Opinion: The Thing About Audiobooks

Just as I prefer not to read from a kindle (for me, there is something incomplete about the experience of reading like that, no turning of pages or feeling the weight of the book move from one hand to the other as you read…) I was not drawn to the idea of an audiobook.

That is, until audiobooks became a necessity in my life. After having my baby, I found myself going on a lot of walks. To get him to sleep, to get us both out of the house, for many reasons I found that walking for hours became a regular activity for me. This gets boring, even while listening to music. So I decided to give audiobooks a go, for company on my walks, if you will – sleeping babies are not the chattiest.

At first I made some very bad choices, downloading books that had good reviews but ended up being terrible, or putting up with a narrator that annoyed me until I realised the calibre of narrators varies widely, and not to listen to one you can’t stand!

As soon as it became clear that the narrator was the deal breaker, I didn’t waste hours of my life listening and thinking it would get better, I just deleted it and started a new one. I can tell in the first few minutes if I like their voice, tone, pitch of the story, and then I can get on-board with what they’re saying and let them read to me, however, if they grate on me in any way, then it’s a no-go. In those circumstances, I’ve bought the hard-copy and added it to my ever growing TBR stack. For the record, so far my favourite narrators have been Cathy Tyson narrating The Muse by Jesse Burton and Cady McClain narrating The Girls by Emma Cline, who both really brought those books to life for me and transported me straight into the worlds of the novels.

The other downside to audiobooks I’ve found is that there’s been many a time I’ve let my mind wander and realised I have been thinking about what to have for dinner and haven’t been listening at all, so have to skip back and try to get back into the story. There’s almost a certain skill to not tuning out and treating the narrator as a background hum, as you do with music.

However, on the plus side, if it is the author reading the book, you get a real insight into exactly how they want their characters portrayed and if the book is an autobiography read by that person, it’s even better, as they are giving you their life story in the voice you would imagine in your head if you were reading. In the last few months I’ve listened to Spectacles by Sue Perkins and Yes Please by Amy Poehler, both wonderfully funny memoirs that I felt had a little something extra added to them by being read to me by their authors.

So, while audiobooks will never be my favourite way of consuming a story, I do appreciate the role they play in allowing me to ‘read’ when I can’t actually sit down with a book and I’m glad I gave them a chance (or at least, I will give them a chance if I like the narrator!)

10 thoughts

  1. I’m new to audiobooks and appreciate the tips you’ve provided here. I had not yet focused on how important the narrator is to the experience. Before getting my next book, I’ll make sure to check out the sample first.

    By the way, currently listening to A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith, who is excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

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