Why I Have Fallen in Love with Audiobooks

Over the last 30 days, I’ve been running a little experiment. I don’t recall exactly how or why I started this journey, but once I was on it – the ball was in motion.

I’ve enjoyed the random audiobook here and there over the years, but without a commute to work I was missing the most obvious way to add audiobooks to my life. There are so many books I want to experience and enjoy that I’m always trying to read a little bit more, or faster – but I get distracted. Easily. For a short time I had a rule that before I could launch Facebook on my phone, I had to launch my Kindle app – and that did increase my reading for a little while. The thing is, I get frustrated with reading on Kindle, whether it be on my phone, or on my actual Kindle. I have trouble remembering the title name, the author, and not long after I’ve read a book – the majority of it is floating away and I don’t recall nearly as much as I’d like. This lack of recall makes me question the point of reading. I read for enjoyment, but I also read to enhance my life, and if I don’t remember much of what I’m reading… well… let’s just say I’d prefer to remember more of what I read.

On average, I read 6 books a month – give or take. Some months I won’t read anything, others I’ll read so much I’ve caught back up. By the end of the year, I’m usually somewhere in the 70s. However, this year, it looks like things are going to be a bit different. 

Audiobooks have changed EVERYTHING for me. I decided to start listening to audiobooks during all the dead spots in my day, which as it turns out, added up very quickly. Getting ready for work and the day, 20 minutes. Moments at work that don’t require my full attention (hey, I work for myself – the boss says reading at work is cool), 10 minutes. Reading during lunch, 20 minutes. Reading while putting dishes away and cleaning the kitchen, 10 minutes. That’s an hour of reading before the mid-day point right there, and the lunch reading? That’s shared with Dave, so it’s something we get to do together.

All in all, this month I read 18 books, all in audio format. Yes, eighteen. Four of those books were books I read with Dave by using meal times and time before bed. We have been reading together for years but this is the first time we’ve tried audiobooks and I can’t believe we were able to share 4 books this month! Up until now we’ve read together for a short time at night and books will often take us 3 months to a year to finish. Completing 4 books in a month was completely unexpected, and totally fantastic since we got to have some really interesting conversations after completing various passages (thank you Trevor Noah!).

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the way I remember these books. When you read a book, especially in a digital format, there isn’t much that is tangible. You may rarely even see the cover so each page looks the same and the experience is very… oh, flat. Now compare that with an audiobook and you see the cover (title and author) CONSTANTLY, and you also now have the added dimension of sound. Voices. Accents. Sometimes multiple narrators, but even with only one this extra dimension adds a tremendous amount of tangibility (even though in reality, it still isn’t anything you can actually grasp). Even though I completed, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day almost two weeks ago, I can still remember several details as though I just finished it moments ago. Her vocal inflection in places has given my memory something to grasp on to and retain.

After about a week of reading only audiobooks I was shocked at how much I could remember of everything I was reading. I’ve always thought that I could only remember details by reading words on a page, but suddenly realized that I DO recall more by hearing than seeing and I’ve actually known this for years. I remember more of what Dave reads to me than what I read on my own. I have books that I’ve read over the years that touched me deeply but I can’t quite recall the details. Books that he has read to me however, come back to mind so much easier, faster, and clearer.

So… it’s been an interesting month. I’ve read some fantastic books (Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult), had more time available for another hobby of mine (coloring!), and actually got more housework done! And I’m really, really enjoying my library membership!

Other aspects I love about audiobooks:

  • Audiobooks + Chronic Illness = Heaven. Quite a bit of my waking life is uncomfortable. It’s just the way things are for me. When I don’t feel well and I try to read, I often find myself zoning out and focusing on my discomfort. With audiobooks I find it much easier to just be in the moment and relax (as much as I can) and… read!
  • No Reading Regression! You know when you find yourself reading the same few lines, or even words, over and over again? I do that to the point where it’s excessive, and seriously time consuming. When I use some kind of pointer to lead my eye it’s reduced, but it’s still something I struggle with. With audiobooks, obviously, this doesn’t happen. I simply move forward through the narrative. Bliss!
  • Improved Housework – I sort of mentioned this earlier about cleaning the kitchen, but I have to repeat myself because I actually found cleaning the bathtub to be less than a painful experience. I hate cleaning the bathtub. But this month, I didn’t hate it. I actually didn’t mind. Credit for this goes to The Hobbit.

I had absolutely no idea I’d love audiobooks this much and only wish I had figured this out sooner!

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How to Study Shakespeare: DIY Romeo and Juliet

Recently I read a book that had a profound affect on me – Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates. It’s a phenomenal book that immediately inspired me to dive into the words of Shakespeare and see if I could make sense of things. I mean, let’s face it, reading Shakespeare is intimidating.

I hadn’t looked at any Shakespearean plays in several decades, but this has been something I’ve “been meaning to do” for quite a while. You know, “someday.” It’s just that someday has taken me a very long time, because it’s hard to know where to go and how to start. The plays are PLAYS. They are scripts. It really doesn’t sound like fun to read a script but the book Shakespeare Saved My Life made it clear that there is so much more beyond the words in the scripts that I really needed to find some way to break the code. I think I’ve found some cool methods so I decided to go ahead and share what I’m doing for anyone else interested, or for my future self who wants to do this again and can’t remember what I did. Future self: take note.

Of course, the first step was to ask Google, What is the best way to study Shakespeare? –  and that kick started my journey. Thanks to my research results, I had a few stepping stones directing me, not only where to begin, but how.

Online Course

Through my research I found that I wouldn’t have to do this completely on my own. There is a great FREE online course that covers 6 of Shakespeare’s plays, kicking things off with Romeo and Juliet. Interested? The course is called Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance and you can check it out here.

The course is the real deal – it’s a 12-week course that allows you to be a fly on the wall at Wellesley College, while English Professor Yu Jin Ko teaches. The class was filmed a few years ago so as online students, we get to take this “12-week course” on our own time frame, at our own pace. And the best part? No term papers! At least for the online audience…

Get the Play with Analysis

Once signed up for the online course, I watched a few of the introductory videos, then ordered a book from Amazon that includes the play, along with literary analysis. After a LOT of research, I decided to go with Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare Made Clear – I love the analysis so much I am very disappointed they do not have editions of every play!

With the book safely on it’s way from Amazon, I decided it was time to watch a movie version of Romeo and Juliet. Plays are not novels, they are meant to be performed, and watched. A movie is a great way to get started when learning about a play! For some reason, the 1968 version that traumatized me in high school is still recommended as the “Go To” Romeo and Juliet. I don’t understand the sentiment behind these recommendations. That movie is… terrible.

Watch a Movie

For a movie, there aren’t many options, but even so, the 1996 version directed by Baz Luhrman (staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) is excellent and I highly recommend it. The story is true to the original, complete with Shakespearean language, yet the setting is modern and the filming and directing help make the story clear to a modern day audience. Some critics of this film dislike Luhrman’s choice of using guns instead of swords and daggers, but today’s audience doesn’t have an emotional response to swords – we do however, to guns. Anyway, after watching the movie I felt it was time to dig in to the words on the page.

This is the part where having the proper edition of a play, with analysis that works for you, is very helpful. Even though I like the edition of analysis I purchased, I still wanted to supplement my text as much as possible to make this read-through very strong. Next up, study guides!

Read Some Study Guides

GradeSaver is an excellent site, and has a ton of free content. I bookmarked the GradeSaver Romeo and Juliet Study Guide on my iPad and read through the beginning material up to the point where the play begins. Then, I switched to reading my book and would read an Act through to completion, then switch to reading the analytical information provided from GradeSaver. About half way through the play, I added another analytical text to the mix – CliffsNotes! And would you believe, CliffsNotes are fully available online for free too?! So yes, CliffsNotes Romeo and Juliet got a bookmark from me too.

At this point, I almost felt like I didn’t even need the online course! That is, until I actually started the lectures. I’m learning an amazing amount from Professor Ko! He’s a great professor and very well suited for online students. His enthusiasm makes it feel like you’re actually attending a class, not just watching a lecture. In fact, I’m quite jealous of the students who get to attend his classes in person.

I’ve spent about two full weeks on Romeo and Juliet: watched a movie, read a book, some literary analysis, and watched a few lectures – yet I feel like I’ve spent 3 months on this play. And, at the same time, I feel like I could spend 3 more months studying Romeo and Juliet.

🚦Ding! Ding!

This week I had one of those, “Ah Ha” moments. I GET IT. Now I understand why people love to re-read the plays over and over again. There is so much depth to plays, much more so than you get from simply reading them or watching them performed. It takes studying the characters, their motivations, the language – so many words used by Shakespeare have double meanings that can allow an entire phrase to be interpreted in multiple ways. The deeper you dig, the more meaning you find.

So, where do I stand with all this now? For one thing, the book Shakespeare Saved My Life has most definitely changed my life. I was motivated enough to learn how to do this, got my husband involved (we are going through this together), experienced myself transition from hating Romeo and Juliet to, dare I say, loving it. And this is just the first play! 

There are 5 more plays in the online course and after that I expect to continue because I think I may just be addicted to Shakespeare now.

I really didn’t see this coming.

Bonus Content

If you’ve read this far, you may find these links interesting.

Youtube Videos – Think of these as having a guest lecturer! There is a surprising amount of literary analysis on Youtube, here are some of my favorites (so far):

Online Study Guides for Romeo and Juliet – these are all free!

Mobile Apps

  • Shakespeare in Bits (awesome on the iPad) – has the play, audio, animations, and analysis – for the entire play. It’s like a book, movie and study guide all rolled into one. It’s pricey for an app, but considering what it contains, it’s well worth the price.
  • Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps – includes text, audio, analysis and essays. Professor Ko has contributed his knowledge to this app (along with many other Shakespeare scholars).

Why so many extra sources? Well, I think that is part of the beauty of Shakespeare. There are so many different ways you can view a passage, a scene, a theme – that the more people you encounter and learn from – the deeper your knowledge can become.

I think that about covers it. Two weeks ago I admitted that I really hated Romeo and Juliet, and it took about a full week into this intense study for me to realize how much my thoughts have transitioned. If you read this entire post, thank you, and, I’m sorry it was so long. I hope this helps any of you would like to journey down this path, it’s quite fun!

Vlogmas 2016 Day 1

Sometimes, I have no idea why I decide to do the things I do. Who decides to take on the hard things until they become the easy things? Me.

For the last several years I had heard about Vlogmas but didn’t really pay attention. For those of you unaware, Vlogmas is an event where Youtube creators upload a new vlog every day in December until Christmas. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s December. How did that happen?!

Sometime this afternoon I went from, “I’m done with Youtube” (which is a thought I have every day), to, “I’m doing vlogmas!”

I know when I participated in the 365 Project, my photography skills leveled up by leaps and bounds within a single month. It really felt like over 2 months of daily photos increased my skills at speed that normally would have taken two years. Hence, the daily vlog project – and taking advantage of the fact that vlogmas is a public event that just happens to be starting – NOW.

The biggest issue I have with Youtube is that making videos is really, really hard for me. It is the most unnatural thing I could possibly think of to do, which is why I keep thinking of quitting. But then today, something happened. My Stepson followed me on Youtube. I haven’t even told him about the channel, so this is something he did on his own. And you know what? It makes it really, really hard for me to quit things when my Stepkids are watching. Even when the thing I want to quit is really, really hard. Suddenly, quitting is not an option.

So you know what they say right? Go big, or go home. It’s time to level up. Click Here to see Vlogmas 2016 Day 1!

vlogmas-day-1

Holiday Book Sale Madness

Oops, I did it again.

holiday-book-sale-madness

Apparently I can’t be trusted when it comes to book sales. To be fair though, part my recent book buying binge is because of Mollie Reads since she recently featured her favorite books on editing. And then Black Friday happened! I tripped over a coupon code to save money on paper books (my weakness), and now it’s Cyber Monday!

Between the major sale at Book Outlet, and today’s deals on Amazon, I’m lost. I’ll be swimming in books come December, but I think that’s a good thing. In fact, I think it’s a fantastic thing.

I took a few minutes to give a quick update on Youtube that you can watch here. What about you? Are you making good use of all the book sales?

Britt-Marie Was Here | Book Review + Recommendations

On Friday I mentioned that one of my Weekend Reads was Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I finished reading it last night and was tempted to go ahead and record my reaction then, but it’s a good thing I didn’t because I was half-asleep and it probably wouldn’t have made much sense.

britt-marie-was-here-youtube

I’m still much more comfortable writing reviews rather than speaking them, but I’d really like to get used to speaking on the fly more so I’m using Youtube to become more acquainted with just throwing the words out and attempting to get them to line up in the right order. Preferably the first time rather than the twentieth.

I really loved Britt-Marie Was Here and my review thoughts are now available now on Youtube, as well as some book recommendations! Click Here to see what I’ve got to say.

Library Sale Book Haul | November 2016

It was a gorgeous day in Tallahassee for an outdoor book sale. So of course, I had to go…

library-sale-book-haul-1

The sheer volume of books they had was pretty overwhelming. I could probably have spent about three hours looking, so it was almost a good thing that free parking was only one hour. Sometimes limits can be a good! Or I can at least pretend…

Either way, this turned out to be a fun vlog so feel free to check out what I got!

library-sale-book-haul

Talking Books on Youtube (Yay for Booktube)

You’ve heard of Youtube, but have you heard of Booktube?

new-to-booktube

Not familiar with the term? I’ve been using the phrase for so long it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know about it, but I know it’s still not commonly used. So… let me explain.

It’s really, really simple. Do you ever watch someone on Youtube who has a channel focused on one particular topic, such as fashion, or makeup? Well, how about a channel dedicated to talking about books? See where I’m going? Welcome to the concept that is Booktube!

I’ve wanted to have a dedicated space on Youtube for years to join the book related conversations that happen and finally jumped in the water.

Here is my New to Youtube introduction video! If you want to follow my videos on the channel directly, just head over to https://www.youtube.com/c/sharonrosen and subscribe.

Are you on Booktube? Let me know, I’d love to check out your channel!

Where We Are – And What’s Next for Us

The last few weeks have been a bit rough for us. July 3rd was a milestone, and a turning point – it was one year from when we decided to become Nomads and drastically change our life.  And, on July 3rd this year, we found ourselves questioning everything.

Let me back up. Currently, we are in San Antonio, New Mexico, finally, FINALLY under 5,000 feet in elevation. Let me explain why that is a big deal…

We spent the last 6 weeks in Flagstaff, Arizona, at almost 7,000 feet above sea level. To escape the Arizona heat found at the lower levels, you need to either go north, or go up. We had initially planned to go north, but all of our plans fell through so we decided instead to go UP in elevation.

Well, as it turns out, going up didn’t quite work for us. If you go up in elevation too quickly, you can get Altitude Sickness. Sometimes though, you can simply get Altitude Sickness just because you are susceptible to it. Since we spent over a month in Kingman, Arizona (elevation 3,333′) we definitely did not come up in elevation too fast. But, we both were feeling the effects of the altitude.

Altitude Sickness affects people differently, for us, it mostly means over exhaustion, with a handful of other minor symptoms here and there just to keep things interesting. In addition to constant over exhaustion, I had also been having quite a bit of trouble breathing (a tiny 1/4 mile walk had me huffing and puffing and having to take breaks), and though Summer usually means fewer Gastroparesis symptoms, I have been having a really rough time with GP. This summer is the worst GP-Summer I’ve had in over five years. High altitude affects the oxygen in your blood, which affects circulation, which affects bodily functions such as sleep and of course, digestion. Who knew?

Anyway, the altitude has been a huge factor in us feeling extremely worn out, and pretty awful all around. We considered going lower in elevation, but due to the heat, we were avoiding that maneuverer. However, things finally came to a breaking point where neither one of us could take our symptoms anymore, and we decided the heat is easier to deal with than the elevation (and the health consequences involved).

AND, this led us to question everything about how we are currently living. I mean, everything. The RV Lifestyle, our van (vs. another type of RV), just simply, everything.

Being a Digital Nomad isn’t easy, and not many of our peers talk about the struggles of maintaining a career (or two) on the road, and trying to fit some type of travel. I recently came across this post from Pace Smith and wondered why no one else ever talks about this stuff.

Rather than hide what’s happening, I’m going to be open about it. This isn’t working. There are some aspects of RV Living that we absolutely love, and that has had us flip-flopping our decision back on forth on a daily basis.

We knew traveling while working full-time would be challenging, but you can’t plan for every obstacle. We certainly hadn’t planned to have a career change this year and that has played a very large role in this decision as well. We are both launching new careers. Right now. Traveling with a NEW job role is absolutely, positively, NOT something I would ever recommend. So…

We are planning to transition back to a stationary life. The last few days have been all about – GET THEE TO A LOWER ELEVATION – and then figure things out. Seriously, it’s really hard to think straight when you feel like garbage. This decision has been much harder than the one we made a year ago. Leaving the RV Life means leaving much more behind than a stationary one – even though that seems contradictory.

I expect a lot of questions that we can’t answer quite yet – we’re still figuring things out. We have taken the first step though and that is: finalize our decision. We are definitely doing this. At the moment our plan is to continue to drop in elevation and head East. We have a few places to check out as potential settling spots but we need to see how things are in person.

We have moved a tremendous amount not only in the ten years we’ve been married, but even individually before that. We aren’t looking for a crash pad, we’re looking for a home. Ironically, it was the RV Park where we stayed in Flagstaff that made us realize how much we need an actual HOME.

The people we met and befriended over the last month and a half provided us with the strongest sense of community either one of us has ever experienced. It was a terribly difficult decision to leave the area. However, at the same time, it taught us that we need to find a community anywhere we could possibly even consider living.

It’s taken giving up almost everything to figure out what we need most. Isn’t it crazy how life works sometimes?

If you’re reading this – Bob & Diane, Dee & Jerry, Doug & Rhoda, Dawn & Sherri, Ken & Nancy, Dave & Donna – you all played an important part in us figuring out something very important that may actually help us “settle down” once and for all. Thank you!

Pictures from the Road – New Mexico

Datil New Mexico

Quemado New Mexico

Socorro New Mexico

On the Road - July 2016

I’ll be sharing more pictures from the road as we inch closer to a resting place.

Cheerio!