They say the best stories are the ones you see on the radio. That is to say, when we hear a story, our imagination does the world building for us. I’ve been signed up to Audible for about a year now, and I’ve had a grand old time listening to a wide range of stories that have really captured my imagination, and enhanced my life overall (may as well be honest). The major advantage of audiobooks, IMO, is that you can listen when you’re on the move. They make long car journeys, or any sort of commute, tolerable, even enjoyable. If you’ve got physical work to do around the house, like organizing shelves or attacking a stack of laundry, listening to an audiobook makes the dreary task infinitely more pleasurable. [So pleasurable, in fact, that I listened to over 10,000 audiobook minutes in 2016. I got an email from Audible to let me know that I was one of their biggest listeners. Bit miffed I didn’t get a prize though.] And there’s really no excuse to be a TV loving couch potato anymore, now that audiobooks are available to us. You can saunter out for a two hour walk with Chelsea Handler, or Amy Schumer, or whoever your favourite comedian is (they’re all doing audiobooks now) in your ears. It’s like an auditory paradise, and it’s yours for the taking. If you’re tired of traffic updates, political debates that never seem to come to any conclusion, and radio jingles that make you want to chew your own face off, switch off that dial because there’s an audiobook out there waiting for you (entirely free from advertisements too! Sigh.)
If you’re new to audiobooks, or sort of ‘Oh, I don’t really know if that’s for me’ about the whole thing, here are some pointers for choosing the right audiobook for you:
- Choose something that is well paced, with a strong narrative thread. (These are often the books that are recommended through word of mouth, or described as ‘page turners’.) It’s primarily the plot that will keep you listening. Turgid tales with excessive, complex detail don’t translate well to audiobooks, because it’s simply too easy to lose your concentration. You’re likely to be carrying out other tasks while you’re listening, and if the story becomes heavy and morose, you’ll just tune out. (And you can’t just flick back a couple of pages to find your place, because this is not a book. Sure, you can re-start the chapter, or rewind a couple of minutes, but it’s not so easy to pick up where you left off.) My guilty pleasure is the true crime genre. I always want to know if they caught the killer, and how they went about it, and so I listen right to the end. You could try something by Ann Rule, America’s best known crime writer. You could consider audiobooks that are strung together by various anecdotes that work well on their own, such as those found in ‘The Best Advice I Ever Got’ by Katie Couric, ‘The Examined Life’ by Stephen Grosz, the personal essays of David Sedaris, such as ‘When You Are Engulfed In Flames’, and ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’ by Richard Reed. It allows you to dip in and out of the audiobook, and not feel like you’re completely out of sync with a story.
- The narrator’s voice will make a big difference to your enjoyment of the audiobook, so make sure to listen to the audio sample provided before you make your purchase. My pet hate is a slow speaker. Oh God. I just wish they’d get on with it. (You can actually increase the speed of the narrator’s voice within the Audible app, but sometimes this sounds really awful.) There are plenty of well-known actors and public figures who’ve narrated audiobooks, and if you’re a fan of any of these individuals, you’re far more likely to commit to the story. People like Stephen Fry, Neil Patrick Harris, Joan Rivers, Leah Rimini, Jane Fonda, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling have all narrated their own autobiographies and/or novels written by other authors.
- The audiobook you choose is going to be your background noise for quite some time, so choose wisely. A story that gets into your head will have an impact on your mood and thoughts. If you’re having a rough time, you should think carefully about the kind of story that’s best for you right now. I listened to ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand, about the story of Louis Zamperini, a man who went to hell and back, and lived to tell the tale. This is an astonishing story of resilience, and the triumph of the human spirit. You’ll experience the anguish and the terror, and you’ll come out the other end of it feeling transformed. The right story can revitalize us. Non-fiction self development audiobooks have their value too. If you’re preparing for an interview or a situation that’s going to test you, ‘Presence’ by Amy Cuddy could be the perfect choice: it’s about rising to any occasion with confidence, and doing yourself justice in stressful situations.
I firmly recommend audiobooks. Audible does a 30 day free trial and you can cancel any time.
I’m feeling rather sociable. Let’s connect on Goodreads!
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I’m getting in early to carry out a Creative Round Up 2016 Hit List ClickBaity Endeavour. It goes without saying that 2016 had plenty of flaws. I immersed myself in a lot of reading material and music during the year, because art helps me to escape and find solace. It is elevating and pure. *Leaky eye*. I find it’s helpful to end a year by listing what was positive about it, and that’s why I feel it’s important to reminisce about the art I’ve enjoyed. So I’ve gone and done it.
Disclaimer: Most of these weren’t published in 2016.
– We Learn Nothing: Essays by Tim Kreider. Awesome, powerful and funny essays about human relationships.
– The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale. A riveting tale that’s a proper page turner.
– The Circle by Dave Eggers. The coolest premise, and ridiculously entertaining.
– A second attempt to finish The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (it’s much better the second time around actually) has failed, but I will get there, I swear.
– The Bad Seed by William March. It’s about a psychotic child on the rampage and was written in 1954. Compelling, written simply and impactfully. A super read. I read it on my Kindle at night in bed and it was worth the migraines.
– The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell. Insights into Denmark and why the people are so happy. It’s a lot about hygge, it’s a lot about open-mindedness and being progressive. Unsurprisingly.
– Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Because there’s no right or wrong way to set about creating, just as long as it gets done.
– The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. A refreshing perspective on the forced positivity that’s infecting every discourse nowadays.
– I listened to some audiobooks too, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ made for easy listening, but best of all was Stephen Grosz’s ‘The Examined Life’. It was a fantastic listen (can I say that, is that a thing that people say?) I use the Audible app which is money well spent for people who cannot tolerate silence (me). I tried to listen to The Secret History by Donna Tartt but it was just too long, and I already know the story inside out. What was I thinking? I also listened to lots of stuff from Ann Rule, America’s original true crime author.
[Most of my reading this year – unlisted here – was related to my Masters in Creative Writing, so I haven’t been reading purely for pleasure. RACKING SOBS. My summer thesis was about John McGahern’s management of female dialogue in his short stories, I’ll post about it some other time. In 2017, I’m looking at the nuances of female friendship in literature, a pretty wide subject with a great deal of reading.]
This album was divisive, but I loved it. Junk by M83. (It even became the writing soundtrack to a novel I’ve been working on, and I normally don’t listen to music as I write). Other musicians I’ve really appreciated this year are Andy Shauf and Thundercat, and Lady Gaga’s album Joanne really took me by surprise, I haven’t much cared for her avant-garde ways up to now, but songs like ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ really hit the mark for me. I also loved ‘Wolves’ from Kanye West, ‘Peace’ from Kenton Slash Demon, and ‘Catapult’ from Jack Savoretti. I took a deep dive into some old time crooners like Frank Sinatra (!) following on from a Netflix documentary I watched about his life, and ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ found their way onto my Spotify playlist. I don’t know if that’s cool or not but I don’t really care. They’re like lullabies for grown-ups, and grown-ups need lullabies too. Oh, and I had huge fun listening to Tame Impala ‘Let It Happen’ and ‘The Less I Know The Better’. I find their lyrics most amusing:
Someone said they left together
I ran out the door to get her
She was holding hands with Trevor
Not the greatest feeling ever
She said, “Pull yourself together
You should try your luck with Heather”
Then I heard they slept together
Oh, the less I know the better
Whatever happens in the year to come, here’s hoping that it brings us lots of great books and music to help keep us sane. This is the kind of stuff that helps make life worth living. Creators, you’ve got a very worthy job to do. Do carry on with it.
I’m feeling rather sociable. Let’s connect on Goodreads!