Last month I listened to my first audiobook. Well, not exactly… there was that road trip many years ago where my husband and I listened to Fellowship of the Ring. But this was the first time I picked an audiobook for my own entertainment. I’ve always preferred reading to listening, so why the change? I’m trying to get in better shape, and I’ve discovered that audiobooks mean I don’t have to give up reading for exercise.
I’m not a huge fan of wearing headphones because I feel like you shut out the world too much, and it isn’t terribly safe on the bus or in some areas. But I’m trying to be mindful of what’s around me. And it does make walking a lot more entertaining.
But listening to audiobooks raises a whole host of questions. For one, I’ve discovered that if I don’t like the narrator, I’m not going to enjoy the book. I remember hearing one one male narrator on one of my husband’s audiobooks who was terrible at doing female voices. But I’ve never seen a review of an audiobook that says the narrator is annoying or poor at voices. I just finished Ghost Wall and I thought that narrator was perfect.
And then there’s the issue of what types of books make for good audiobooks. I listened to a great podcast, What Should I Read Next, that discussed different genres and what works best in an audiobook. For example, memoirs read by the author are perfect as audiobooks (Michelle Obama’s Becoming or Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime). Detail-heavy nonfiction, not so much (as I’ve discovered with a few nonfiction picks recently).
In the podcast, host Anne Bogel commented that she likes to listen to books set in foreign countries, because the narrator will give the names correct pronunciation (you hope) where we don’t do that in our heads.
On the podcast they also talk about books that are about music or poetry, or have some other element where listening might be preferable to reading (such as The Poet X or Daisy Jones and the Six).
For me, since I’m mostly listening as I walk, and that tends to be in 20-40 minute stretches, I need books that are not too long and that don’t require a lot of concentration. For example, a book that has a lot of world-building might be difficult to follow. I’m also much more a visual learner, so if a book has a lot of characters, especially ones with similar names, I’ll find it much harder to follow if I’m listening to it. Although some of that might depend on a good narrator.
If I stick with the library, my selection is a lot more limited, though I can add books to my wait list. I’ve been researching audiobook rental and purchase services. I think I’ll probably listen to at least 2 audiobooks a month. I don’t want to own these audiobooks, just rent them. And I don’t like the credit system used by Audible and other providers that limit you to just one book. Right now I’m trying out Scrib’d, which seems to be perfect.
Right now I’m listening to The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu, which may be too detailed to follow by audiobook, but we’ll see. I’ve also got Freshwater, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and for fun, Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo. I’m not sure yet whether literary fiction will work for me by audiobook, so I’ll have to see, though I just listened to Ghost Wall and thought it was fantastic.
What kinds of books do you think make the best audiobooks? What audiobooks do you recommend?