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Audiobooks Don’t Work for Me: A Confession

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Dana Rosette Pangan

Staff Writer

Dana Rosette Pangan is a supervisor by day and a fangirl all the time. She holds a degree in Laboratory Technology but finds that she has more chemistry with language and writing. When she's not making embarrassingly lame puns, she can be found avoiding social situations and searching for something that can hold her attention for more than 30 minutes. She is from the Philippines and is probably doing something weird right now.

The average lifespan of a human being is 71 years. If you started reading at age 5 and could read an average of 50 books a year, that means you could consume only about 3300 books in your lifetime, a grim thought if there ever was one. That’s why many online articles are dedicated to helping us do more reading than these numbers dictate, sort of like punching statistics in its smug, ugly face.

Some of those tips, for me, are easy to follow. Read while eating? Okay. I do that all the time anyway. Take reading material with you everywhere you go? Thank goodness for ebooks, then. But there’s one thing, one tip, that seems simple enough and that I tried following but for the life of me couldn’t: listening to audiobooks.

Listening to audiobooks is an efficient way to squeeze in more books in your life. With audiobooks, you can read while doing housework, stabbing a person, or driving a car. It seemed like a really good idea, so I decided to try it once. I even got The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was narrated in part by one of my favorite British actors, Martin Freeman. But even though it was John Watson/Bilbo Baggins himself who was reading to me, I just couldn’t get into it.

I know a lot of our readers here are fond of audiobooks; some even get most of their reading done through them. And I respect that. Hell, I envy that. I wish I could do that too, but the main problem, I think, is that when I only listen to something, not watching or reading it, my mind starts to wander: the curse of having the attention span of a two-year-old. That’s why phone calls are an absolute nightmare for me. One moment I’m talking to someone, the next I’m daydreaming about otters and glazed donuts. And then I snap back into reality, forcing me to pretend that I have been listening to the other person, chuckling a bit or making sympathetic noises, whichever I deem more appropriate, like the horrible fraud that I am.

It’s not surprising, then, that the same thing happens whenever I try to listen to audiobooks. I’d have to replay the last few minutes I lost because my mind had gone backpacking, defeating the reason why I tried listening to audiobooks in the first place. Even podcasts as brilliant as Welcome to Night Vale are no exception. I still get distracted and fail to get the full audiobook experience.

Nevertheless, I have accepted my fate. I may never be able to enjoy audiobooks, I may never understand a thing about Clockwork Princess because Daniel Sharman’s lovely voice makes me daydream of starting a family with him, but I still have my paper books, so it’s not a terrible life at all.