I belong to a book club. Because it is DC, I belong to a wonky book group with a focus on urban issues and DC history. The group will decide on some non-fiction book and give ourselves a couple of months to read the book before we gather at someone’s home to talk about the book. I joined this group before we adopted our son, between work and dealing with a toddler there isn’t a lot of time to sit down with a weighty book. I really like the intellectual atmosphere where I can talk about deep and weighty topics with other adults. So to keep up with the book club I’ve developed a few cheats.
I really don’t have time to read a grown-up book. We read children’s books almost every night, but the time and the interest to read a book with no pictures and 12 point type is almost never. Even before my son, the moments to just sit and really get into a book were rare.
Yet there is time to hear and listen. There are tasks at work, such as data entry, where I can listen to podcasts and audiobooks. During my commute or while I’m home doing housework are other moments when I can get lost in a chapter of an audiobook. A good audiobook can make work more enjoyable and a little less boring. If the book is really interesting but long it can take a week or two to get through if I’m listening to it every day at work.
You might be able to score a free version from your local library, however, their selection of online audiobooks is sometimes very small. There is an option to find a physical copy of the audiobook in the form of CDs, place a hold on that audiobook and arrange to pick it up. Typically I’ll check on-line for an audio version of whatever book we’ve picked on Audible or Amazon and buy that. For older books, particularly classic fiction, check out LibriVox and Lit2Go.
There are a few of the drawbacks to audiobooks. The main one for me is the narrator. Some are wonderful, some, are not. The challenges with non-fiction books are footnotes, endnotes, tables, graphs, and images. Most of the time the narrator will just skip the end and footnotes. Some downloadable audiobooks have associated PDFs for data-heavy books. When the narrator does power through a table or graph, but unfortunately is difficult to understand. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and at best the narrator will read the caption.
If I can’t find an audiobook version of the book the group chose, there is usually an e-book version. E-books are portable and you can read them almost anywhere. Some e-book readers and apps have a text to voice or speech function, and that’s the cheat. When I can place eyes on the reader to, read the book, I can get the book to read itself to me. Like audiobooks, I can listen to the book while commuting or working. The mechanical voice is not as good as a human narrator, and it will read foot or endnote numbers and pronounce words weirdly. Still, this is an option to keep me reading.
DIY Spark/Cliff Notes
This is for the truly desperate. Use this tip only if you have a week or less to finish the book. I use to do this in grad school when I was expected to read 300 pages or more for each of my classes each week. First, find three or more reviews of the book and read them. Unless your group has picked some obscure tome published over 50 years ago, there is at least one review of the book out there somewhere. Next, read the first, and last chapters of the book and one chapter in the middle based on the reviews you’ve read. This is not as good as reading the whole book, but it should help you follow along when your group meets.
Happy reading and enjoy your book club. It is hard to find time to read as a mother, but also so important!