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Adventures in Audiobooks

I have never been a fan of audiobooks. This is perhaps because my first experience was listening to The Scarlet Letter during 11th grade English class, which at 16, I found unbearably boring (no offense to its fans). But I am constantly jealous of all the reading people get done while simultaneously completing other tasks. I can see how commuters fall in love with audiobooks, but since I live less than a mile from the library and rarely drive, listening to books in the car wasn’t going to work for me. I needed another way to work audiobooks into my reading routine. More often than not, I’ll let dishes sit in the sink or leave clean laundry in baskets unfolded in favor of curling up with a book or spend more time “warming up” on the stationary bike at the gym that I do actually working out, just so I can read on my Kindle.  If I’m in the middle of a good book, I’m far more likely to want to order pizza for dinner than stop reading to cook. These seemed like good opportunities to experiment with listening to audiobooks.

Since I had tried unsuccessfully to listen to fantasy novels and ended up getting confused if I missed a line or two, I thought realistic fiction might be a better fit. Since I work in the Teen Zone and had yet to read a book by YA superstar John Green, I checked out Looking for Alaska, his Printz honor winning debut. This was a good pick for me, because my husband had already read it so it wasn’t as annoying for him to have it playing through the stereo while I was cooking dinner, even though he’d only catch certain sections. The narrator was easy to listen to even when adopting a Southern accent for a female character, and the dramatic pauses emphasized the highly quotable lines well. The awkward teenage sex scene that the book is famous for wasn’t even too embarrassing to listen to; my husband and I were cracking up while chopping vegetables. Now I can say I’ve read a John Green book, and even if I found it a bit contrived, I see the appeal and thought it was well-written. Listening to a book I was less excited about reading but thought I should read was a good solution for me.

Though I was proud of my first successfully completed audiobook, an 8-9 hour novel wasn’t the ideal length for me to listen to. I feared if I got engrossed in a book, I’d want the paper or e-book copy since I can read more quickly than listen. I’d also been meaning to read more non-fiction, and thought Bossypants would be perfect, since it was read Tina Fey, the author. Since 30 Rock is airing its last episode next week, the timing was perfect. My husband and I both loved it. Each track was fairly short, so it was easy to put on while tidying up the house. Since it was broken into small stories, it was not hard to listen to in spurts rather than long sittings. It felt less like reading and more like having a conversation with Tina Fey. Her story of a failed cruise trip on her honeymoon reaffirmed my aversion to that form of travel, and I loved hearing about her adventures with gay theater friends during high school. Listening to the audio of this was more enjoyable that just reading the book would have been! It was such a successful listening experience, I added Mindy Kahlig’s Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? And Other Concerns to my to-listen list.

I also discovered in my adventures in audiobooks that we have an audiobook poetry collection, and many are read by the  poets. My first selection was e. e. cummings. Poetry is ideal for listening to, in my opinion, because it is easier to fall into the rhythm. Of course, with some poetry, including cumming’s, the layout is as much a part of the experience as the words themselves, and for those who want to read along, there’s a booklet of the poems included with the audio. At just over an hour, with short tracks, this was the perfect audiobook to listen to while I cleaned out my closet. We have several other poetry collections in the poet’s voice, including T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath, among others.

In addition to listening while doing housework, the gym has been a great place to work audiobooks into my routine. I’ve even been able to access books that we don’t own physical copies of this way. I’m very hit or miss when it comes to paranormal romances, but a friend suggested I try Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series, so I loaded up my iPod with the audio version of Magic Bites, available through the State of Kansas library. I’m not in the mood for heavy literature on the elliptical, but thought the minutes on the machine might go by more quickly with a fun book to listen to.

My experience has been that although audiobooks aren’t my favorite format, they have their place. Even if you don’t have a long drive ahead, audiobooks are a fun way to read books you might not otherwise check out or to get some “reading” done during times when you can’t actually read a book. I hope to get not only more reading done this year by listening to audiobooks, but more cleaning and working out done, too!




  1. Great ideas on how non-commuters may work audio books into their busy lives. I will likely be regurgitating your genre advice to eLibrary Patrons in the future. I had listened to Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants and agreed those short stories worked well for short bursts. I have also listened to and enjoyed: Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, Greene’s 33 Strategies of War, some King short stories. All of these break down nicely into chunks.

    On a recent vacation my fellow travelers and I got engrossed in Robin Cook’s Crisis, the book followed us from car to hot tub to porch to living room.

    Finally, I just got done listening to the Hobbit, which I listened to while falling asleep, I have read it before, but Rob Inglis does such great voice acting is to not be missed.

  2. Dano says:

    Good to see audiobooks getting a nod from a non-audiobook fan. I love audiobooks and think LPL has a GREAT selection of them in 3 great formats…CD, MP3 and e-audio. Audiobooks have actually made me look forward to doing the dishes or laundry! I’m currently in the middle of 4 different e-audio titles! Life is grand!

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