. But it is, of course, just what is needed.
So, if I could read well and slowly, if I could catch the nuances and deliver those to listeners, I would love to have a job where I served as an intermediary for readers and writers. Years of music experience taught me that performance is no small task. Meanwhile, I’m going to add audio books to my list of things to gather for my kids in the near future, and more reading aloud for us as a family even after the kids are old enough to read for themselves.