On Audiobooks

I was turned on to audiobooks by accident. I had a free half hour of commuting and didn’t want to waste it staring out the window or listening to the same people on podcasts. I was commuting to and from school at the time, and I kept hearing the same Audible ads on TWiT, a weekly podcast about tech. I decided to give the free subscription a try on Audible and give an audiobook a chance. While the first book I read didn’t change my life, I understood the medium a lot better. I could commute and listen to an audiobook and be excited to continue a story I had left off the day before. It’s a lot like a TV show, and the format is different than what you would find on a podcast, e.g. interviews, round table discussions, and reporter segments.

Some 100 audiobooks later, I owe it to audiobooks to introducing me to authors I now adore and giving me an opportunity to learn something new. On my road trip last year from Dallas to San Jose, I finished reading “The Goldfinch”. I’m in the camp of people who didn’t care too much about the second act of the book as I felt it could’ve been trimmed down from it’s mostly mundane descriptions that parallels a Dickinson novel. During these long and arduous reads, I was glad someone else was reading them to me as I was yelling expletives in the car at how much the main character was an idiot. But that’s the beauty of audiobooks. The reader keeps reading through the audiobook even if you’re excited, in tears, or just plain bored. If it wasn’t for the audiobook version of “A Storm of Swords”, the third book of “A Song of Ice and Fire”, I don’t know how I could’ve mustered to read through the red wedding.

When I talk to a non-audiobook reader, they have a hard time understanding the value of an audiobook. When someone tells me listening to an audiobook is not reading, I ask them whether they used to listen to their teacher read to them, or their parents, or whether they read to their kids. Many famous works came from oral tradition, like the Greek epics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was a radio program before it was in print form. When someone tells me they couldn’t sit an hour listening to a book, I ask them how long they commute for or how long a day they sit at a desk. When someone tells me they can’t bear the narrator’s voice, I ask them to try another audiobook. Stephen Fry does great narration in the Harry Potter series, giving each character a unique voice. Granted, non-fiction can be very dry if the narrator’s voice is dry and not vivacious.

When I talk to an audiobook reader, we tend to hit it off about what we enjoy reading, who’s our favorite narrator, what we’re looking forward to read next. If nothing else, you should listen to audiobooks too as a conversation piece at your next dinner party. Entertain your guests with the lore of “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Tell them about your foray into the bibliography of Einstein. Recite what you learned about empathy from Brené Brown. And, if audiobooks don’t work, why not pick up a book?