Sunday, July 26, 2015

Off-Topic Sunday: Audiobooks

Welcome to Off-Topic Sunday, a tag that I'm using to post whatever is floating in my head that I want to chat about. For the most part, they'll be book-related but you may occasionally see some non-book-related posts/rants as well.

The "reading" experience of audiobooks:

Up until this point of my reading journey, I haven't been a big fan of audiobooks. I've tried a couple - such as the Harry Potter series narrated by Stephen Fry - and although I have enjoyed them, I still preferred to read the books myself for a variety of reasons. For one, my contact with audiobooks is limited to those I can access in my local libraries. Secondly, I sometimes don't particularly agree with the narrator's enactment of a character's dialogue. I prefer to read books aloud in my own head and put my own voices to the characters.

So all in all, audiobooks is a reading medium that I have used the least.

Recently, due to a combination of time pressure, falling behind on my GR reading challenge and the fact my GR friends are all raving about this particular audiobooks, I decided to pick up Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I figured I could listen to a chapter or two on the train to and from work and would be done with the book under a week.

Best decision ever.

And I finished the book in the span of three days. (I may have listened to a chapter or two at work as well.)

Poehler's narration was warm, funny and so easy to relate to. The fact that she got other people - friends and families - to chime in every so often made the book feel more like a podcast to me. As a result, I'm not sure if I'll get the same enjoyment out of listening to other audiobooks as I have with this one but I loved this book so much I immediately went and borrowed another two audiobooks from the library.

I came away from Poehler's audiobook with a couple of thoughts. One, audiobooks are a great way to read whilst commuting. I've often read books on my iPad on the train whilst standing upright, squashed with a lot of fellow commuters. It was an uncomfortable experience for a lot of reasons. I would often need to bring the screen very close and read the book slanted as to minimize the amount of space my electronic device would taken up in a crowded carriage. Often I would give up when there is simply not enough room. Also, whilst reading, I would have to juggle with my bags as it persists in its quest to slip off my shoulder and fall to the floor. And sometimes, when the trip is long or particularly bumpy or when I've just come off a really long and stressful trip, reading on the train gives me a headache.

Audiobooks on the other hand allow me listen to books on my devices like I listen to music. It takes up virtually no room. I don't need to focus on anything visually. Basically, I don't need to do anything other than pop my headphones in and press play. It's great.

Two, audiobooks are a great way to get through a book that you would normally struggle with reading. Not saying, of course, that I didn't enjoy Poehler's book. But I can see how if you're struggling with a book, audiobooks are easy to churn through. For one thing, you can't dictate the speed at which you are going - the narrator will keep reading at a predetermined pace until you decide to hit pause. And for another, you can do some menial task at the same time as listening to the audiobook so that you can console yourself with the fact that at least you are being productive and multi-tasking. I wouldn't advice doing something that demands  a great deal of concentration as that may lead to my next point - tuning out.

I've come to discover how ridiculously easy it is to occasionally tune out for segments of the audiobook. No matter how determined or entertained I am by the book, because of how easy it is to listen to an audiobook, I find myself easily distracted by the other things going on around me at the time. But unlike a physical or e-book where you can just reread a sentence or paragraph, you have to struggle for the next five minutes to rewind to the place where you left off - often having to relisten to a big chunk of narration and becoming impatient and annoyed at yourself.

All in all, I'm still a big fan of reading books myself. I'm currently a third of the way through Graceling by Kristin Cashore and I think I may not enjoy an audiobook of this book as much as I am enjoying reading the physical book. But I can see how audiobooks are a great way to squeeze some reading into people's lives.

What about you guys? What are your thoughts on audiobooks?


  1. It's all about the narrator in combination with a well written story. I would encourage you to check out The Night Circus. Jim Dale is an amazing narrator! I've heard wonderful things about Will Wheaton's narration as well, but I haven't had a chance to listen to one of his yet.

    Terri M., the Director
    Second Run Reviews

    1. Thanks for the tip! I loved The Night Circus when I first read it. I'll see if I can get a hold of the audiobook. :)

  2. I have come to appreciate audio books in certain contexts. I think certain books are easier to read through an audio book--usually shorter books (Chronicles of Narnia or Percy Jackson books) or books with great narrators (Harry Potter, for example). Sometimes though, I find myself zoning out of longer books like the classics (I tried a Dickens novel over audio book once--very difficult to keep focused on). And I find audio books that are 10+ CDs long to be rather daunting. I do enjoy audio books for road trips over several hours. Helps pass the time in a fun way.

    Cool post!

    1. That's true. I tried listening to Game of Thrones on audiobook and I just find the entire process too daunting.

  3. This is really interesting, since I've always tried to stay away from audiobooks. Sometimes I think about picking one up and see what happens, I might just try doing it after reading this. Thanks for sharing :)

    Lipstick and Mocha

    1. Me too. I think I dabbled in audiobooks a couple of times before the medium and I finally clicked.