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Reading Books and Plays Aloud: Should You Read Books Aloud?

When I was in high school, I was one of the most obsessed Eragon fangirls you can possibly think of. Why I fixated on this series in particular is a whole nother blog post, but the upshot of my obsession was that I wanted my brother to read it.

Me: READ THIS BOOK YOU WILL LIKE IT IT HAS DRAGONS
Brother: Ugh go away
Me: READ IT YOU ANNOYING SIBLING-PERSON
Brother: But I don't like to read thingssssss
ME: FUCKING READ IT
Brother: Oh fuck off already
Me: fine then I'll read it to you
Brother: GO. AWAY.
ME: I'M GOING TO READ THIS FUCKING BOOK TO YOU AND YOU WILL FUCKING LIKE IT OR YOU WILL ANSWER TO ME DO YOU HEAR ME I WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE HELL
Brother: FINE THEN

So I read him the book.

And he fucking liked it, as I'd told him he would. Sisters are always right about these things. 

Then I read him the sequel, and he hated it just about as much as I did. 

I'm amazed that I had the vocal stamina to read him this long-ass book, and amazed that he let me without punching me in the throat halfway through mangling the ancient-magic-language. But I think he'd never have read it on his own, and that neither of us would have enjoyed it as much without me doing voice-acting-reading and creative interpretations of "lines" and characters. 

Which is odd, because novels are not a medium meant to be performed or read aloud. 

Recently, I posted my review of William Shakespeare's Star Wars, which, while it can't be performed because of copyright, is a play. Meant to be performed.

Reading plays is tricky, because plays aren't meant to be read. They are meant to be heard, and seen, and played. So much is lost in translation if you simply read a play silently to yourself. Thus I, my professors, and every other drama nut I've ever known will advise you to read a play aloud -- preferably with other people, to get more voices in the mix, but also just on your own.

Is it worth doing the same thing with books?

A lot of writing advice says to read your work aloud when revising. But sometimes, I'll read the dialogue in books aloud just as a reader. I've found surprising benefit from doing this. It alerts me to clunky dialogue, cliches that I didn't notice, and vocal tics (or writing tics) such as overused words.

And in the cases where the writing is good, reading aloud doesn't alert me to flaws. It imbues flawless words with life.

Have you ever read a book aloud, to yourself or anyone else? How about audiobooks? Opinions, anyone?

Comments

  1. I have never read a whole book out loud to myself, but I have read sections, or lines that I like to go over again. I do them same with my own fiction when i get to later drafts.

    I do, however, more often read my non-fiction outloud, for whatever reason. Not every time, but if I have something I'm being paid to submit, I will often read it out loud a few times.

    I often listen to audio books, though I haven't for a while. I also own several Shakespeare performances in audio formats, that I will still listen to at night sometimes. And I still have copies of the earliest audio-dramas I owned as a child that helped me fall asleep...One for Ben Franklin, one for Washington, and a short one for Daniel Boone.

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    1. I like radio plays, myself. I also read non-fiction aloud, particularly articles or sometimes blogposts. When I translate, I DEFINITELY read aloud to make sure it sounds natural.

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  2. Forgot to mention the Star Wars tie-in as per your previous post...I listened to a two minute sample of the Star Wars Shakespeare audio book...I sort of got an idea of what the rest could be...but in this case my brains "wanted" to hear the actors from the movies, even though this was not the movie, of course, so it it was a tad jarring from an audio standpoint for those few minutes.

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    1. Haha, yes! I definitely remembered the actors' voices while reading that play.

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  3. Getting books read aloud to me was definitely a huge part of my childhood, but I definitely don't do it anymore unless I'm reading picture books to kids. I think you're right that it would add something to reading a novel aloud, especially lengthy fantasy stuff like Eragon. It just makes it that much more magical I think.

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    1. Picture books are designed to be read aloud in ways novels aren't. Which sort of makes them more theatrical. This came up in class, actually. If you read a book aloud to another person, does that become theatre? It's certainly some kind of performance.

      My mom read me the Harry Potter books through book 4, until I got too old and was annoyed with her. Not annoyed at the reading aloud, but annoyed by her reasoning. She was afraid the books -- especially the 4th -- would be too scary/have scary dark magic.

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