How I Turned Into An Audiobook Listener

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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!

40 thoughts on “How I Turned Into An Audiobook Listener

  1. Cathy says:

    I agree with your comments, it’s definitely a different skill set. First and foremost for me though it depends on the narrator. I can listen to, and enjoy, a book that I wouldn’t normally have gone for if it’s a narrator I love. Similarly, if a book appeals to me but the narrator doesn’t, I’ll choose a hard copy.

  2. Susy's Cozy World says:

    Your post was really interesting and your advices great! I can relate with the concentration part, manly because it is the same for me. I have learned to read everywhere and in any situation. People who speak, music or television on, etcetera. But I have more problems concentrating on everything else… It is difficult for me to watch an entire movie without getting distracted, and it is even harder listen to something… I love podcast, for example, but I listen to them in short bites here and there and it takes me forever to finish just an episode!!

  3. Tammy says:

    I’d love to get into audio more, but for me it’s a matter of changing my habits. I’m in the habit of reading physical/ebooks and I would have to drastically change my habits to start listening to audio on a regular basis. The only reason I listened to the one audio book I did was because a publisher offered it. So I think that would have to happen again!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I think it was easy for me because I started with listening while I commute and then once I was used to it there I started while doing some mundane things at work or sometimes housework. They’re great for when I’m gardening! Every other time I’m reading print, during normal reading times. When I’m audio booking I am always multi tasking.

  4. marydrover says:

    I’d never thought about the fact that we’ve just trained ourselves to ignore outside noise while reading, which is why it’s probably hard for a lot of us to get into audiobooks. My attention span for listening to things is SO short, and even podcasts are tricky for me. There’s a great podcast that I love, but I only listen to it on long drives because I have to focus anyway, so it just works, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to even listen to someone telling a long story. I’d never connected tuning out audio so I could read as a reason for why audiobooks/podcasts haven’t worked for me so far. Very interesting!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah, it’s really hard for me to listen to things at home at all unless I’m busy doing some boring task, I can’t just sit and listen or my mind wanders, it’s weird. But if I’m half occupied with something else I can concentrate more! LOL

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    Very much this! I give tips on how to get into audiobooks all the time, but it really just depends on the person. There’s no one way but trying a bunch of different things sometimes helps. For me it was a combination of finding the right book and narrator to ease me in, and also fiddling with my playback speed controls!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah, same for me. Red Rising is the first audiobook that things just ‘clicked’ for me! Now that I’m used to them I can mess with the playback speeds although most times I can’t go higher than 1.2x lol. 🙂

  6. imyril says:

    This is a great post – I have really struggled with audiobooks, but in a very similar way. Your experiences suggest I should persevere and find the right book & narrator (after all, starting with the fascinating but difficult multi-narrator Moby Dick project was just a daft notion, let’s be honest). I need to catch up on my Orphan Black rewatch so I can listen to the Serial Box dramas – pretty sure that will tick all my boxes 🙂

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thank you! The first book that REALLY clicked with me in audio was Red Rising–the narration for that is amazing. I also highly recommend the Loki books by Joanne Harris in audio as well, another amazing narrator.

      I really need to start with some Serial Box stuff–they have some great projects!

  7. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    This is something I struggle with, because I want so bad to be able to listen to audiobooks, and I’m just not quite there yet. Your post gives me hope that it might still happen! I’m still at the stage with audiobooks where I tune them out. Totally not intentionally, but at some point, I realize I just missed the last 15 minutes of the book and I have no idea what’s going on lol.

    I’m actually kind of glad to hear that you still struggle with it from time to time? Which seems weird to say, but it gives me hope that I can get better at it lol. I have listened to Illuminae on audiobook, and I really enjoyed that. I’m trying to listen to audiobooks that have come recommended as the narrator is really good, so maybe that’ll help. Next up, I’m trying Trevor Noah’s book, since I heard he narrated it. :3

  8. Sarah says:

    I enjoy audio books, but as you said, it has to be the right narrator. I really love what Serial Box does with their narrators and sound effects. I just have so much fun with them! Great post and great tips!

  9. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’m trying to remember to use audio more. My problem is I usually remember that I could have been listening to a book, just as I finish a bunch of chores. I really do need to give my head a wobble.
    Lynn 😀

    • waytoofantasy says:

      It’s just a habit you have to pick up like anything else. I forget to listen while doing chores sometimes too, unless it’s a longer task like gardening or if I have a huge load of laundry to go through.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Fullcast audio can be really fun! It’s like listening to a play if the production is done well. Even though I listen to a lot of audio it’s still hard for me sometimes, it really depends on the narrator, the type of story, and my mood! If I’m anxiety ridden I can’t focus well at all.

  10. Off The TBR says:

    Audiobooks are something I’ve never been able to do. I just can’t stay focused on them. My wife and daughter love them but I just can’t. But not for lack of trying. I’ve wondered if i found one with a really good voice actor like Matthew Mercer if that would do the trick.

  11. Aldii says:

    I had tried audiobooks I think it was two or three years ago and I was definitely not into it. Then, a few months ago I wanted to read Sun Tzu but I just didn’t want to spend my time of reading on it, so I decided to try listening to it so I could do other things at the same time. Surprisingly, I finished it. That’s when I realized that maybe audiobooks were for me too. More recently I decided to start The Witcher series and I loved the characters, I loved the world but I read it so so slowly. That’s when I decided I would give the audiobook an opportunity. Now I feel like that was such a good choice. I really enjoy listening it, I think I feel it in other way as you said.
    I definitely need to experiment more with audiobooks as I’m an absolutely newbie, but now I feel more open to them!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      That’s great! Yeah, sometimes it just takes a bit of experimenting and seeing what types of things work for you. Hope you find even more things to listen to!

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