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I haven’t been a fan of audio books, but listening to compelling stories reduces the tedious aspects of hand stitching a large quilt. (Yes, endless spirals. What was I thinking?) While half a dozen audio books have helped me make good progress. I’ve been surprised to learn that the voice reading the book has a significant effect on my appreciation of the story.

I don’t care for the person reading Gregg Hurwitz’s “Orphan X” series (a guilty pleasure I confess to). If I hadn’t read the first few books in the series I doubt I could have listened to the entire “Prodigal Son” while quilting. And I recently tried (and failed) to listen to Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club. The reader’s voice interfered so much with my ability to connect with the story that I gave it up after the third chapter.

Because Fowler is such a respected author, I began to wonder whether the insertion of someone else’s voice between me and the written page was having an impact on my sense of not just the quality of the narrative but also the nature of the characters.

Casting about for something else to listen to, I stumbled on Elizabeth Bear, thanks to author John Scalzi’s inimitable and wondrous blog Whatever. This time, rather than just jumping into the audio book, I read the first few chapters, using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature. Reassured that I liked the both the writing and the story, I turned to the audio version and found the voices fit the story for me.

I appreciate my local library making audio books available through the Hoopla digital streaming service. I absolutely do buy books, but can’t buy all the books all the time.

I’m listening to Bear’s “The Stone in the Skull” now and suspect that the actual purchasing of Bear books won’t be long in coming.

Listening to books has reinforced for me the notion that reading is an oddly private and intimate act between author and reader, two people who rarely meet, but find themselves drawn together in an inner invisible dance. While audio books draw me back to my otherwise tedious needlework, I prefer no intermediary between me and the page.

May my eyesight last until someone pulls the last book from my cold fingers.