Audiobooks have exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason: They are a convenient and accessible way to enjoy a story.
You can easily incorporate audiobooks into your existing routines. If you have a long commute, busy schedule or heavy chore load, audiobooks can help you engage with books you may not have read otherwise. They are also great for people who read slowly, or for people who have trouble concentrating on physical books.
Moreover, audiobooks provide a different sensory experience than their physical counterparts; a dynamic narrator can enhance the already wonderful components of a story. As audiobooks have reached a wider market, there has also been a boom in celebrity-narrated audiobooks, as well as audiobooks with ensemble casts.
Read on for tips on getting into audiobooks, including ways to listen for free.
Are audiobooks a lesser form of reading?
Audiobooks provide a different experience than physical books, but neither form is more valid than the other. To select the best audiobook for your reading needs, it is helpful to understand what you want out of the experience. Are you listening for educational purposes? Entertainment? To distract your children and keep them from fighting each other? You might find that certain genres are more conducive to audiobook format than others.
There’s no “correct” way to approach a story. Remember, you’re not reading to impress anybody: You’re doing it to have fun.
How to listen
There are numerous places to purchase audiobooks, including the popular subscription service Audible. However, there’s a good chance your local library offers a free version of the audiobook you want.
The library system of Lancaster County partners with Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) and OverDrive (lancaster
libraries.overdrive.com), which are free streaming services with sizable audiobook collections. Among other things, streaming services usually allow you to add bookmarks and change the audiobook’s narration speed. If you want to know what the narration sounds like before committing to a book, most sites have short sample audio clips you can listen to on your computer or your phone.
The library also has a large collection of audiobooks on CD, which you can find through their regular catalog (search.lancasterlibraries.org).
If you are new to the format, starting with “War and Peace” — which runs about 61 hours — is an easy way to overwhelm yourself. Books between five and 10 hours long might be more manageable. Over time, you will figure out what works best for you.
Because my mind often wanders when I listen to audiobooks, I don’t enjoy dense books that require me to keep track of minor details; in those situations, I find it more useful to see words on a page. When I do listen to audiobooks, I tend to prefer nonfiction or short, plot-driven fiction. Memoirs, especially when narrated by the author, lend themselves well to audiobook format.
I highly recommend Sarah Vowell’s audiobooks, especially “Assassination Vacation.” Vowell’s approach to American history, interspersed with personal narrative, is deeply nerdy and wonderfully witty. Not to mention, her audiobooks all feature star-studded casts — Conan O’Brien, Stephen King, Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart appear in “Assassination Vacation” alone.
Elizabeth Acevedo, poet and author of “The Poet X” and “With the Fire on High,” is an incredible audiobook narrator. She crafts characters with attention to their lived experiences, various social identities and personal relationships — everything is bound by a strong undercurrent of love. In audiobook form, Acevedo’s background as a slam poet shines; her cadence and powerful delivery are nothing short of awe-inspiring. I look forward to listening to her latest book, “Clap When You Land” (which is currently available through Audible).
There are a ton of options, so finding the perfect audiobook is a matter of using the tools you have at your fingertips. Happy listening!
Andrea Everett recently graduated from Vassar College and lives in Lancaster city. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org