Hello! This is something I’ve been thinking of writing for a while because I know there are still a lot of people out there trying audiobooks for the first time. I’ve been a reader for over 30 years now and I didn’t really start getting into audiobooks until three or four years ago and adding audiobooks was a huge benefit to me as a reader–I can get through a lot more books now because I can multi-task–but it wasn’t without its struggles.
Listening to a book is a much different skill set from reading print off a page. First off, it’s engaging different senses and the way we interact with that input in our minds is not the same. It took me a really long time to learn how to listen to an audiobook! As a reader, I was used to tuning out audio while concentrating on books. I got really good at this because when I was growing up my brother would always try to talk to me while I was very clearly reading so I just started not listening to him and nodding while I kept reading my book. This led me to be great at concentrating….on print. The first time I tried to listen to a book my mind kept wandering off. I just figured that audiobooks were not for me and didn’t try again for a really long time. I had to learn how to concentrate on listening, which was the opposite of what I’d been used to doing while reading.
Finding a the right narrator was key. I decided to try audiobooks again when a friend recommended I check out Red Rising by Pierce Brown and specifically said the audiobook was fantastic. I was hesitant because I hadn’t had a good experience with audio so far and I’ll admit I was skeptical. I have never been more pleased to be wrong! I think Tim Gerard Reynolds is one of the best audiobook narrators out there. He does so many great voices for different characters, all kinds of accents, and he’s incredibly engaging. He isn’t just reading the book, he’s breathing life into it. It helped that Red Rising was pretty engaging on its own, a story with a lot of action and exciting moments. I think that I was lucky to have tried that book when I did, because it really did open my world to what was possible with audiobooks and make me keep on trying them.
I sometimes still have problems listening to some audiobooks, and that’s okay. Even after listening to audiobooks on a consistent basis for three or four years now, I still sometimes come across books that I just can’t absorb through audio. There’s a couple of different factors that play into this for me. One is the narrator–sometimes the voice is just too high in octave or the narration is read monotonously and that can make it hard for me to focus on the book. My brain still wants to tune those things out, it seems! Another barrier for me seems to be if the book is too complicated. I don’t read a whole lot of epic fantasy through audio. I lose focus with epic even while reading in print, but at least in print it’s easy enough to flip back and forth in the book to look for something if I missed it. Occasionally I’ll zone out on a book, even for a few minutes, and then come back and think ‘wait, when did that happen???’. On the other hand, things like urban fantasy work great for me in audio!
I think being ‘successful’ at listening to audiobooks is finding what works right for you. Just like print books, not every audiobook will work well for every listener. There are tons of factors that play into you being able to focus on that book and really connect with it as a reader. Not that anyone is looking for advise, particularly, but if I had to give some I’d say experiment and see what works for you. Check out different narrators, listen to samples, try different genres and lengths of books. Maybe you’ll hit on a combination that works out!
Have you tried audiobooks before? How was your experience listening to them? Leave a note in the comments, I’d love to chat!