We know what an audiobook is. Now you can hear professionals read books to you on your drive to work in the morning instead of having to read them yourself. You can listen to books while you do yard work or exercise at the gym instead of having to find the time where you can sit down to read in your favourite fireside armchair. Personally, I prefer fireside reading. Making time to read a book or read aloud to the family is so worthwhile. But if you're busy doing something on your own, sometimes an audiobook is the best option.
They do have their drawbacks though. Some books don't work as well as audiobooks. Some voices are better suited for audiobooks than others. And then there's that bothersome concept of comprehension. How much do you remember from the audiobooks you've heard? For me there's a noticeable difference between the two. There's just no comparison to holding a physical book in your hands.
But as it turns out, there's another option out there for hearing stories. It's called audio drama. Unlike audiobooks, today's audio dramas boast a full cast of actors, music, and sound effects. An audio drama is like a movie, but without the visuals. The movie plays in your mind instead of on a screen. The BBC has been adapting classic literature into audio drama on the radio for years. In the U.S., the long-running kids' show Adventures in Odyssey stands out as an example of original content. And there are many more great audio dramas out there waiting to be discovered.
Audio drama can captivate you for hours. I remember as a kid sitting in the living room drawing pictures or colouring or playing with LEGO, all the while listening through the audio dramas of all seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia. Whereas an audiobook sticks to a dry reading of the words on the page, an audio drama brings the story to life. It puts you right in the middle of the action. Unlike some audiobooks, audio drama is the farthest thing from being boring or bland. And yet it accomplishes it all with sound alone—no brightly flashing screen required.
Whether you're looking for classics like Oliver Twist, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden, or the World War II era biographies of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom, or even rare books that no one's ever heard of (see Lamplighter Theatre), audio drama has you covered. I think one of the reasons audio drama works so well is because it adapts the stories for the audio format. It's not simply a reading, but a dramatization. And it also allows sound designers to use the full range of tools at their disposal. These are stories which engage your imagination, stories you remember. Whatever genre you like or whatever age you are, there's something out there for you. I really can't recommend audio drama highly enough.
David Raphael Hilder
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