Chatterbox: How My Relationship with Audiobooks Has Changed

September 14, 2018 by Jenna | Chatterbox, Features

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

  1. Scythe and Thunderhead, narrated by Greg Tremblay
  2. Harry Potter, narrated by Stephen Fry
  3. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, narrated by Christian Coulson
  4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, narrated by Caitlin Kelly
  5. 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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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.


20 responses to “Chatterbox: How My Relationship with Audiobooks Has Changed

  1. I never used to listen to audiobooks either, but recently I have started listening to them as I do the dishes or hang up laundry, and BOY I am kicking myself now for not starting sooner. It makes doing chores so much more enjoyable! Also, I totally agree that a narrator can make it or break it. If I dislike the narrator’s voice, then I might end up disliking a story I might otherwise enjoy if I was just reading it. Anyways, thanks for such a great post!

  2. I love audiobooks! But you’re right, they are not all great, so you just have to find whatever suits your tastes. Some people like non-fiction on audio – I can’t do it – straight fiction for me.

  3. Oh wow, that is awesome that you’ve been able to adapt to audiobooks after having some trouble with them initially! I… have never adapted hah. I have tried several times, and have only ever made it through one audiobook, and I think it was mostly because I was on a 10 hour drive and was already over the CDs I was listening to. Even on the same 10 hour drive home I couldn’t get into The Scorpio Races, which everyone says is amazing on audio (hell, I had met Maggie herself at the event and she TOLD me she loved the audio hahhah) but nope I ended up waiting and reading the paperback. I think it’s just a “me” problem at this point! Glad you’re enjoying the audio!
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  4. I’ve never really been able to get into audiobooks either…
    But, I’ve started listening to podcasts more this year (even though I absolutely hated them prior to this year), so maybe I’ll give audiobooks a try again! I definitely think its down to the narrator – if I don’t like the narrator, I probably won’t keep listening!

  5. ive only listened to two.

    one i DNF because the narrator was terrible but later read the book and loved it
    and the other i finished out of stubbornness because i loved the narrator but the book itself was very meh.

    i keep trying podcasts at the moment to encourage me to consider audiobooks but i still find myself getting distracted and not paying full attention. ive yet to find my perfect time for them. my communite isnt very long. maybe i need a waterproof speaker for the shower?

    • Hahaha I would absolutely love a waterproof speaker so I can listen in the shower! I’ve had weird experiences with narrators where I thought I would DNF because of the narration but found myself not being able to put the audiobook down and pick up the physical copy. It’s so hard to figure out when to quit an audiobook because they have the potential to be amazing when you get used to the narration!
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  6. I’ve also been on a journey of discovering audiobooks in the past years. I’ve fallen in and out of love with them, and realized that there are times when I listen to many and then months I don’t listen to any at all.

    The best thing about audiobooks is that they allow to to multitask. I can now read while cooking, cleaning and best of all, while traveling and discovering new places. I often travel on my own, and I find it really nice to listen to audiobooks while walking around cities and discovering other countries.

    The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is one I really enjoyed as well! I laughed out loud so many times while listening. Some of my other favorites are The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the Curse Workers series by Holly Black (because they are narrated by Jesse Eisenberg), the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, and the Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan.

    I was a bit afraid to read fantasy novels in audio format because I didn’t want my attention to wander for a second. In fantasy, I really need a good grasp of the world and/or magic system, and I was afraid that audiobooks wouldn’t really provide that for me. But I’m glad to be proven wrong, as some of my favorite audiobooks are fantasy novels!
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    • Ooh those are all great points! I also am a bit scared to dive into fantasy novels, and I do find my attention wandering sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve really missed anything that is too crucial. I’m definitely going to pick up the Lies of Locke Lamora on audio soon because I purchased the series a while ago and haven’t picked them up because of the size and time commitment. It’ll definitely be easier for me to get through them by listening to them on audio.
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  7. Ah, I love audiobooks! I have so many to recommend. I love anything narrated by Julia Whelan, she can do it all. Steve West, too. I also like Sebastian York.

  8. Belinda

    Listen to the Dresden files series narrated by James Marsters! He’s amazing with his voices! The first couple you can tell his nervous but then he really gets into it! So good!! I’ve re-read them all on audio

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