Let’s start with a little-known fact about me: My original idea for a book blog was to review only audiobooks. In the almost two years I had been reading blogs before starting my own, I found very few bloggers who discussed audios and none who specialized in them. Although I decided on a more general book blog, I have remained faithful to my love of audios: In just 24 months, I have written more than 160 posts that have something to do with audiobooks.
Unfortunately, because audios provide a different kind of interaction with a book than most adult readers are used to, some people say they have trouble connecting to a story unless they read it in print. I think it’s a shame, particularly since it’s likely that many of those same readers first felt their love of books when they were listening as someone read aloud to them.
For the rest of us, audiobooks are a joy, allowing us to read almost all the time: when driving, exercising, making dinner, or gardening, for example.
I am often asked if there is a trick to getting used to audiobooks, and I’ve come up with some ideas:
Your First Audiobook
- Start with a light book, such as a cozy mystery, chick lit, or beach reading.
- Start with a classic or a book you are already familiar with. If your mind wanders for a minute, you’ll easily be able to find the thread again.
- Start with a narrator who has an accent you are familiar with. In other words, if you are from the United States, a narrator with a Gaelic accent might not be a good first choice.
- Almost every commercial audiobook site allows you to listen to a sample of the books they sell. Whether buying or borrowing from the library, take a moment to listen and then decide if that’s the voice you want to hear for the next 8 to 20 hours. This is all-important until you become familiar with a variety of narrators.
- Read audio reviews before picking a book. Some beloved books in print just don’t translate well to audio or, unfortunately, have a mismatched narrator. Reviews can be found on commercial sites, book blogger sites, and Audiobook Jukebox.
- Don’t settle down in a comfy chair and get ready to listenl you’ll be asleep in 5 minutes! The key to audiobooks is to be doing something physical while listening. When you first start out, do something fairly mindless: fold laundry, pull weeds, wash dishes, or take a walk.
Tips for Experienced Listeners
- Remember the names of narrators whose voices you love, but also remember that they might not be right for every book. One of my favorite narrators has a Scottish accent, but I just couldn’t stand listening to her read a book that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Her voice in that setting was distracting.
- If you start to listen to a book and hate it within the first 5 minutes, turn off the audio and listen to another book. Try the abandoned book at least one more time when you’re in a different mood. Sometimes it’s all a matter of timing.
I discussed how I review audiobooks earlier this year. Here, I’d like to mention two aspects of audiobook reviewing that can help your blog readers.
- Many books are produced in multiple versions: abridged and unabridged and with different narrators. It is a great help to everyone if you mention these facts to your readers so they can find (or avoid) the version you listened to. Please be sure to list the name(s) of the narrator(s) who read the book.
- Because audiobooks involve a third person (the narrator) in your reading experience, it can be difficult to assess a strong reaction to a book. In such cases, it can be important to step back and think about why you loved or hated a particular production. Sometimes a narrator can turn a so-so book into fabulous, an awesome book into torture, or an already great book into magic. If you have such a reaction to an audiobook, your blog readers will appreciate your thoughts about whether the same experience can be/would be found by reading a print edition.
Next time you plan to spend the day weeding or plan to take a long driving trip, think about spending those hours with an audiobook.
Candace blogs about audiobooks and more at Beth Fish Reads.