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5+ Audiobooks to Listen to When You Have a Migraine

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Patricia Thang

Senior Contributor

Patricia Thang is an educator located in Los Angeles. Though a native Angeleno through and through, her heart also belongs to Tokyo, where much of her family is from. Besides books, she is an enthusiastic devourer of many things, including podcasts, television, and J-pop. She realizes there’s not enough time in the world to consume all of that content, but she’s trying anyway. Other endeavors to which she has dedicated herself include cuddling her dogs until they’re annoyed and taste-testing every vegan ice cream she can find. Twitter: @aintnopthang

I’ve never been an audiobook person. When I read, I prefer reading with my eyes, and if I want something to listen to while driving or performing other tasks, I always rely on podcasts. But a recent killer migraine led me to finally discover a circumstance in which audiobooks could be the perfect thing to turn to.

Migraines can be very different for different people, and likewise, the way we deal with them can also vary greatly. For me, they are completely incapacitating, and all I can do is lie down in a dark room until it’s over. Silence, though, is really unpleasant when your brain is trying to kill you from the inside, so I always need something to listen to as a calming distraction. My migraines usually last at least four hours, which means I need something that long enough so I’m not left miserably scrambling for something else to turn on. I can’t rely on music to not contain the types of sounds that trigger more pain and discomfort, and my most recent experience revealed that having a long queue of random podcasts can also lead to this same problem.

This is where audiobooks come in. They’re very much longform, so there’s hardly any risk of running out of stuff to listen to. And it’s often just one person reading, which means less danger of unpleasant sound variation. I decided to browse through the audio versions of books I’ve read before as well as some of those in my TBR, and searched for titles that followed a couple simple criteria. First, a soothing voice, and second, subject matter that is not too complicated as to require one’s full attention just to follow along. Based on my search, here is a small selection of titles that I plan to have queued up for the next time a nasty migraine hits.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, narrated by Christopher Timothy
This was the first thing I looked up, not just because I loved James Herriot as a kid, but because I also remembered one of my former roommates telling me she would listen to this regularly to fall asleep at night. And lo and behold, it fit my criteria just right! Christopher Timothy’s low, gravelly voice (the British accent doesn’t hurt either) paired with Herriot’s heartwarming account of his experiences as a veterinarian visiting the people and animals of the idyllic English countryside make for a perfect migraine fix.

Lab Girl written and narrated by Hope Jahren

Memoir is the main genre I began to explore in my search for good audiobooks for migraines because it’s pretty much just a much longer version of the types of podcasts I like to listen to in these situations. One person being themselves and telling their own story, without any weird dramatization or acting (like using different voices for character dialogue). I found that Hope Jahren’s voice is calm, steady, and extremely pleasant to listen to, and since this bestseller has been on my TBR for the past year, it’s getting a fast track into my listening queue.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Lisette Lecat
I’ve been reading this series since I was in middle school and each new installment is like coming back to a place that’s familiar and nostalgic, even though the story is set across the world from me. The series follows Precious Ramotswe, a smart and cheerful woman in Botswana who starts her own detective agency. Although it can be classified as a mystery, the books are completely charming and light-hearted, and with the relaxing tempo of Lisette Lecat’s narration, it would be a lovely migraine-day companion.

Milk and Honey written and narrated by Rupi Kaur

Since it’s a poetry collection, Milk and Honey only comes out to be just over an hour long in audio format, but Rupi Kaur’s voice was too wonderful to ignore. She reads each line with intent and lingers on the end of each word, creating a purposeful but soft rhythm that is absolutely beautiful and lulling. Maybe I’ll just have to find out a way to put audiobooks on repeat so I can get her for the full four hours.

Me Talk Pretty One Day written and narrated by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is the author I automatically turn to for laughs or if I need cheering up, so my favorite of his essay collections is the perfect way to cap off this list. His blunt humor never fails to make me smile (or laugh out loud in public, no shame), and his matter-of-fact delivery makes for a tone of voice that’s easy on my ears.


Whatever the hell you want
When it comes to surviving migraines, we all have our own strategies and preferences. I cannot guarantee that what I have listed above will be completely compatible to you and your migraines, but hopefully, they’re a good place to start. And if you have a go-to book for whenever you’re sick or feeling down, the comfort of a familiar story can be a great retreat as well. So get browsing, find some audiobooks to arm yourself with, and share some of your own picks in the comments!