I have a confession to make.
Prior to last year, I had never listened to an audiobook.
“That’s not for me,” I’d told myself. “I like the physical feel of a book too much. I won’t pay attention. It won’t work for me.”
Then I started following Modern Mrs. Darcy, who is a huge fan of audiobooks. She kept posting about great audiobooks. She enthused about the listening experience. Listening to audiobooks, she wrote, not only allowed her to finish more books, but it allowed her to read when she hadn’t been able to do so before (because she was driving, or folding laundry, etc.).
I decided it was dumb not to at least try them. I am not great at trying new things, but this is also something I am attempting to get better at (part of fostering a growth mindset instead of my deeply, deeply ingrained fixed one).
So I figured out how to download the Overdrive app onto my phone and how to link my public library account to the app, and off I went.
And, reader, audiobooks hooked me.
When I went back through my reading journal and tallied my numbers for 2018, of the 118 books I read, 17 of them were audiobooks. I’m sure that number will be higher this year.
I learned a few things as I experimented:
- I don’t like listening to books faster than 1.2x the normal speed. Anything faster makes me feel anxious and makes the voices sound funny.
- I don’t, for the most part, like listening to novels. I have trouble holding the story in my head, especially if I have to stop in the middle of a chapter. My favourite genre is memoir, especially when read by the author.
- I will absolutely stop listening if the reader’s voice bothers me or just sounds ‘wrong’ for the book.
- I have trouble turning the story off if I’m in the middle of a chapter, or near the end of the book, or at a very exciting part. Sometimes I have to be strategic about listening to a book when on my way to work.
- I can’t listen to audiobooks if I go out for a walk. I can pay attention to the walk or to the audiobook, but not to both. If I walk to the main university library downtown (which takes an hour) I tend to walk with my thoughts on the way there and walk home listening to the audiobook when I’m tired and ready to stop thinking.
It was one of the nicest surprises of the past year to realize how much I enjoy them.
Since my Terrible Tuesdays this semester involve a lot of time in the car (and a lot of walking to and from parking lots), I’ve had even more opportunities to listen. I was incredibly pleased with myself when I had the idea of checking to see if my library carried the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley on audiobook. It does and I gleefully downloaded the next one in the series immediately (no wait list even!). Although these are novels, I correctly guessed that I would love them on audiobook because I don’t actually care very much about the details of each volume’s plot. In general, I’m not a reader of mysteries and when I do pick one up I never try to solve the crimes before the narrator explains them for me. I liked the previous Flavia books I’d read, but only moderately so (as evidenced by the fact that the last one I read was in 2015 and it took me an embarrassing long time reading the descriptions to realize that I had already read #4 and needed to start with #5).
I could care less about the details of each case that Flavia cracks- what interested me was the arc of her character development. If I miss the finer details of the mystery on audiobook, it doesn’t matter. What happens to her and her family is what sticks with me.
I’ve already listened to #5 and #6 this month and am well over halfway through #7. Jane Entwhistle does the narration, and she is brilliant. I love how she captures Flavia’s self-satisfied glee whenever she’s been particularly clever. I still have three more to go in the series, so I’ll be well into February before I’ll need to start thinking about what to download next (although I have holds out on books by (and read by) Eric Idle and Michael Palin, as well as the first Harry Potter, as I’ve heard repeatedly that the audiobook versions are incredible).
Do you listen to audiobooks? Is there a book you’ve loved because of the person who reads it rather than the story itself?