How You Can Learn to Love Audiobooks by Fixing These 3 Mistakes

June is Audiobook Appreciation Month

After being a do-or-die physical book reader for years, moving to eBooks was a hard transition. That’s because I love going to the library. There may be one or two titles I’m looking for, but more often than not, I love to browse the shelves to see what I can find. I would read eBooks using the Libby library app, but mainly when my library didn’t have the physical book.

Of course, the pandemic changed many habits for many people. And that pushed me to read more eBooks – or read none at all.

Last year at one of my neighborhood book club meetings, a conversation with another attendee convinced me that I was missing out by not using audiobooks. One, they were more convenient for reading while doing other tasks, and two, I could read more books.  

I had previous failures with reading audiobooks, yet I became determined to discover a solution to my audiobook dilemma. I loved the idea of being able to read more books from my TBR (to-be-read books).

And the person to help me was Agatha Christie. 

Like many who love mystery and suspense, I enjoy stories by Agatha Christie. I have watched the entire Hercule Poirot series with David Suchet, plus Amazon Prime Original movies of The Pale Horse (2020), The ABC Murders (2019), Ordeal by Innocence (2018), and The Witness for the Prosecution (2016). They are all excellent.

Yet, embarrassingly, I have not read one Agatha Christie book.

So, when I tried audiobooks again, I started with Agatha Christie. It was a good choice once I learned that many of her titles were only 5-6 hours long (compared to some fiction that is 10-13 hours) and that Hugh Frasier narrated many of them.

The first audiobook I selected was “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” a Hercule Poirot mystery narrated by Hugh Fraser. (He is the actor who portrayed Hercule Poirot’s friend Hastings in many episodes of the TV series). This title was less than five and a half hours, so it wasn’t intimidating or time-consuming. I began the book on a quiet evening when it was just me, the dog, and a cross-stitch project (a craft I picked up again during the pandemic).

Hugh Fraser’s accent, on-point imitation of Poirot, and other voice characterizations made following along with the audio effortless and relaxing as I stitched. Sitting still instead of driving or doing household chores while listening improved my concentration on the book.

3 Reasons Why We Fail with Audiobooks

Why is it hard for some of us to use or stick with audiobooks? It is usually because of these three mistakes:

We start with a book that is too long.  

When browsing through audiobook titles, I was intimidated by the 10-14 hour length. Ironically, reading a 300-400 page book was not. After listening to a few Agatha Christie titles, I learned that 8 hours or less seems to be the right audiobook length for me. Because I can finish in 2-3 days, I can better remember key plot points without getting lost or distracted.

We don’t connect with the narrator.

Listening to different book podcasts, I discovered many readers have preferred narrators. Just as Hugh Fraser is my favorite narrator for Agatha Christie, some audiobook choices become easier when a favorite narrator is reading the title.   

Not sure about the narrator? When selecting an audiobook, try sampling it first. See if you like the narrator’s voice and the pace. Once you listen to enough audiobooks, you begin to learn the name of narrators that you connect with, whether their voices or characterizations. On her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, Anne Bogel has many posts about audiobooks and narrators if you need narrator direction for your next audio read. 

We read the wrong genre.

My first three audiobooks were nonfiction, which did not work for me. Once I changed genres, I found it more exciting to return to the book to finish. Now I can listen to nonfiction if it is a title that really interests me. I’m also more apt to listen to nonfiction if the author narrates (if done well) their own book.

Overall, just like we do with physical books, you cannot stick with a book where the story or information is not appealing to you. Set it aside and try something different. There are no rules here.

While many say audiobooks don’t work for them, I believe it’s mainly due to these three reasons: length, narrator, or genre. It may also be why some of those same people say they cannot concentrate on audiobooks.

Concentrating on an audiobook at first can be difficult if we try to multitask by doing chores, driving, or exercising. Instead, try “sitting down” with an audiobook, as you do with a regular book. Find a quiet place to relax and just – listen. If you must do something while listening, try something a little more mundane or with rhythm, as I did with my needlework.

Listening to audiobooks is making an adjustment to how we read. It is necessary to train the brain to enjoy reading by using the auditory senses instead of the visual. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

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