Before this year, I would say that my relationship with audiobooks was non-existent. Back in 2015 and 2016, I was reading 200 books a year and I found audiobooks to be a huge hindrance because of how slow-paced they were. Why would I listen to a book, when I could read it with my own eyes at a much much much faster speed? It was also a huge challenge for me to adapt to a narrator’s voice and I thought that the narrator could make or break the book. Which is something that I still strongly believe, but I think that they can also really enhance and lift the story to heights that wouldn’t be possible if I was reading the book myself.
I started listening to audiobooks this year because I started driving to and from work each day. Prior to this year, I would spend at least 2 hours a day commuting on public transit, which was a great opportunity to whip out a book and get through 50-100 pages a day. I never listened to audiobooks on my commute and the only audiobook I had on my phone before this year was The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, which I had used my free Audible credit on because I had left my physical copy at home and wanted desperately to know what happened next. I didn’t even listen to more than 30 minutes of it! However, I found myself reading less and less this year because of the crazy schedule that is the last year of a PhD, and I was no longer able to read physical books on my commute. My drive to and from work still takes between 1.5-2 hours a day and, after about a week of listening to music, I was really yearning for something different. I started by listening to Crazy Rich Asians through Audible and I found it to be a really interesting experience. The narrator was great and I thought she did the accents really well. Plus, the book itself was entertaining and dramatic, and I found that it made my commute less tedious and long. After I finished Crazy Rich Asians, I continued to listen to the rest of the trilogy, and really enjoyed those books too, despite the change in narrator between Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend. It did irk me a little that the narrator was different, but I found that I was able to adapt to the new narrator’s voice and style after about 20 minutes. I also loved that I could listen to large 500+ page books that I normally would be hesitant to pick up. Given that it takes multiple sittings to complete an audiobook, the length of the books stopped mattering to me and I was able to enjoy them a lot more.
Which then began my love affair for audiobooks. I can’t say that I’ve loved all of the audiobooks that I’ve listened to. Some narrators are definitely better than others, and there were times when I wondered if I would have enjoyed a book more if I had read a physical copy in my own voice. But there are definitely many other audiobooks that I think I enjoyed because of the narration. One example of this is Scythe and Thunderhead by Neal Schusterman. I don’t doubt that I would have enjoyed those two books immensely if I had read a physical copy, because the world, characters and plot are so fantastic, but the narrator of the audiobooks is amazing and definitely enhanced my reading experience. He nails the voices of the characters and there are moments in Thunderhead that are amazing and shocking because of the voices that he does. I also reread the entire Harry Potter series by listening to Stephen Fry’s narration, and it definitely made me fall in love even more with a series that I was already enamoured by.
Audiobooks can be hit or miss, and I think this largely depends if the narration is suitable for the story. I don’t believe that every narrator can narrate every story and it’s just about giving it a good go and seeing if you can adapt to the voice. When I started listening to audiobooks through Audible, I was very cautious about the books that I would choose to buy with my credits and felt like I had to stick with the book, even if I didn’t really enjoy it. Over the past few months, I’ve learned to let go of this worry about choosing the right book, because Audible has a very relaxed return policy: you can return any book that you don’t enjoy, with no questions asked.
Perhaps my favourite thing about audiobooks is that I can share the reading experience with those around me. After finishing Scythe and Thunderhead on audiobook, I’ve been relistening to it with my boyfriend every time we drive together. Not only do I get to re-experience it again, I get to enjoy it with other people and watch as they fall in love with the same stories as I have falling in love with.
Do you read audiobooks? What are your top recommendations? If you aren’t an audiobook fan, have I convinced you to give it a try?
My audiobook recommendations
- Scythe and Thunderhead, narrated by Greg Tremblay
- Harry Potter, narrated by Stephen Fry
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, narrated by Christian Coulson
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, narrated by Caitlin Kelly
- Uprooted, narrated by Katy Sobey
I’m still in the process of discovering more and more fantastic audiobooks, but these recommendations are the top audiobooks that I’ve listened to this year.
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