I almost included Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay in my top books of 2014. But I realized I had not focused on the text as much I had with my other favorite reading of the year. Strictly speaking, I did not read but listened to Bad Feminist: Essays, and, as I write about it, I find myself describing the listening experience rather than the book itself. While I could go back (or search online) and mine the selected essays for what makes them pop and/or fizzle, I don’t feel as though it’s necessary. We can all can peruse the proper reviews on Slate and Bookslut and then go out and read the book on the subway, if we haven’t already.
For me, the experience of hearing Bad Feminist: Essays was immersive. When I wrote in my journal, I imagined narrator Bahni Turpin reading the words as I went. It was like writing after a day at theatre camp; my mind was rich with this other, familiar voice. I also remembered the hours of my childhood spent riding in the car and listening to Hank the Cowdog on cassette. Why did I stop listening to books on tape (on CD, as MP3)? It finally clicked for me that, as an adult now, I don’t have to sit down with a pen in hand to take in a story or a witty critique. I don’t need to be ready to write about everything I read. I can click play whether I am traveling or finishing chores or stretching out on the couch. I can relax into the words and voices and love them irrationally. I don’t think I will again willingly wash the dishes without an audiobook.