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!