Book Recommendation · Bookish Discussion

How I’d Gotten Into Audiobooks (Tips & Recommendations)

For years and years, I kept moaning about audiobooks. I always knew that there is nothing wrong with them – and, fyi, they 1000% count as reading – but I had trouble paying attention to them. I kept getting distracted, even if I was sitting at home, quietly staring ahead.

After many a failed attempt, I had written off audiobooks as useful things that, unfortunately, don’t particularly suit me.

Obviously that changed – otherwise we wouldn’t be here – and today I want to share how that happened, because who knows, you may be struggling with audiobooks for the same reasons I was. Or.. audiobooks might genuinely not be for you, which is also valid! But I do recommend giving them another go, because boy, did they change my life!

You should know that not all audiobooks are equal.

Book cover of The A.I. Who Loved Me, showing a black woman holding a laundry basket, and an Asian man holding a cat.
5 hours, 18 minutes

I went into audiobooks the same way I go into everything – without any concrete knowledge or research. I was bummed when the first audiobook I read didn’t work out, and after another failed attempt, I was convinced the problem was me: clearly, I wasn’t cut out to read audiobooks.

Little did I know! At the time, I had no idea what a huge difference a good narrator can make – one who becomes the main character, one who gives voice to every single person in a unique way, and one whose intonation is a dream even on double speed.

Enter The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole, an audible original/exclusive released at the end of 2019. I adore, and I mean adore, Alyssa Cole, thus – even though I was not happy about it – I knew I was going to listen to the audiobook… and what an excellend decision that was! The cast is magnificent; they make the story and the characters come to life, and had me so damn engrossed in the book all through.

PRO TIP: For your first time, try to find an audiobook that has a full cast, and/or one that is on the shorter side!

Remember, your perception will improve over time.

10 hours, 43 mins

Look, I loved The A.I. Who Loved Me, but I’ll be the first to admit that parts of it confused the hell out of me, especially when all the sci-fi action started. This was my first attempt at an audiobook while doing something else – in this case, I was decorating my shelves – and I did find myself losing focus at certain parts. However, my perception improves with each book, and now I listen to most audiobooks on double speed, which was, frankly, unthinkable when I started The A.I. Who Loved Me.

1 hour, 43 minutes

PRO TIP: This is not a race! Find the right speed for yourself and keep adjusting it depending on what you’re doing, and how alert/tired you are at any given moment.

I didn’t start my journey by racing through books. Actually, the first audibook I truly enjoyed was Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I listened to it on normal speed, while sitting and doing absolutely nothing. On a side note, I loved and would highly recommend this novel, and the only reason it didn’t prompt me to listen to more audiobooks was that I was convinced this was the exception, not the rule.

Find the right activities to do while listening to audiobooks.

This is a key advice, though it might be a very obvious one; in that case, sorry! When I fell in love with audiobooks, I thought I could do basically anything while listening to them. Research for uni? OF COURSE. Answering comments? HECK YES! Reading blogs? WHY NOT? In reality, none of these activities worked for me.

10 hours

But there are so many that do work! Organizing, tidying up, and (the quiet part) of cleaning? Perfect. Getting ready in the morning, or to go to bed? Helps me get started at the beginning, or wind down at the end of the day. Playing games on my phone or making headers for my posts? Super suitable. Oh, and don’t even get me started on how delightful it was to listen to The Afterlife of Holly Chase, a Christmas YA, while decorating our Christmas tree.

Fun fact: you can get a lot of reading done this way! If you can squeeze in half hour of listening time every day – cooking, baking, getting dressed, styling hair etc. – you can finish an 8 hour long auiobook in a little more than two weeks.

First person is superior to third person.

9 hours, 59 minutes

This is such a subjective opinion, and I’m so curious – do you feel the same way? Or the opposite? Or are you ambivalent? Either way, I’ve realized that first person narration works much better for me in audiobooks than third person. With first person narrators, it feels like I’m listening to the character talking, telling their story, and pulling me into it.

Third person can also be wonderful, no question, but even with an incredible narrator, like what we have in The Dry by Jane Harper, I sometimes find myself unhappy, because wouldn’t it be more fun to have the story told in first person POV!?

PRO TIP: Think of which one do you prefer in physical books! I love first person, so it isn’t exactly surprising that I’m more taken with first person narration in audiobooks.

Find the right genre.

11 hours, 36 minutes

When you search for “how to start listening to audiobooks” you’ll find a lot of advice telling you to look for biographies, short stories, poetry, or to reread an old favorite of yours. While I don’t necessarily think that’s bad advice, it won’t work for everyone. I started my (bad) audiobook journey with (1) a reread, and (2) a biography, and I ended up giving up on the first and switching to the physical version of the latter.

8 hours, 57 minutes

Instead of following what others say, try thinking of the genre you love the most, one you are the most comfortable reading. When it comes to audiobooks, I’m the most comfy reading contemporary novels, such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which was a wonderful experience to listen to. I know many people love to listen to fantasies, because they can feel sort of like a fairytale being told, and my first experience with a fantasy audiobook, Howl’s Moving Castle, was wonderful, so that might be a good route to take as well.

Let’s chat!

Do you enjoy audiobooks? Why/why not? What’s your favorite audiobook? (I’d love to get some recommendations!) Or one you really want to listen to?

63 thoughts on “How I’d Gotten Into Audiobooks (Tips & Recommendations)

    1. okay, somehow my comment posted before i meant it to, but i was just going to add on that i also had to gradually work my way up to double speed! i was always able to listen to 2x, but i used to have to work my way up to it throughout the book haha. and long way down is an excellent audiobook! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you!! I definitely think it’s easy to zone out, especially if the audiobook is a bit boring at parts (it can still be a great book! but when the pacing gets slower, I tend to lose focus.) Yeah, I relate to working your way up to double speed, it really depends on the narrator and book, but I still have to start a bit slower sometimes and then set it to double speed a few mins later.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This post was very helpful, Veronika! I tried to get into audiobooks years ago but I always ended up tuning them out. I think it’s great that you have finally figured out what works for you. I will definitely try these tips and give them another go. I think that listening to audiobooks would be super useful, especially on long road trips.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I hope it can help you! 😊 I get that, I still tune out sometimes, it really depends on the narrator and how much I’m enjoying the book. But I do think they’re worth trying again, because a great narrator can make a book so much more enjoyable. πŸ™‚ I remember you mentioned that you can’t read while traveling, so they could be helpful for that, yes. πŸ˜€

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  2. I loved reading about your audiobook experience!! πŸ₯° I’m a really visual person, so initially, I struggled with audiobooks as well (and I’ll never be the person who listens to a lot of them) but I love listening to them every now and then when I’m doing other things, mainly journaling and cleaning 😊 I definitely agree that a good narrator is so important and I also find that – despite being a huge Fantasy lover – contemporary works best for me as it doesn’t have complicated worldbuilding I need to follow! (Though listening to a Fantasy Audiobook is good for knowing how all the names are pronounced πŸ˜‚)

    My fave audiobooks so far are: Technically, You Started It (told entirely in text messages, but as we have two narrators for the characters you always know how is speaking and they do a great job giving a voice to the characters and their feelings), Harry Potter (always a good idea) and Red, White, and Royal Blue πŸ₯°

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I’m glad. 😊 Yes, I feel the same way – I think they make my reading more colorful and can give my eyes a break, but I’ll never switch to only or mostly listening to audiobooks. (Also, weirdly, I kind of stopped or very much slowed down now. I’ve started to listen to podcasts, and idk, my listening ability is not infinite, it’s spent on those. πŸ˜‚) Hmm, I’ve been planning on rereading Harry Potter, and if it does happen, I’ll go the audio route.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I totally agree about finding it hard to concentrate on audiobooks at first – I found it a little like meditation. Hard to focus on initially but once you get a hang for the sort of activities you can do while listening, it’s invaluable! I used to listen to audiobooks while driving to work – now I also listen when working out, cleaning, cooking & planning stuff in my bullet journal! πŸ˜€

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  4. The narrator can make it or break it for sure. I’m reading Xeni which is told from the perspective of an American black girl but the narrator was an English white guy? Did not work.

    I mostly gravitate towards contemporary titles for audio. That way I don’t feel like I’ve missed everything when listening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m interested in Xeni, but I haven’t yet bought it – definitely not taking the audiobook route in that case; that sounds like one of the worst “casting” (is this called casting, idk) I’ve ever heard of.
      Same, I prefer contemporary, as well.

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  5. Genre is a big thing for me. I struggle with most outside of contemporary. If the story has too many details that are important, like scifi or fantasy, I just lose my place, and it’s not enjoyable. I have not ran into too many bad narrators, though, I had to quit an audiobook, that was being read by the authors. It was so flat, and they were putting me to sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve only been able to get into audiobooks while doing tedious repetitious tasks at work (luckily not that common). Some of them are truly amazing, and I’ve come to adore Stefan Rudnicki who does a lot of narration for Orson Scott Card. It’s an absolute match made in heaven. 😍

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  7. I use to hate audiobooks! I felt like every narrator I listened to was super monotoned and robotic. Then I listened to The Diviners by Libba Bray. That audiobook scared me because the narrator was sooo good. It was the first audiobook I listened to all the way through. Lately I’ve been listening to storys I’m currently reading so I can still read the story while trying to sleep. For example, I’m currently reading Shadow of the Fox by Julia Kagawa. I turn on the audiobook at night when I don’t feel like reading with light. It’s a nice way to wind down before bed. πŸ™‚ I’ve also been listening to the harry potter audiobooks from my library! That’s a whole new experience. It’s super cool and magical. ❀

    My favorite audiobook so far is A Man Called Ove but then just changed the narrator. I'm not sure if it's good anymore or not. 😦

    -Amber

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really lucky for finding a good narrator so early into my journey, it does seem like there are a lot of bad ones out there. 😢 I love The Diviners and reread the whole series before the final book, so now I’m kicking myself for not picking up the audiobooks!! That narrator sounds wonderful. That sounds like a great way to read a bit before going to bed, and it’s easy on the eyes too. πŸ™‚ A Man Called Ove is on my TBR, I’ll get the audio and just hope that the new narrator is also good. πŸ™‚

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  8. I’ve struggled for YEARS with audiobooks. I get so distracted and drift off and I definitely couldn’t multitask but I kept trying.

    I thought I’d try old favorites, or favorite genres that it’s ok if you miss a bit (like romance) but it didn’t work. I realized I needed more drama/angst with audiobooks to keep me hooked – something I usually avoid. Then I tried poetry and discovered Elizabeth Acevdo (Poet X) and that was a game changer for me. If you get the right narrator (for me it’s a powerful, commanding, or rhythmic voice) it makes the world of difference.

    So I tend to stick to *reading* my favorite genres but branch out with audiobooks.

    Oddly enough, I can blog while listening – leaving/answering comments, visiting blogs but not writing posts. But not much else lol

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, old favorites really did not work for me either. It’s interesting, but kinda cool that audiobooks have made you branch out of your usual genres. πŸ˜€ I didn’t love The Poet X, but the narration was A+. Ooh, good for you! I’ve been trying to “train” myself to do that, but no luck so far.

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  9. oh yes I got into audiobooks last year and it does take a while to get used to them as your focus can drift and you can lose parts etc. It can be a very personal experience so you have to find what works for you !! I think all your tips are great and are perfect for first time listeners !! Like about the speed I knew everyone listened at 2x but I couldn’t at first it was more 1.5x but then I felt comfortable increasing it and now I listen at 2.5x but it was a gradual process.
    Also about finding what activity works for you as I know I can’t do everything with an audiobook!! I love drawing with one or going for walks !!
    Great post, I loved hearing about your experience and your tips !! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I occasionally listen to them and I wish I would more, honestly. However, I am one of those people who finds it more difficult to pay attention when listening rather than visually reading on a page. Also, some of those narrator voices KILL me. If the narrator is bad, I just can’t do it.

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  11. These are such great tips! I really struggle with audiobooks because I’m autistic and can’t focus on more than one thing at a time so for me, it’s either listen to an audiobook or do something else because my mind will completely wander and I’ll lose half of a plot point. But I am still willing to try audiobooks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I know that some people love the experience audiobooks give, but can’t concentrate on the audio and so they also read along. It’s a bit complicated because you have to own an audiobook and a physical/ebook, but it can work well. I’ve done this with a podcast I love, and it worked out for me. πŸ™‚ I could set it to faster than usual, and read at the same time as I was hearing it.

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  12. Ah, I enjoyed reading this post so much! I’ve had a complicated relationship with audiobooks for a while—sometimes they work really well for me, but other times they really don’t. πŸ˜… The main thing that’s always keeping me from enjoying audiobooks is the fact that I don’t have many activities to do while listening to them. (I’m very privileged to say that I don’t have to do any chores while in the house.) But I also don’t want to just do *nothing* while listening to audiobooks, so I usually end up attempting to write a post while listening to an audiobook, and having to rewind it because I was too focused on writing to pay attention to the narrator πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ
    But an audiobook that I really like is the one for Skyward by Brandon Sanderson! I feel like the narrator perfectly captured all of the main characters’ voices, especially Spensa’s!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, haha, I relate to that! I don’t do many chores around the house either, so I also struggle with this too. And yes, I’ve tried writing posts and answering comments, and my concentration is NOT good enough for that, haha. πŸ˜… I can edit the post headers, though! Right now, physical books and ebooks are still my go-to format, in a big part because of this.
      Ooh, good to know! I want to read that, but haven’t bought it yet, so this is perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Honestly, I’m you before you started getting audiobooks, I don’t have the attention span. I know, I’ve listened to over 100 podcast episodes in a couple of weeks so that’s actually dirty dirty lie, I do have the attention span, but audiobooks seem to require more concentration. To be fair, I was attempting audiobooks again while I was working but then The Magnus Archives happened. One of the first audiobooks I managed to finish was Illuminae and that had a full cast so a cast of narrators does help. I’ve finished a couple with just one narrator as well. The narrator is key for audiobooks, but I still feel like audiobooks will never be my preferred way of reading. I miss stuff and I do struggle with the focusing on the story. I will keep giving them a chance, but I think my issue is they take longer than reading (even though I speed up the audio) but also, they mean I spend a week or two reading a book when usually I finish it in a few days. And that’s what I mean when I saw I don’t have the attention span, I hate reading the same book for too long because I’m there ready to move onto something new after a couple of days. It’s an issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I relate to this, tbh. I feel like TMA is easier to listen to not only because the voice acting is GREAT, but also because it’s nice that there’s a bit of a break between the episodes. It’s like, my brain has the chance to stop for a few seconds and just take in what I’ve just listened to. Audiobooks are more about constant concentration and the narrator(s) being bad can ruin the whole experience. Also, an excellent book is one I don’t really struggle with, however, I’ve realized that any audiobook that has more boring parts is one where I’ll 1000% have problems with focusing. 😦 I don’t think audiobooks will ever be my preferred format, but I do enjoy them. πŸ™‚

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  14. I have been ‘rereading’ a lot of books through audiobook because then it doesn’t matter if I space out for a few moments as I already know what happens; however, during lockdown I started listening to audiobooks while doing puzzles and it is so soothing to be able to really listen, but also be occupied so that i don’t space out or let my brain run off with random thoughts.
    This was a great post! Thanks Veronika!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love this! I live off audiobooks and definitely need to add some of these recs to my list (although On the Way Down is already on hold). Full cast audiobooks are absolutely my favourite.

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  16. Wow these are FABULOUS tips! I was exactly like you- I tried several times, and was just sure it was a “me” problem, but I love the tips you have shared and I am going to try them! I tried for the last time when I was on a very long solo car trip, and I did manage to finish one (a contemporary, narrated by the author) and it wasn’t bad but I didn’t have the ability to change the speed and it felt slow. The second I tried on the way home, and it was The Scorpio Races, which I’d heard great things about the audio of and I just could NOT. I tried a couple times but nope. Incidentally, I think I have to agree about the first person thing too! I prefer first person in general, but I really think that could be a thing for me to be on the lookout for when I give it another go! Thanks so much, this was really helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ Oh yay, I hope this will prove helpful for you! I read The Scorpio Races in a physical copy, and it’s not one I’d like to try as an audio, to be honest. The writing is too flowery – which, imo, is harder to appreciate in an audiobook – and the book is rather slow moving. I hope you’ll find an audiobook that you fully love. πŸ™‚

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  17. My audiobook journey was similar. A good narrator makes a HUGE difference. I don’t listen to many but I discovered I really enjoy reading the longest books on my TBR via audiobook, and that takes time. For example, my collection of Holmes I listened to, and my current read is 36 hours. So I mostly listen to classics πŸ˜› I also can’t stand listening to romance – I cringe so hard. Over time I have even inched my speed up to 2.3x so it goes to show how when I couldn’t dream of going past 1x things can change over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A good narrator really does make a difference, they can enhance the reading experience a lot. Oh wow, that’s surprising! I tend to turn to shorter books, because I know I’m slower with audiobooks than with physical copies, and I don’t want to “waste” time, lol. I’ve been thinking about maaybe trying Les Miserables as an audiobook, though..

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  18. Oh thank you, this is such a brilliant post, I love it so much. I never really tried audiobooks and I feel like I’d have such a hard time focusing on everything, too, so these tips are so, so useful. Will keep this post in mind for sure ❀

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  19. This is such great advice! I love all of the tips and recommendations. I also found that I tend to enjoy audiobooks narrated by the author (such us Neil Gaiman or Elizabeth Acevedo). Most of the time they make an excelent work since they know the story better than anyone and can give it the entonation they thought of while writing the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I agree, Long Way Down is narrated by the author, Jason Reynolds, so that might be something worth checking out for you. πŸ˜€ I’ve also listened to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, and while I didn’t love the book, the narration was great. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for your post, I always feel like audiobooks are frowned upon in the bookish community and I like that you’ve given them some positive visibility πŸ™‚
    I like both 1st and 3rd person but what I really prefer is women narrators. I’m always having trouble liking an audiobook narrated by a man (is that sexist?) their voice is often more grave and it makes it harder to focus for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. πŸ™‚ I *hate* the argument that audiobooks don’t count the same way as physical or ebooks. And the fact that it comes back at least twice each year on book twitter is infuriating.
      I really enjoyed some male narrators, but I do agree with you – they tend to be kind of grave and they do “voices” for the characters less frequently than the women, at least from what I’ve seen so far.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I’m so happy that I’m reading this post because I really want to try listening to audiobooks again! Like you, I’ve tried a few time with audiobooks, but unlike you, I haven’t yet figured out exactly what works for me.

    I think the closest I’ve gotten was when I started listening to The Book Thief on audio. I absolutely adored the narrator, and I got into it a fair amount. But then I switched and read a physical copy, starting over from the very beginning.

    And last year I tried again, but this time I think my issue was with the auidiobook narrator. I couldn’t stay focused. In general I have a sensory processing disorder, that makes it very difficult for me to process noise. So if there’s other noise around me it kind of makes it impossible for me to listen to audiobooks.

    BUT! I think I’m ready to try again! I received soundproof headphones a few months ago, which I think will help with the noise issues, and I want to clean and possibly reorganize all of my bookshelves, which won’t take that much focus for me, but will take a lot of time. So now all that’s left is coming up with a few different options for audiobooks to try out. If you have any suggestions, that would be wonderful! I’m looking for something super short that’s either non-fiction, happy YA contemporary, or an adult romance!

    As soon as I’m finished with my finals, I plan on doing all the research I’ve been lacking the past few times I tried out audiobooks! And this post was wonderful because it gave me so many things to look out for while researching! Thank you so much! This was really helpful! (And fun to chat about, if you can’t tell by my essay of a comment!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, I’m so glad you liked the post and I hope it’ll prove to be helpful for you! πŸ™‚ I’m glad you got the soundproof headphones, and I hope they’ll work out for you. πŸ™‚ I *love* listening to audiobooks when I’m organizing books or something else, so that’s a great idea.

      Hmm, let me think. I mentioned Long Way Down in this post which is a great – though sad – contemporary written in prose. The narration is great and easy to follow and it’s super-short. As for a cute/happy contemporary, I’m currently listening to Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz and it’s INCREDIBLE so far. It’s 9 hours long, which is pretty short compared to most novels. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren was so enjoyable, even if I “only” rated it three stars (most people love their novels, though, but I always have issues with them.) Either way, the narration is incredible and really pulls you into the story, and it’s also 9 hours long.

      I’m really hoping you’ll find the audiobooks you can enjoy! πŸ™‚ And thanks for the long comment, I love long comments. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll definitely have to check out Long Way Down! And I’m so happy that you’re loving Sick Kids in Love because I am OBSESSED with that book! It was one of my favorites last year! πŸ’•

        I’m with you with Christina Lauren. None of their books have ever been favorites. And I also gave The Unhoneymooners 3 stars because I had lots of issues with it. Honestly at this point I think I may no longer pick up their books.

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  22. I love this analysis of audiobooks! I agree that a good narrator makes all the difference and that you sometimes have to tailor your listening experience to the book. I wouldn’t be able to listen to a book in verse (like Long Way Down) at high speeds—it just wouldn’t be the same! But I do tend to listen to most books at somewhere between 1.5X and 2X depending on the narration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! A good narrator is so important! I’m reading a novel narrated by a man, and it’s so weird because the main character is a young woman, and even if the book is in 3rd person, it’s still not a good choice, imo. 😦 Yeah, I get that, I think also because of the rhythm and rhyme, verse is best to listen to at a slower pace. πŸ™‚

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  23. This was such a great post, Veronika! It’s definitely more encouraging for me to start listening to audiobooks. I’ve only done it once, and it was when I was an English tutor for seventh graders, and honestly I had a hard time focusing, whether it was from having to deal with my seventh graders or just difficulty in focusing on the narrative. I’m all game for trying out new methods of reading, and I think audiobooks might be a great way for me to get through my backlist YA books! Thanks for the great tips, Veronika πŸ™‚

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