Being a huge fan of reading, especially of physical hard copies of books, it took me a long time to warm to the concept of audio books.
You see, I enjoy the whole process of reading almost as much as experiencing the story or the ideas presented by the author. I love having those words magically transform into scenes projected onto the screen of my mind, with imaginary voices bringing the dialogues to life, the product of another person's genius and imagination.
It's a magical, intimate world.
As such, I had no inclination to listen to another person narrate these stories and taint the visuals I would have imagined myself. Where's the fun in that??
I did eventually try it out, via a trial offer* on Audible by Amazon, where you get to download one book of your choice, free of charge. What intrigued me was when I learnt that some of these books were actually being narrated by their authors. That piqued my interest. While I still wasn't interested in hearing the audio renditions of the fictional genres (what can I say, I prefer the sound of my own voice, hurhur), I thought it would be interesting to hear authors say the words they created, exactly the way they were intended to be conveyed, especially for biographies.
It didn't take much deliberation to decide on the free book I wanted to try - Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.
This woman needs no introduction, at least to me. Mainly because I am no stranger to her productions, Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Being a huge fan of the shows, I was enthralled by her storytelling prowess (although it took me a long time to forgive her for killing McDreamy :p), and was most keen to hear her in person, sharing her thoughts.
Little did I expect to enjoy the book as much as I would. Rhimes was indeed Queen of storytelling, and it was a joy to listen to her regale the reader/audience on how she decided to challenge herself to get out of her comfort zone and embrace life truly, by saying "Yes" to anything that terrified, challenged or taunted her, for a year.
It surprised me to learn that she was an extreme introvert, which probably also explained why I could identify with her on many of her accounts. Personally I am a borderline introvert everytime I take a test to see where I place on the spectrum, but those struggles she described, how she loved being the mastermind behind the scenes, yet just as easily lose her wits at any prospect where she is put in the spotlight, are experiences that hit home for me as well.
With her witty narration, I could almost feel that same gripping fear each time she took on a challenge - making the commencement speech at her Dartmouth, her alma mater (I wondered briefly if that was why Meredith Grey was from there, hehe), going on the Jimmy Kimmel show, being interviewed by Oprah. Introverts hate being shoved onto centrestage - we relish doing the work behind getting people there, or quietly observing from the sidelines, but we just don't have that desire to be the one being focussed on. Heh. That said, I was also cheered by how she learnt and grew from each experience when she delivered, and the satisfaction from seeing the value she brought to others from it.
It was a truly engaging experience that was such a treat, the closest to actually being in the brain of someone whose talent and mind you admire so much. It definitely changed my impression of audiobooks, such that I am happy to make them a regular feature, not as a substitute for reading, but simply another type of pastime that is a delight to me.
These words in her prologue got me hard, explained exactly the dilemma I face when I write or post anything relating to my mushy soft heart or idealistic dreamy brain. I have to admit, I was already sold after reading that introduction.
"Writing about myself feels a lot like I have just decided to stand up on a table at a very proper restaurant, raise my dress and show everyone that I'm not wearing panties.
That is to say, it feels shocking.
It puts the bits of me that I usually keep to myself on display.
Naughty bits. Secret bits.
See, I am an introvert. Deep. To the bone. My marrow is introvert marrow. My snot is introvert snot. Every cell in my body screams continuously at me with every word I type that writing this book is an unnatural act.
A lady never shows her soul outside the boudoir."
Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
*Quick note though, if you would like to try this out. It is an opt-out trial, which requires you to set up a monthly membership account to utilise the freebie, and upon the end of the first month, you need to actively cancel the subscription if you don't wish to continue. Otherwise you will be auto-credited every month with a credit to download any book of your choice, with a fixed amount charged to your credit card. Don't say I never say ah.