This morning, after 29 pleasurable hours listening, I finished Charles Dickens’ novel, Pickwick Papers on Audible. In the past I’ve tried reading Dickens, and found it hard going, it’s not a style that I can read very well, and because of this, I’ve never managed more than a couple of chapters before moving on to something else more my calibre (usually involving genetically engineered super soldiers, explosions, car chases, giant robots, castles and magic, World War 1 & 2 historical (like Anthony Beevor) or Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy books…).

During the course of my MA course, I commented that I rarely found time to read, always doing crap jobs like pointing brickwork, sorting out the fruit and veg growing in the yard (yard growing ftw!), writing or painting, two of my most relaxing past times (aside from sleeping and wasting my life on the Xbox or World of Warcraft). The tutor, outstandingly intelligent and knowledgeable novelist, James Friel suggested I try Audible, audio books that I could listen to while doing all the cack jobs, and even when painting, etc. So I signed up.

For years I’ve had a copy of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller on my bookcase, recommended to me by my Troop Commander in the Gulf eleven years ago, and he passed me his copy at the end of the tour. All this time later, I still have it, and have never read it. Sir, if you ever want it back, just let me know and I’ll post it out to you. So, my first Audible book was Catch 22 narrated by Trevor White.  Opinions? Awesome book, and awesome way of being able to read/listen to the novel, without having to stop all the things I needed to do. I could also relate to Yossarian…

Next up, after fighting losing battles against Dickens novels for years, I picked up Pickwick Papers unabridged, narrated by Peter Batchelor, and again, it was superb. After spending the whole summer writing a novel, I’d struggled to find time to actually listen to it (the yard wall hasn’t been pointed, and the fruit and veg tended to rot on the vines… My yard looked like Westfall). However, with the novel finished, I wanted distraction, and started listening to Pickwick Papers while running or in the gym, knocking off about 8 hours a week for the past two weeks. Listening to Dickens, for me, is so much easier than reading it, and it was nice to hear the story, without struggling with the language used.

One thing I thought was superb, was that it made me laugh out loud nearly two hundred years after it was originally written (it’s only 22 years off). I like laughing, occasionally laughing on a treadmill or in the gym was a little off-putting, but it’s a truly great story.

So, with my first full Dickens story out the way, I’m moving onto a novel by Philip K. Dick, titled Bladerunner on Audible (although from reviews, it seems to be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), and with a long drive to the Caldbeck Festival this weekend, I’ll more than likely have it finished by Sunday’s drive home.

Both Catch 22 and Pickwick Papers had their plus points, and the narrators of both captured the moods and the characters well. Batchelor does some fantastic Life of Brian style female voices, which, though ludicrous, are really funny. He also manages to give each character their own voice, which means you can tell who is speaking without being told (although, as it’s unabridged, you are told,’ said Rob Knipe.). The same can be said with Catch 22, with the different characters all getting their own style and sound, despite it being just the one narrator, a testament to both.

Audible? I recommend it to anyone who does lots of things that holding a book interrupts (running, gymming, cycling, driving, whatever). If you want to read more book, but don’t get the chance to sit down and do so, sign up, have a listen. I think it’s bloody marvellous!