The healing nature of books

Kat McKay - Contributing columnist

There’s something in the air … Is it the promise of spring with the birds chirping and the rare glimpses of sunshine? Is it the “creative juice” essential oil blend wafting from my diffuser?

No, it’s a bunch of lovely random viruses knocking people out left, right and center. Joy.

We had a lovely time of it at our house with the creeping crud taking each of us out like a well-timed snot-bomb. But I would gladly take the congestion aches and pains any day over the stomach bug that had my kid curled up into the fetal position for a week.

No amount of chipped ice, popsicles or back rubs would alleviate the pain. And of course, it’s the kind of bug the doctor said there was nothing to do but ride it out.

Worst ride ever.

When a parent goes through that kind of stress the last thing on your mind is reading. The usual go to method to get your kid comfortable is to put their favorite show on the telly in the hopes of taking their mind off the pain.

Not many consider that one of the best distractions isn’t necessarily a visual one — it’s an audio one. This is where, if you’re like me and way too wiped out to read out loud to your sick child, you pick the easy solution, audiobooks.

One of my personal favorite children’s audiobooks is “Buddha at Bedtime” by Dharmachari Nagaraja. The beginning tracks introduce children to who Buddha was and the main tenants of Buddhism, then it spins many colorful tales teaching tenements of the Eightfold Path.

We enjoyed hearing about the brave little parrot that tried to douse a forest fire by dipping its wings in the river and sprinkling it on the flames. Can’t tell you how it ends, spoilers, sweetie.

There are many times other than comforting a sick child that I turn to the spoken word over the written one. I listen while cooking, on the road, and when my eyes are tired from staring at a computer screen all day.

While some might think of it as a cheat, I see it as a way to insert literature and knowledge into every nook and cranny of my life.

Of course, being the oddball that I am, I have some distinctly particular tastes when it comes to an audiobook. I prefer nonfiction over fiction because the voices in my head rarely match up to the narrator’s interpretation of a character.

Then there’s my pet peeve of the occasional narrator that whistles when he says any “s” word. That sound pierces right through my ear drums. And don’t get me started on bad southern accents. The twangier it gets, the more my eyes roll. It’s hard to hear over all of the eyes rolling.

I will, however, give props to Benedict Cumberbatch. His narration in Ngaio Marsh’s “Artists in Crime” was spot on. I found his southern woman so convincing that I forgot it was Benedict doing it. Which is quite the accomplishment because I’m somewhat a fan (translation: secretly dating him in my head).

So you could say that I’m a tad bit particular when it comes to my listening preferences. Say it all you want, it’s help me developed a fast system for finding a good audiobook relatively pain free.

First, I do a quick browse through the library’s Overdrive app. Instead of spending time listening to samples of each one, I download a couple, based on what I’m in the mood for. Then if I don’t like it I just 86 it and move on to the next. It’s all very easy to do with a few taps on my tablet’s screen.

Second I make a mental note of who I’ve liked the best and stick with them in a pinch — Dr. Wayne Dyer is my go-to for being uplifted, and old time radio shows like “Suspense” and “The Whistler” are for when I want intrigue.

Finally, when I don’t know what I’m in the mood for and have time to browse, I hit the wide array we have at the library where I can be that person who judges a book by its cover. I admit it, I’m not ashamed!

So the next time you’re in the dire domestic straights or are so far under the weather you can see Earth’s central core, reach for an audiobook to take your mind off it all.

It’s easy, painless and no strings attached… unless you’re into that thing, there’s audiobooks for that too.

Kat McKay is the manager of the Clinton-Massie Branch of the Wilmington Public Library in Clarksville. She can be reached at

Kat McKay

Contributing columnist