The joy of listening

I’ve read Patrick O’Brian’s twenty-book Aubrey-Maturin series (better known as the Master and Commander series since the film) four times, and now I’m listening to it again through This isn’t a product endorsement, but until I tried Audible on the recommendation of a friend, I hadn’t realised how much I enjoyed being read to. Hearing my favourite stories read to me was a joyous experience and made me realise how much I had missed the past four times I’d read these books.

When someone else is reading to you, you have no option but to go at their pace, and Rick Jerrom, who does the O’Brian books is a superb narrator. I’d love to know how he approaches it, there must be a huge amount of preparation and annotation to be able to produce even the range of accents in these books.

It occurred to me that the last time I had a story read to me was probably 40 years ago, and it’s blindingly clear to me why my own children enjoy the experience so much: it’s completely effortless. All you have to do is let your imagination run with the words, because your ears consume the language without any of the, comparatively complex, process of reading and interpreting squiggles on a page.

There are lots of audiobooks out there, including free ones, some of which require proprietary players (like Audible), so give it a try. My only word of caution is that some narrators are far better than others, and you may find your favourite story being ruined by a poor performance or ill-matched voice. Also, there are abridged and full version of books, so make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy.

Now, I’m heading back up on deck of HMS Surprise, where are my earphones?


  1. Alright, I’m sold. I hate subscription models but I’ll check out Audible again. I’ve listened to HMS Surprise read by the actor Robert Hardy and really enjoyed it.

  2. Oh, a word of warning, that Robert Hardy audiobook is abridged, something that isn’t very clearly stated before buying. I’ve also tried quite a few free readings, and unfortunately they tend to be pretty poor, especially the ones done by volunteers (not surprisingly).

  3. Will Belford says:

    Indeed, why anyone would want to abridge O’Brian is beyond me, the whole point of reading him is to enjoy the fully-immersive experience of being in another time, and in the minds of two men of that era, with all the moral considerations and behaviours so different from our own.

    Abridge? Never!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *