When I was little, after my mum stopped reading me bedtime stories, I found solace in audiobooks. My favourites that I would just listen to again and again were Harry Potter (read by Stephen Fry), the dramatisation of The Twins at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton and Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver (read by the wonderful Ian McKellan).
For years I put audiobooks to the side. I no longer own a tape or CD player. They are super expensive compared to a physical book. An Audible subscription didn’t seem particularly affordable either. The selection available free on YouTube and Spotify is really limited, particularly to classics which don’t always interest me.
However, chatting to some of my book club friends, I found out about the service that my local library offers called Borrow Box. It offers you library access to eBooks and eAudiobooks!
So, around the house and on my commute this year, I’ve started listening to an audiobook and I’m getting through one every week to ten days or so. As I spend about an hour in my car each day, and tend to listen to a bit more in the evenings on on weekend when doing the chores or crafts, I find this a really easy way to get my reading fix. As a result, I’ve “read” about 40 audiobooks so far this year!
I have this debate with my partner about whether audiobooks count or not. He seems to think they don’t, but really I just think he’s trying to diminish my reading achievements and poke fun at me! For me, any way to explore more literature is a positive thing. And, to be honest, my litmus test is: if someone asked me about a book, I would claim to have read it even if it was an audiobook!
Audiobooks are the perfect companion for those who lack time or focus to sit and read. For example, one of my lovely colleagues who has two small children and a stressful job, finds it hard to sit and read at home as there are just so many other things going on. It’s her who gave me the idea to listen to a book on my commute. We now regularly swap recommendations and she counts it as her down time. We’ve both got into the habit of staying sat in the car park to finish a chapter if we are really into it!
The only downside to audiobooks is that you can’t really go at your own pace, it’s very much dictated by the narrator. And, sometimes, you just really don’t gel with the style of narration which, for me, can ruin what might have been an otherwise enjoyable book. Also, as I found when I listened to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stu Turton, if it’s a particularly complicated book and you’re not paying full attention, you can easily miss something! But I suppose that can happen when you’re reading anyway.
I don’t really have a preference for male or female narrators, but I do find British accents easier to listen to than others because it’s what I’m used to (don’t jump down my throat please, we can all have preferences!). What I also really like about narrator choices is frequently it is someone who is familiar with the background or setting of the book; for example, one beautiful audiobook was Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo which was set in Nigeria. Not being familiar with Nigeria, it was great to have a narrator who could pronounce the names of the characters and other Nigeria-specific things correctly which I felt brought a richness to the experience that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I’d be really interested on hearing your thoughts about audiobooks. Do you listen to them? Do they count as reading? What are some of the best ones you have listened to? I’m always open to suggestions for my next commuting companion!