In January 2018 I started listening to audiobooks. If someone had told me before that that I’d not only end up liking them, but that I would rely on them as much as I’ve done this past year, I wouldn’t have believed them.
One year later, I’ve read a total of about 40 audiobooks and I’ve collected a few general thoughts on them that I thought I’d share so everyone who’s still uncertain can decide whether this format might work for them too. Also let me point out that these are just some of the things I noticed that work for me, we’re all different and what works for me might not work for everybody.
- You’re a slow reader: finish a book faster by finding a playing speed that works for you (and even work your way towards higher speeds).
- You’re in a reading slump: try switching the format by listening to an audiobook, it might just be the thing to take you out of your slump.
- You need glasses to read but you’re doing a face mask and you can’t wear your glasses: oddly specific AND YET I bet y’all have in been in this situation.
- You have a long commute: whether by car or by train/bus/tram, you can get a lot of reading done that way.
- You’re “too tired to read”: sometimes that just means you have to rest your eyes and use your ears instead.
- You have problems focusing/ADD/ADHD: audiobooks seem scary for those of us who have problems concentrating (I don’t have a diagnosis yet but I’m probably ADHD myself), but once you find a way to keep yourself focused (I’ll talk about this in the next category), listening to audiobooks actually helps you not get distracted as much as you do while reading on a page.
- You need motivation to do chores: this works best if you stick to listening to audiobooks almost exclusively while you do chores instead of listening to them in your free time. You have no idea how much I hate washing the dishes, but sometimes while I’m in the middle of a good audiobook I find myself looking forward to it because I know I’ll be listening to it while doing it (pro tip: use headphones if you’re doing “loud” chores, with running water etc.)
- Sometimes the performance adds to enjoyment of the book: a good narrator can make a book a thousand times better. They can give a totally different vibe to a book and even make your rating go up one or two stars compared to your rating if you’d only read it.
- If you’re not in love with a particular genre but you still want to read a specific book: okay hear me out, I tend to postpone reading books I know are going to be on the more action-y side or have elements that I personally don’t care much about. But if I know from other reviews that they also have great characters, great relationships, etc, I found that listening to them doesn’t make me dread the parts that I normally wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about. Example: The Disasters.
How to read audiobooks?
- Fast or slow: this totally depends on factors only you know, like your knowledge of the language you’re listening to, and how used you are to listening to books on faster speeds. All listening speeds are valid and it doesn’t matter if you listen on 0.75x or 2.5x speed as long as you’re enjoying it. Pro tip: you don’t have to listen to the whole book at the same speed! You can slow down on dialogues or parts you feel are more important and speed up in action scenes or descriptions.
- While playing a casual puzzle game: this is what I mostly use when I want to focus and I’m not doing a repetitive chore. I have trouble focusing unless I’m doing something with my hands that doesn’t require a lot of effort. I like playing some sort of Tetris game on my phone, sometimes I switch it up by playing different things like Dots or Bejeweled, but you could play Candy Crush or Bubbles…there’s a lot of choice out there.
- With a coloring book: this serves the same purpose of the previous point. I haven’t done this since this summer but sometimes I’m just tired of phone games (or my phone/iPad needs charging lol). There’s lots of coloring books whether it’s for adults or for kids (I don’t judge) so just find something you like. I personally prefer sticking to abstract figures but you do you boo. I know my friends who are artists like to draw while listening so that might be something worth thinking about if you’re good at that.
- With headphones: this is obvious on train/bus/etc but I find it helps at home too, especially while doing chores with running water or if you have to go from one room to another. Bluetooth headphones work best for this so you’re free to move around (AirPods users now it’s your time to shine, if you can actually find them).
Which types of books work best?
- Action-packed: a good narrator will make the scene come alive and if you’re like me and like action scenes but can’t for the life of you picture what’s going on when you read on a page, audiobooks are a great help. Example: all the Rick Riordan books, Kingdom of Ash, Six of Crows.
- “Slow” books with lots of character development: sometimes it’s easy to get impatient with a slow book although we’re enjoying it. Audiobooks make the slower parts go by faster (just adjust the speed) and they give more depth to the internal monologues. Example: Nine Perfect Strangers.
- Rereads: this is one of my favorite use of audiobooks. Rereading feels like I’m wasting my time sometimes (which is NOT true!!! but I feel like my TBR is judging me), but if I listen to it I know that I’m much faster and I don’t feel as guilty. It’s also incredibly enjoyable to go back to a world you loved and experience it in a different format.
- Extremely long books: this ties back to the fact that you’re most likely reading faster if you’re on audio. It’s scary to look at how many hours the book will last, but if you’re on 2x speed the book will be half the length. Example: Kingdom of Ash.
- Honestly? Any book. I haven’t read all kinds of them and a lot will depend on the narrator or the subject of the book, but I see no reason to exclude any category or genre, you just have to find what works for you.
Cons of audiobooks?
- Can’t see words/names on page: this is especially frustrating when you’re reading fantasy or reading in a second language and hearing a lot of new names of people or places. It makes it awkward to write a review or chat about it with online friends, because sometimes you just don’t know how to spell things.
- Beautiful prose gets lost, can’t highlight without a visual version: sure, you can bookmark the spot you’re on if you’re on Audible, but unless you also own an ebook or printed version it’ll be awkward to write down a quote whether it’s for your future reference for a review or just because you enjoyed that particular sentence.
- They’re expensive: there’s little going around this, audiobooks are expensive. If you’re lucky you have a library near you that lets you borrow them and use apps like Libby, but that’s not the case for most of us internationals. I like my audible subscription because I feel that it lets me make the most out of my money, but it’s still very expensive and I know it’s not for everyone.
- No time to process emotional scenes: especially if you’re going fast, it might be hard to remember to pause while you’re in the middle of something Big going on in the book because you want to know what comes next. This can make it so that some of the dramatic moments get lost among the sea of information being thrown at you at 2x speed. I personally like to take a moment to cry or at least process that something dramatic has happened while I’m reading, but it can be hard to do with audios.
- You might not like narrator: a narrator can make or break a book. I haven’t found many bad narrators and the few I did find haven’t made it impossible to enjoy the book, but that’s because they were rereads of books I already knew and loved. Definitely always try to check out a sample of the book (Audible has 5-minutes samples for every book) and sort reviews in a way that shows you the ratings of the performance. If you feel like a particular narrator might turn you off an otherwise good book, maybe it might be worth giving the paper or digital version a try instead.
Where to start?
- Rereads: these are probably the easiest books to get into if you’re still uncertain whether audiobooks are for you or not. Think about that one book you’ve been postponing rereading for ages and just try it out! I would, however, suggest avoiding your favorite books, the ones you’ve reread 1000 times, where every line of dialogue already has a specific tone and feel to it, because it will inevitably be different when the narrator reads it.
- Tales: I don’t know how to categorize this but my first audiobook ever was Norse Mythology and it made me feel like when my mom read to me before bed when I was little. It just felt like something meant to be read out loud and it made me fall in love with audiobooks in general. It doesn’t have to be this book in particular but try to find something that gives you the feel of fairy tales or mythology and that you’re interested in and that you might think it’s meant to read out loud by a fire or something like that.
A few quick recs of personal favorite audiobooks with great performances:
✨ Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant ✨
✨ Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty ✨
✨ Far from the Tree by Robin Benway ✨
✨ Sadie by Courtney Summers ✨
✨ The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas ✨
✨ Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman ✨
✨ The Disasters by M.K. England ✨
✨ The whole PJO series by Rick Riordan ✨
So that’s it for this guide! I hope you enjoyed it and if it was useful to you please leave me a comment because I love feeling like I helped!