Let’s talk audio books.
In my June wrap-up, I mentioned that I listened to two audiobooks, and that I can sometimes have trouble finding audiobooks that work for me. In thinking more about this, I seem to have a few reasons for why I haven’t clicked with audiobooks.
I’ll start by saying that I want to listen to more audiobooks. While I think there is value in not having constant input into your brain, especially if you want to be creative, I find that my mind doesn’t always wander in those creative directions while I’m doing things like chores or driving. So audiobooks seem like a good way to get through a few more books while making mundane tasks more enjoyable and keeping my mind from dwelling on more stressful things.
In theory: yay, audiobooks!
In reality: I have a lot of excuses for why I can’t make audiobooks a part of my regular reading habits.
Here’s my history with audiobooks.
I am lucky enough to work from home now, but for many years I had a very long, painful commute. Off and on during these years, I would try out audiobooks. This was before they were easy to load on a phone (or at least any device I had), so I would borrow CDs from the library and fumble to change them while driving as I worked my way through the books. There were several reasons this was frustrating: limited selection at the library, grabbing the wrong CD on a busy interstate, and losing my place when I turned off the car and it (ugh) started up again at the wrong spot.
There were good things, too. Being stuck for hours in traffic jams is much more bearable when you’re listening to a good story. If I had found a good story and could focus on it.
My drive wasn’t easy or leisurely. It was long, tense, and unpredictable. When things on the road got stressful, I would stop paying attention to the story. When I would start listening again a few minutes later, I had often missed key parts.
Audiobooks should be easier now. The library has a great selection that I can easily download to my phone, and I can check out a few at a time and easily switch if one isn’t working. Navigation is a breeze and so is carrying them everywhere. And yet, I just haven’t embraced them.
Another problem has been finding the right audiobook for me.
What’s worked: David Sedaris is always a winner, with his funny essays and cheeky narration. I liked listening to Lauren Graham’s memoir.
Beyond that? It’s been inconsistent. For a while, I would pick up the lightest books I could find. Sometimes Janet Evanovich was okay; her Stephanie Plum books are total fluff, but they are fun, they move fast, and it doesn’t usually matter if I miss some details. I can only listen to so many of those before getting bored, though.
What hasn’t worked: I made it through The Great Gatsby and managed to enjoy it, but it was an effort and I feel like I’d have fared better with a physical book. I tried the YA book All the Bright Places but never bothered finishing it. I think my issue here was the male narrator, whose voice didn’t seem to match the rebellious character.
And then there’s the question of when to listen. My life now doesn’t lend itself easily to audio books. I don’t have a long commute anymore, and often when I’m doing chores around the house (which many say is an ideal time to listen), I’m keeping an ear open for kids. When I’m home alone, I’m usually working or writing. I read physical books at night before bed.
My other issue seems to be concentration—apparently it’s not just a problem for me on stressful drives. Last night, I started listening to Gold Fame Citrus while working in the kitchen. The narrator was good, the story seems interesting, and yet my mind wanders to other things—mostly things that need doing around the house, what’s next on my list, etc. Things I’d actually rather not have running through my mind over and over again. If I could focus on a story while doing other chores, maybe that invisible workload wouldn’t feel so exhausting.
I feel like I’m talking myself out of audiobooks, but I so want them to work for me!
So, I’m looking for recommendations. I know a lot of people are listening, so I’m interested in the when, how, and what:
When do you listen?
How do you find audiobooks that you like?
What books and/or narrators do you recommend?