I commuted an hour each way for a part-time freelance job for about eight months after moving to Albuquerque. During those long drives through the desert – the fluffy clouds filling the sky and tumbleweeds bouncing along the freeway on windy days – I discovered after a while, it gets really old listening to the same music over and over. I hate the radio, so I tend to listen to CDs and my favorite tunes on my iPod, and after two hours a day, it wasn’t unusual for me to listen to the same things – mixes made by friends, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan. And when I had the lyrics memorized and the songs got old, I longed to be a bit more productive. So, I tracked down a library, got a card, and started listening to novels.
I fell more in love with Jodi Picoult during those months as I listened to her stories of troubled teenagers and families going through big life changes. Her character development and detail is amazing, and it seems she puts an incredible amount of research into her books to make them believable.
Then there was Malcom Gladwell and Charles Duhigg. Both experienced journalists, they’ve written incredible books. I’ve listed to “The Power of Habit” by Duhigg twice, actually, and will probably listen to it again this year.”Outliers” was the book I listened to by Gladwell and it made me realize if I really want my dreams to come true, some of it’s luck, but a lot of it is also really hard work and opportunity.
I listened to my first Nora Roberts book, “Chasing Fire,” which was a great adventure/romance story involving a group of firefighters.
Then, for a while, audio books were put on hold. I carpooled to work with a friend and listening to books wasn’t really in the cards until I got a job in Albuquerque and decided to start listening again on my commutes by myself.
What I’ve realized is I’m in the car more than I think. My commute to work is about 25 minutes each way now, so if I have a good book in my car, I can listen to 50 minutes a day. And if I happen to run errands or do anything extra before my eight-hour shift begins, I can hear even more of the books.
Last fall, I listened to three “Harry Potter” books, a few childrens classics by Roald Dahl and Frances Hodgson Burnett, and somewhere in there, I listened to, “A Long Way Gone,” an amazing memoir about a boy soldier in Africa by Ishmael Beah.
Books are so wonderful, aren’t they? I only wish I could read and listen to more. And the library is such a wonderful gift that I feel is too often overlooked. Every few weeks now, I love going there and perusing the selection of audio books. And then I get to take one or two home for free and learn from great writers. I get to have a peek inside their imaginations and research and the stories that make them tick. I get to hear the adventures of a little princess living in the attic at a boarding school, and picture the magic of a boy discovering he’s a wizard. Duhigg makes me want to live a better life and change the things that hold me back. And Beah helped remind me that my life is incredibly problem-free compared to those who live in fear and hatred day in and day out for years after losing their families to war.
It may sound cheesy, but I’m so grateful to have easy access to books. Not everyone in the world has that. I’m also grateful for talented writers, their imaginations, and their willingness to share stories, even if they are true and painful. It’s through books we can learn some of life’s biggest lessons, and some of life’s biggest problems without having to experience them ourselves. We can gain compassion through reading or listening to books. We can hone our creativity, and we can keep our minds active and our hearts open.
It’s a different experience listening to a book over reading one, as I’m sure you know. Some of the actors who read the stories are so talented. I love the guy who reads the Harry Potter books because he does a million voices and it’s pretty impressive.
One of my favorite quotes from these books (and there are many) comes from Beah’s book. Since you know I love the stars, the moon and the night, it seems fitting. How nice the moon is – playful, happy, content.
” ‘We must strive to be like the moon.’
“An old man in Kabati repeated this sentence often. The adage served to remind people to always be on their best behavior and to be good to others. [My grandmother] said that people complain when there is too much sun and it gets unbearably hot, and also when it rains too much or when it is cold. But, no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. Children watch their shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we should want to be like the moon.”
– Image from Pinterest
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