I feel like audiobooks are the best way to get in more reading when your life doesn’t leave a lot of room for lying in bed with a book for hours at a time.
Over the past few months, I’ve been listening to more audiobooks than ever while I work in the garden or make dinner while the girls play outside and it feels SO GOOD.
But if you haven’t listened to audiobooks before, it can seem like a totally different world from the print book world.
If you’d like to get started listening to audiobooks, here are a few of my best suggestions for making it easy on yourself to make audiobooks a part of your routine and get through a lot more books than you might otherwise:
5 Tips for Listening to Audiobooks
- Start with something easy. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: listening to audiobooks is a skill. When I was first getting into audiobooks, I checked out a lot of middle grade fiction and chick lit since I could keep track of it better. I also listened to books I’d been meaning to re-read for ages. Don’t kill yourself trying to start with The Brothers Karamazov (37 hours anyone?). Otherwise, chances are good that you’ll listen for thirty minutes, and never pick listen to another audiobook. And that would be too bad.
- Also, pick something short. You know how Dave Ramsey says to pay off your smallest debt first because it gives you a little boost of accomplishment that helps you gear up to pay off a bigger debt? That’s how I feel about audiobooks too. I listened to The Nightingale a few years ago, which was excellent, but I’ll admit when I saw that it was 17 hours long, that felt a little intimidating. On the other hand, I saw The Crossover pop up when I was browsing through audiobooks and I remembered that I’d been meaning to read it since it won the Newbery. It clocked in at 2 hours and 16 minutes, and I pounded through it in a day and a half, and that felt really good. It’s nice to get a few successes under your belt before you put your head down and plow through a 25 hour long audiobook. (On the flip side, if you find a narrator and story you love, it’s really nice to know your listening needs are covered for a couple of weeks – my library in Texas closed for a month one year for renovations, so I checked out Homecoming and Dicey’s Song and loved every second of them).
- The narrator matters. I’ve listened to many books where I thought, “I’m not sure I would have liked this if I’d read a paper copy,” and other books where I finished and thought, “Should have read this one instead.” There are so many great narrators out there and it makes a good book even better. My all-time favorite narrator is Katherine Kellgren and I was devastated by news of her death a few years ago. If you don’t love a narrator, make your life better and pick something different.
- Speed it up a little. I think one reason I struggled with audiobooks is because they’re just usually quite slow. I like to listen at 1.5 or double speed, depending on the narrator, and that helps it be more like a conversational pace, rather than a “put me to sleep” pace. Some platforms like Audible actually go up to triple speed – when Bart was driving back and forth between Las Vegas and Phoenix during an internship in 2014, my parents gave him an Audible gift subscription and he listened at triple speed on every drive, which meant he was getting through about 30 hours of audio every weekend (not even counting his daily 80 minute commute during the week). I’ve never listened that fast, but he said it really wasn’t that big of a deal. If you try 3x speed, let me know.
- Listen while you’re doing something mindless. Just sitting down to listen to an audiobook is likely to make you feel antsy. Instead, listen while you’re driving, folding laundry, going for a run, or doing dishes. It’s amazing how much more willing I am to do dull chores when I have something delightful to listen to!
Paige Flamm says
I'm obsessed with Audible and triple speed! So much so that when I have to listen to double speed on overdrive it can be painful now sometimes. Although I did get The Light Between Oceans (per the recommendation of one of your podcasts), and you could barely understand the Australian narrator on single speed, so anything faster was impossible. Then I found out Audible easily lets you return a title if you don't like the book, and they give you your credit back… it made me love them even more.
I have gotten into audiobooks in the last couple of years and it’s such a game changer in my reading life! (And nothing else makes folding laundry more joyful.) I think these are great tips and I couldn’t agree more about the narrator–that makes a HUGE difference. One thing that’s worked for me too is trying different genres. I sometimes have a hard time following novels on audio, but listening to memoirs is totally my jam (bonus if it’s read by the author).
This might be the dumbest question ever asked but how do you listen? (Especially while running?) Do you physically carry your phone in your hand? If you don’t have AirPods, what’s the easiest way to run or do laundry or whatever without cords everywhere or your phone falling out of your pocket, etc.
Janssen Bradshaw says
If I’m folding laundry, I’ll just set my phone on the bed or floor and listen without headphones. If I’m walking around, I just keep my phone in my back pocket and use my corded headphones (I don’t own AirPods). If I’m wearing something without pockets, I generally put on an apron with a front pocket!
Love all your tips! I would also say the headphones make a huge difference. I have aftershokz (they are the bone conducting ones) that I use when I still need to be able to hear/Engage with my kids and my noise canceling air pods when I can totally tune everyone out. Both are needed at times depending on my level of parenting at the moment.
After reading this I tried speeding up my Audible book from 1.00x to 2.00x and spent the next 5 minutes laughing. Definitely not the way I would prefer to listen. Love your tips. There are times when I actually find things to do around the house so I have an excuse to keep an audiobook going.
Laura Ginocchio says
Hello there . It’s nice to hear your perspective and appreciation for listening to books . I love it too . I recently tried audible for a free trial and liked it . I want more and was about to sign up and from what I understand , I only get one book of choice per month and then two choices from their selection . That doesn’t feel right . Am I missing something ? I would prefer to pay per book or if it’s membership , then to have more options then that . Any suggestions? Thank you for your time
Janssen Bradshaw says
You’re correct – the membership lets you pick any one book from the catalog per month plus two Audible Originals.
On Audible, you can now get any and all Originals, or at least that’s how it is for me. The limit of two seems to have been dropped. Yes, those freebies come from a short list of Audible Originals. But in addition to the one book you can get with your monthly credit, you can also buy any book from the huge Audible catalog.