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Is There a Secret To Enjoying Audiobooks?

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

I have a problem- I can’t finish an audiobook. Actually, I take that back. I have finished exactly one and a half audiobooks in my entire life: Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which I listened to when I drove by myself three states away and was trapped in the car with no one to talk to, and a few Sherlock Holmes stories.

I chalk my difficulty with audiobooks up to a personality foible. I’m unable to do one thing at a time, which means I end up listening to audiobooks while working, or while doing laundry, or while cleaning the house, as if the book is the radio. My thoughts wander. I miss entire sections of the book. I get confused, and end up just reading a physical copy in the end.

I’ve tried classics, I’ve tried contemporary literature. I’ve done professionally recorded selections and volunteer-read selections from Librivox (which is an excellent resource if you are a fan of ingesting your books through your ears). I’ve tried limiting myself to listening to them in the car, but I hate having to “stop reading” whenever I get to my destination.

I’m not a passive reader. I never liked being read to as a child- my mother got so tired of me telling her to go away so I could finish a story by myself that she eventually just stopped trying. I like to wrestle with a story on my own terms, stopping when I want to stop and hearing the voices I assign to the characters in my own mind. I know other people have figured out how to engage actively and intellectually while listening to an audiobook, but my brain apparently doesn’t function that way.

And then there’s the skimming. Yes, it’s true. I (GASP) sometimes skim passages if I feel like the author is being unnecessarily long-winded. When Emily Bronte goes on and on and on about the melancholy moors, my fingers are a-walking. With audiobooks, there are no visible paragraph breaks that enable me to fast-forward through boring landscape descriptions or semi-colon heavy ramblings. I have to listen to the whole thing. THE WHOLE THING. It’s tiresome.

While this is the current state of things, I would love to change it. I feel like I’m missing out on an entire aspect of the literary experience due to my inability to sit still for five minutes. Audiobook lovers out there, I implore you- what is your secret? How do you fully enjoy a book in audio form? Do you really sit down and focus for that many hours, or can you somehow listen and do other things at the same time? DO YOU HAVE MAGICAL EARS?