There is, quite likely, no other blogger out there more dedicated to audiobooks than Jennifer Conner of Literate Housewife. Winner of last year’s brand-new Audie Award for Blogger of the Year and mastermind behind the Armchair Audies, Jennifer is a go-to resource for all things audiobook.
I called Jennifer recently to talk about books that are better in audio, her favorite narrators, and whether or not listening to an audiobook counts as reading.
[Judy Oldfield] Let’s start by talking about the name of your blog, Literate Housewife. You’re not actually a housewife, correct?
[Jennifer Conner] No, in my dreams only. Actually, I think I’d probably go crazy. It was actually my husband who came up with that name. It just stuck. I guess it became part of my identity.
[JO] It’s catchy. You focus a lot on audiobooks on your blog. Why are audiobooks so important to you?
[JC] Having kids and having a commute I was trying to figure out how to get more reading time in. I had been adverse to audiobooks, thinking it’s not really reading. When I realized I could get more reading in with audiobooks I decided to give it a try. Also, my kids weren’t going to sleep very well, and I was laying in their room for an hour a night and I could [have been] reading.
I read a couple and they were all right, and then I picked up The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Simon Vance was the narrator, and something over the course of the audiobook clicked with me. If I were to describe it, all of a sudden my eyes opened and I’m like, “Oh, now I understand the power of audiobooks.” How it added a dimension to a story. And ever since then, audiobooks have become my passion.
I think it’s ironic, as someone who started [off] thinking they didn’t really count as reading.
[JO] What do you tell people who say, oh that doesn’t count as reading?
[JC] I would try to find a book that we’ve read together, that they’ve read in print and I’ve read on audio and say here’s the story. I can hear the language that they use. I hear the way they structure their sentences and they write and it’s gorgeous no matter what. Plus, stories began as an oral tradition. I’m not going to force my opinion on anyone, but I’d argue that I get just as much, maybe even more out of a book than they might.
[JO] Tell me about the Armchair Audies. How did you decide to start doing nothing the Armchair Audies?
[JC] Every year they have the Audie Awards, which is kind of like the Grammys or Oscars of audiobooks. There are 28 categories with four to six audiobooks nominated in each.
Really it was just the overwhelming amount of audiobooks. Because I’m really super geeky about audiobooks. And there were a couple other bloggers who were always on Twitter talking about audiobooks. They announced the nominees one year and I’m like, how in the world can I listen to all of these audiobooks? Because you know that I wanted to fill out my own little Oscar Ballot but there’s no way. So just through the course of chatting with [bloggers], we had the idea of picking at least a few categories and coming up with our own. So, we asked a lot of other people who were interested and we created a ballot based on our picks.
[JO] And can anyone join the Armchair Audies? Or is it just for bloggers.
[JC] Oh, anyone really. I would be happy to host people’s reviews if they’re interested. You don’t have to be a blogger. You just have to love audiobooks. And at least write a paragraph about what you liked, what you didn’t like about them.
[JO] How did you do last year? How many were right.
[JC] My picks are never right. A few people have done well. But I picked Euphoria in the Literary Fiction category, and that won. And actually I was at the Audies, because I won a trip, and it was really neat to see Simon and see them win in the award and be in the room.
[JO] You went as Audiobook Blogger of the year. That was new, right?
[JC] Yeah, it was the first year and I was so excited to have won. My blogging has not been terribly consistent lately, because I’ve taken on new position at work and I started doing a boot camp to get fit and lose weight, so I just don’t have the time to write that I used to. So I didn’t really think that I would win. Just because other people are so prolific and always on Twitter. I wasn’t as visible. But it was an honor to have won.
[JO] Well, you are a great blogger and you do so much to support audiobooks, so I was not surprised at all when I saw your name come up.
[JC] Well thank you.
[JO] So what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
[JC] Well, the whole Stieg Larsson Millennium series are among my favorites.
Recently, Fates and Furies I thought was a really good audiobook. Dietland. That was fun in audio.
[JO] What are some books that are better or were enhanced by listening on audio?
[JC] Memoires. Especially when you’ve got an author [narrating it]. Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew. That was just fascinating to me. Her whole life was fascinating. I’d seen her on Voyager and Orange Is the New Black, so I was familiar with her as an actress, but she’s an outstanding audiobook narrator. So not only are you getting her life story, but you’re hearing it in her voice.
Any book that has a lot of foreign words, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That has a lot of Swedish words in it. I get frustrated as a reader when I can’t pronounce words.
There’s a book called Paul Is Undead, Simon Vance narrated it. And I’m not a big fan of zombies, or anything gory or gross, but there was so much humor in that book, and the way Simon narrated it, it was a lot of fun.
[JO] Are there certain narrators that you’ll say, oh, I’m going to listen to that book even though normally, in print, that is a book you wouldn’t pick up?
[JC] Oh, yeah, well, Simon Vance is definitely [one]. Cassandra Campbell and Katherine Kellgren are examples of narrators that I would pretty much follow anywhere. Mark Bramhall. Will Collyer. He’s a fairly new narrator, he does a lot of work for Hachette Audio. Schroder by amity Gabe was the first I listened to by him and I listen to everything he puts out. The Killing Kind . . . it’s about hitmen. A hit man who goes after other hitmen. And whereas I would never pick up that kind of book to read it in print, I picked it because Will narrated it. I enjoyed it and he did a great job with it.
Follow Jennifer at @LitHousewife to keep up with the latest audiobook news.