Almost ten years ago, while living in China, I had laser eye surgery
My eyes have always been bad—and one was worse than the other, causing depth perception problems (yes, that’s what I’m blaming my poor performance in high school PE class on. Okay?). I’d worn contact lenses since I was 15, but for a few years, my eyes had become increasingly sensitive and irritated by the lenses. I tried switching to glasses full time, but suffered vision headaches and just generally hated having something resting on my nose every day.
After the procedure, the doctor advised me to reduce the strain on my eyes, and particularly the time that I spent looking at computer screens, for about six months.
At first I thought I’d be fine—I planned to listen to music and sleep a lot. But no, it was a lot harder to cut back on reading than I had thought. We had a vacation coming up, to Xinjiang Province in far western China. What was I going to do on our long bus and train rides?
The answer: audiobooks.
Now, some of my readers here might know that I was homeschooled as a kid, and whether that's the reason or not, it has never been quite comfortable for me to take information in only by listening. I don't particularly enjoy listening to the radio, other than for music, and when I took lectures in college, I took as many notes as I could so that I could read them back later.
Knowing this, my husband picked out the first book for me to listen to. We thought it would be easier for me to enjoy if it was a book I’d actually read before on paper. He chose George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones. He’s an OG GOT fan, and I had recently bought him paperbacks of the full series (well, whatever was published up to that point; we didn’t even know there’d be a TV series then!) at an English-language bookshop in Macao. So one of my first experiences with audiobooks was listening to the narrator describe Westeros as we sat on a train going across the yellow Taklamakan desert near Kashgar.
On later trips that year, I listened to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich and other authors I enjoy read aloud. Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and his own reading of The Graveyard Book stayed with me particularly. I listened on a ferry down the Yangtze, *tried* to listening while going to the gym (but the music was too loud and to be honest, going to the gym is another thing I’ve never been able to get into…), and stayed up late at night in cheap hostels in India, mosquito netting inches from my face, riveted by one plot point or another.
But once the doctor approved me for reading screens again, I let my interest in audiobooks lapse. Until this year.
While training for our hike in Spain next week, I’ve started listening to audiobooks again, as well as podcasts, to make the miles pass under my boots faster. Plus, since I’ll have to carry everything I need for the hike in a 26L backpack, I don’t really have room to take a paperback (one paperback is not enough for a week trip anyway). My Kindle’s small and light, but I would worry about damage to it if it rains. These past two months, I’ve learned I’m still a newbie listener, and often have to back up to re-hear what happened if my focus is pulled elsewhere. I would never be able to listen to audiobooks and drive a car—that seems like a superpower!
Lately, I’ve been listening to thrillers. I’ve finished Rena Olsen’s The Girl Before and AJ Banner’s The Good Neighbor, and now I’m working on Carla Norton’s What Didn’t Kill Her—which I’m really enjoying.
My next Audible credit this month will go to Steven King’s latest release, Outsider. I hope the tension will keep me on the path while walking—but I’ll probably switch back to podcasts after dark!
Do you listen to audiobooks? Which ones would you recommend?
I've just posted my June rewards for Patreon supporters!
Here are the covers for the $5 reward (a short story in my series about an all-female assassin agency) and the $3 reward (a travel tale about the time I hiked Mt. Emei, one of China's four sacred Buddhist mountains).
If you pledge today, you'll get these rewards plus previous months' stories as well! Note that I also offer critique sessions for the higher reward tiers--perfect if you'd like a writing buddy, editor, and cheerleader! www.patreon.com/BethGreen
My May rewards for Patreon supporters post today! Above are the covers of the $5 reward (a short, short story about a fast-moving river and a now-or-never chance) and the $3 reward (a travel story set in Prague during my English-teaching days). Pledge today and get access to these rewards and last month's too: https://www.patreon.com/BethGreen.
What is Patreon? It's a microfunding site for creators. You get cool things to read (and fun cat memes) and I can spend a bit more time on projects I'm passionate about! Learn more here or check out the intro video on my Patreon profile page.
This past week, my friend Jasmine Silvera released the second book in her Grace Bloods series, Dancer’s Flame. I've known Jasmine since she was in Prague writing her first book (and, um, actually I’m officially the first book’s godmother and so kind of invested in this…) and I'm thrilled to see her universe, set in a dystopian future Prague, come to life in a second volume. The story centers on Isela Vogel, a dancer who can call on gods through the power of dance and her relationship with the city’s most powerful necromancer, Azrael.
Jasmine did a great job showcasing the city, but often when I pick up a book about a place I know well, I worry if my own experiences are going to take away from my enjoyment of the setting. For example, my own familiarity with Prague makes me hypervigilant to the details, but it’s really not fair to expect an author to always put every cobblestone in the right place. For most books, it's more about catching the spirit of a location and emphasizing only the details that evoke the sensation of being there.
My April rewards for Patreon patrons post today! Above are the covers of my $5 reward (a short story about an inept assassin) and my $3 reward (a travel tale about Easter traditions in Spain and the Philippines). Make a pledge and claim your rewards at https://www.patreon.com/BethGreen.
What is Patreon? It's a microfunding site for creators. You get cool things to read (and fun cat memes) and I can spend a bit more time on projects I'm passionate about! Learn more here. You can also watch my intro video explaining my vision for my patrons and my projects below.
I'm pleased to be featured in a creative-nonfiction anthology this spring!
On April 4th the Gratitude, Good News & Guidelines Creative Non-fiction Anthology will be launched. The proceeds from the sales of this anthology go to charity, supporting a school in an underprivileged area of Bangkok. I’ll be writing more about it and the editor who put it together, the multi-talented Bhavna Khemlani, next week—but if you can’t wait, the ebook is already available on Amazon.
My essay, “Excuse Me Ma’am, Your Bag Is Overweight” is in the Guidelines section. In it, I share how airline packing restrictions can be similar to writing guidelines—and how I sometimes chafe at both.
I recently got a haul of books from a friend who is moving into a new smaller apartment and now my floor is filled with stacks of amazing stories. How am I going to decide what to read first?
Some of them are ones that I've read before but am excited to browse through again, like A Thousand Splendid Suns, and the travel anthology A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe. Others are ones I’ve had on my mental to-be read list, but I have never had a chance to get my hands on a copy. For example, Interpreter of Maladies and The Effect of Living Backwards. One of the things I frequently miss about living in an English-speaking country is access to a big public library. Because I live away from an English-speaking market, it’s often hard to find books that I want when I want to read them, even in the bookstore. Of course, that means I do a lot of reading on my Kindle! And if I have to have something in dead-tree version, I can often order it from Book Depository. Otherwise, though, I read whatever materializes on my book shelf.
News from Beth
Updates and musings.