Six Tips To Enjoy "Reading" Audio Books
Do you wonder how people actually experience books on audio? Do they actually understand everything? Is it enjoyable to “read” a book without actually seeing the words? Does that even count as reading?
I'm here to help you answer all those questions and more. I hope that by the end of this post, you'll at least be willing to try out one audiobook. Audiobooks are truly a wonderful addition to the world of reading because life gets so busy and humans get tired. On days when I'm too tired to read, but still want a story, audiobooks are my perfect companion. Depending on my choice, I could be listening to a person's memoir, laughing aloud to a ridiculous children's book or shaking my head at character's bad decisions while making dinner.
There are some things though that will improve your audiobook experience and help you add more reading to your busy schedule.
Here are six things to know about using audiobooks:
1. Narration is everything:
As a reader of physical or ebooks, your markers of a good book would probably include the author, plot, insightfulness, or sentence structure if you’re into that kind of thing. With audiobooks though, the narration is everything; a bad narrator can ruin any book, no matter how good.
When I first got curious about audiobooks, I signed up to audible, but I had no idea which books to spend my monthly credits on. So, I decided to try Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I could not have made a worse choice! The non-African narrator (bless his heart) butchered the Igbo names beyond recognition; I was so distracted by his pronunciations that I couldn’t get past chapter one. Thankfully, There Was A Country is narrated by a Nigerian and much easier to listen to.
I would later read Things Fall Apart on my kindle, and appreciate it far more. Good narrators bring any story to life, and it is important to listen to audio samples before you purchase an audiobook. Some narrators I've enjoyed are Julia Whelan (narrator of Gone Girl and Tara Westover's Educated), Adjoa Andoh (narrator of Americanah and What Happens When a Man Falls From the Sky,) and Bahni Turpin (narrator of The Hate You Give and Children of Blood and Bone.)
2. Listen to higher speeds:
Audiobook narrators read too slowly. They're supposed to read veryyyy slowly, and if you were reading words on a page, chances are you'd be going at least a little faster than your audiobook at 1x. Slow reading is a reason why many new listeners get bored quickly, because many narrators read even slower than they speak in normal conversation. Increasing your speed to 1.2x can drastically improve your experience.
You will encounter some fast speakers who can listen to at 1x speed, but these are in the minority. People who've begun listening to audiobooks and upped their speed on my recommendation have become audiobook lovers, and I hope that can be your experience as well.
3. Good book =/= Good audiobook; genres matter:
Just like narration can make or break your audiobook experience, you have to be particular about the genre as well. So, it may be best to start with non-fiction, especially fun engaging memoirs like Amy Poehler's Yes, Please or Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes -- books that feel like you’re listening to a friend. As your concentration improves, you may be able to move on to light fiction, for example, chick lit and Young Adult novels like Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give or Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before.
I really like middle-grade novels on audio too, especially those with unique features like the original music in Kwame Alexander's Solo. Audiobooks with multiple narrators are also perfect for audio newbies. Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage has two narrators reading the three main point of views, and it totally enriches your listening experience. Honestly, a good audiobook can easily be a better experience than the actual book!
4. Be patient; Rome wasn’t built in a day:
Okay, you've been trying different audiobooks, but they're so hard to get into! You feel weird not visually interacting with the words or flipping pages. It takes some time and willingness. Like everything new experience, you have to desire the benefits of the audiobook experience and be willing to give it a solid effort. Don't give up after the first failed experience.
Just like with reading, your listening ability and focus improves with time, and you'll find yourself tackling more complex plots as time passes. The goal of trying audiobooks is to read more. If you have kids, try listening to audiobooks with them. For beginning readers, you could also let them hold the book while they listen to the audio. This keeps them engaged with the experience. But what if you still find your mind wandering and constantly losing your place?
5. Stay active:
When I first started listening to audiobooks, I only listened while I was meal prepping for the week, or cleaning or running errands that didn’t involve talking to people. I listened to Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me while cooking afang three or so years ago and listened to Brit Bennett’s The Mothers while folding the tallest laundry heap. I distinctly remember listening to Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me while waiting in line to pay my electricity bill.
It's generally easier to listen when you're physically occupied. If you try to listen to audiobooks while lying in bed, it's highly likely that you'll fall asleep, unless you're at the story's climax. A few friends have also shared that they listen to audiobooks in their cars on the way to work. When your audiobook is right, you're even more eager to do boring things like folding laundry and walking the dog because you know you'll have a fun story in the background.
6. Try Scribd:
My initial source for audiobooks was Audible, which is linked to Amazon, but I couldn’t keep up after a year because it was so expensive for me. For $15, you get one audiobook credit per month. Thankfully, I discovered Scribd, earlier this year. While it isn’t a perfect platform, for example, there are fewer audiobook options, it works well for me.
With Scribd, $8.99 gets you unlimited access to their vast selection of audiobooks AND ebooks! It’s the perfect way to try out audiobooks. You can try Scribd free for two months using this link (in case you decide to use it), to decide if you like the service. Also, you gain an extra month of listening when you invite a new subscriber! Sounds good to me.
Audiobooks are treasures once you've gotten into them, and while I understand that they may not work for everyone, if they may work for you, it's worth trying! I'd love to know how you feel about audiobooks and which of these tips you've personally found helpful. If you try audiobooks, I'd like to hear your thoughts, or if you need more specific recommendations, I'd be glad to help!
Have you tried audio books? What’s your experience and which books did you love “reading” on audio?