Listening to Audiobooks in 3 Easy Steps

Posted on May 3, 2017 «
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listening to audiobooks

I’ll admit that over the years, I tried to listen to audiobooks. I remember clipping the walkman my high school sweetheart gave me to my belt, doing housework and attempting to listen to a copy of White Oleander that my mother had only to get incredibly confused. I eventually gave up when I discovered that there was a tape missing. (Believe it or not, I may have been the first book I ever abandoned.) I gave up even trying to listen to audiobooks. I get so focused on the task at hand, I zone out the book and stop listening.

Over the years, I contemplated trying again, but audiobooks are expensive and I didn’t have a reliable easy way to consume them. So I gave up until I started listening to podcasts while driving.

Step 1. Listen to Podcasts

Until recently, I commuted to work every day. My drive, in total, was 40 minutes (20 minutes each direction) during rush hour. After days of listening to commercials and inane DJ chatter, I started exploring a host of podcasts associated with Lost (LOSTcasts was my favorite). I migrated from podcasts about Lost to podcasts about Heroes and then a friend recommended Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR. (I’m a huge fan of The Daily Show.)

Slowly, I trained my brain to listen to people talking instead of music. It was slow, but I found that I need to interact with what I was listening to. Good discussion, a few jokes and the trivia kept me engaged. Why did this work? Well, I happen to like to sing and dance when I listen to the radio. So nature of the podcast I chose to listen to kept me engaged and responding to the people talking. I paid closer attention to what I was listening to because the content was encouraging me to do so.

Step 2. Listen to Book You’ve Already Read.

At some pointed, I found Audible. And I’m sure this will surprise no one who follows this blog regularly, but the first audiobook I got was Outlander.

I found that listening to a story I was familiar with took away some the stress of having to focus completely on the story. Listening to a familiar story also allowed me to discover new things about a book I’ve read many times. I picked up on story clues and inspiring quotes I had not noticed in previous readings.

Listening to audiobooks is the number 1 way I reread books. And once I had listened to a few familiar stories, I started looking for new stories to listen to.

Step 3. Try Something New for Free

The hard thing about picking up a new hobby or a new way to read is that there is always the fear that it will cost a load of money. Well, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Of course, if you haven’t signed up for Audible, they do have a free trial. Your library probably uses Overdrive (a free app) to deliver audiobooks right to your favorite listening device. But what do you do when your free trial is over? Or perhaps, you don’t have tons of time to listen to books so it doesn’t seem feasible to listen to a George R.R. Martin tome in the allotted checkout time?

My favorite source for free audiobooks is Sync Audiobooks for Teens. A good friend of my introduced me to this program and it has kept in audiobooks for the last several years.

Each week during the summer they offer two free audiobook downloads. Usually it is a classic novel paired with a more modern YA release. There’s a good mix of genres and types of books. Last year, there were full cast recordings of plays (Donny’s Brain and The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial).

Some of my favorite reads from the last couple of years?

  • 2016: The Sin Eater’s Daughter, Zac and Mia, Boy Meets Boy, I’ll Give You the Sun
  • 2015: Dodger
  • 2014: Cruel Beauty, All Our Yesterdays, Code Name Verity, The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline

    There’s a great lineup of audiobooks via Sync this year. This year, I’m looking forward to Feed by M.T. Anderson, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (this would be a reread for me!), and Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys (another reread!).

    Playing it Forward

    Without a commute now, I’m still trying to determine how best to consume audiobooks. I enjoyed my time in the car rereading some of my favorite books and trying books I never would have considered before. I might have consider taking walks to listen or taking more road trips because I still can do housework or write while listening to books. Do you have any tips for listening to audiobooks while doing other tasks? I would love to be able to do that. Sound off in comments!

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13 responses to “Listening to Audiobooks in 3 Easy Steps

  1. I’ve tried listening to audiobooks while walking but quickly discovered I had to pause the book every time a car went by! I couldn’t hear the audio at all and I didn’t want to crank it up and damage my hearing. I also started to worry that walking while listening to an audiobook wasn’t safe because I might be less aware of my surroundings. I’ve started listening to audibooks while exercising, though, and I’ve found this works much better as I don’t have to concentrate too fully on exercising and can listen to the book instead. I can also hear the book!

    • I live on a pretty quiet street that has sidewalks so I haven’t been too worried about safety or traffic noise while walking. Unfortunately my two modes of exercising (horse back riding and yoga) don’t afford me the luxury of being able to listen to audiobooks while working out.

  2. I listen to books at work (when people aren’t trying to talk to me!) but also on the treadmill. It makes the boring tasks slightly less miserable. Also – if you are into podcasts now, two of my favorites are Dinner Party Download and Gastropod. You should check them out, Terri!

  3. I may have to try audiobooks for rereads. I usually zone out when I listen to audiobooks. I’ve tried listening to them while doing jobs around the house, but I would always tune the narrator out. I’ll have to try it with a reread of a favorite.

    • Chrissy, it worked well for me! And when I listen to an old favorite like Outlander or The Night Circus, I don’t feel guilty about re-reading vs. reading a new physical or eBook. It’s like the best of both worlds. I can get comfy with an old favorite in a new format and enjoy a new book.

  4. I do it during mindless tasks like folding laundry, doing my nails, or crocheting. My son is in college and even though he still lives at home, he isn’t around for meals much, so eating alone I listen to audiobooks. 🙂

    • Now that’s the weather’s nicer here in the Midwest, I’m hoping to head out on a few walks and take my audiobooks with me. Lucky that you can listen during meals. I’m afraid my husband might object if I started doing that!

  5. I struggle with audiobooks. Interesting you suggest listening to people talking on radio through podcasts as that’s all I listen to radio wise – BBC4 is my only preset – and I can listen to plays no problem. When it comes to books though I have all the problems you mention, especially lack of focus, but also pace. I find audiobooks feel like they are longer than they would to read, though that may not be true.

    • I JUST started listening to Hitchhiker’s Guide last week on a long drive back from a family friend’s father’s funeral. So far I’m enjoying it and can’t believe I didn’t try reading this book earlier. It is quite funny.