In another life, I was a letter carrier. The summer after I graduated high school, I delivered mail in my hometown of Provincetown, at the very tip of Cape Cod. I’m not exactly sure why I thought it would be a great idea to work for the post office, but getting paid to walk all day seemed like the perfect job.
It was during this summer that I learned the importance of audio books. I was never that much a fan of books on tape when I was younger. They reminded me of long car rides to visit distant relatives, of reading aloud in the classroom. I considered reading to be a solitary activity. To bring another voice into the mix, one that didn’t necessarily belong to me or the writer, seemed an intrusion.
Down one of the narrow side streets that snaked through the sandy town was an older woman who’d gone completely blind. Each week, she received a crate of sea-foam green plastic boxes, each containing a cassette tape. These were Talking Books, sent through the Library of Congress. She waited each day for the letter carrier and the books we’d bring. I always liked hearing about what she’d read that week.
Still, it took me another ten years to discover how wonderful books-on-tape are myself. It all connects to walking. Taking long, meandering walks has become central to my life on Nantucket. There are still so many places I’ve yet to explore on this small island. I try to spend as much time outside as I can. Since I am not coordinated enough to walk and read from a page at the same time (there are some people who can...I live next to the bike path and see them stroll by), audio books are the answer.
Remember trying to shove a portable CD player into your coat pocket, and a handful of CD’s in your other pocket? (Was that just me?) Now that nearly everybody carries a small computer around with them at all times, it’s easy to find something to read while you explore the outside world. I use the Libby app by OverDrive, which gives me access to digital audio books in the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (CLAMS, in what has to be the greatest acronym of all) network. I am surprised to find I even have favorite narrators in much the same way I have favorite actors.
It’s a real treat when an author narrates their own words for the audio book. I recently listened to Nantucket Book Festival 2019 author Susan Orlean read her instant classic, The Library Book, while walking through the old ram pasture and woods off Madaket Road. The island was dressed in winter colors--pale golden, deep purple, evergreen, and off in the distance, the sea a narrow ribbon of blue. I didn’t see a single person, or dog, or deer, but I didn’t walk alone.