Be Animated and No Peeking

Reading Tips

An unscientific survey of audible readers revealed a few tips for those thinking of doing it themselves.

Tip 1: Don't be put off if your spouse suggests diving into Tolstoy's "War and Peace" or Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks." Contrary to what one might suspect, so-called "heavy" books tend to be good "audible" reads. Such works predominated over the lighter choices among audible readers. And for good reason, they say.

"If you are having fiction read to you, it's quite different than having something with deep philosophical content read to you," says Eric Nickerson, a furniture maker from Etobicoke, Ontario. "Something that has high philosophical content is a trigger for discussions, whereas fiction generally is not."

Mr. Nickerson and his wife, Shelley, courted by reading each other works by Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet. Nine years of Canadian winter nights since their marriage have included J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," by James Joyce.

Gabriella Rife and John Donovan, a couple in Iowa City, Iowa, finished Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment." Mr. Donavan was also the motivator behind reading "Barnaby Rudge" and other Dickens classics. He began reading Sherlock Holmes stories out loud in 1990 while training to be a park ranger in Arizona.

Tip 2: Be expressive and animated in your reading performance. Consider changing voices slightly when different characters speak. "When you read it out loud the characters really emerge," Donovan exults.

Nickerson concurs. "Somehow it's important that you be the conveyer of this bit of excitement," he says. "You are the conveyor of that experience rather than having your own private experience with the written word. It then becomes kind of a simultaneously shared experience."

Tip 3: No peeking. "The story is the focus of attention but so are you," Nickerson says. "If you are reading something out loud," he warns, "the other person should not be looking over your shoulder."

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