I got into audiobooks only through the last few months [I finished my first in June], and I wanted to talk about it a little bit! Because I used to be an audiobook hater. And now I have sold my soul to audiobooks and listen to four or five a month. I know, I know, it’s not for you it’s not for you it’s not for you. But unless there’s something making you actually incapable of listening to audios, you should give them a try. It took me a while to get into them, and I was a total naysayer for a long time, but audiobooks have truly made my life so much better and I want to share that! So here’s a post for newbies and veterans alike with my best tips on everything from how to get started to what books to try.
okay, let’s talk about the main question in everyone’s mind:
First of all, it’s a total timesaver. I am such a busy person and I have a super long commute to and from school. Listening to audiobooks while blogging or driving forty minutes to school every morning and forty minutes home every night is quite a lot of extra time. Try audiobooking on a road trip. I promise you will not regret it. I also love multitasking; I am the type of person who watches tv while blogging and dances to music while cleaning my room. Listening to an audiobook while doing chores or cleaning is a lifesaver some days, and can be super motivating when you’re trying to force yourself to do chores.
But second of all, sometimes audiobooks can be distinct experiences from actual books. There’s something very immersive about hearing the voice of a character tell you something. Audiobooks also work perfectly for specific book types. For example, that dense literary fiction you’ve been trying to work up the strength for? Way less intimidating in an audiobook. A long, repetitive, slow-burn book that you want to read? Better if you can listen while playing the sims. A fast reread? Way less commitment on an audiobook. Sounds good, right?
Okay, the most known source of audiobooks for a price is Audible. You can get any audiobook available off Audible without fail, and that might sometimes be the only resource available for international readers or for readers who don’t have access to libraries.
But also: LIBBY AND OVERDRIVE. Libby is an app, while Overdrive is downloadable to your computer. They’re the same system, though! Just sign in via any library card, and your library system will have a certain selection of audiobooks [and kindle books too!] available for two-week checkout. Libby is my absolute favorite, with an incredibly user-friendly interface even compared to Audible, and I use it religiously. They won’t have everything, but my library has an excellent selection. Get your audiobooks for free, people.
My best tip, and something I probably should’ve tried earlier: start by rereading a book you adore via audiobook. If you fuck up and get distracted on your first try [that can happen in the earlier hours] a reread will be so much more forgiving. You know what’s going on. The added benefit of this is that your thoughts on audiobooks won’t be influenced by your negative opinions on the book itself. [MAKE SURE THE NARRATION IS WELL-LOVED FIRST, THOUGH. GOOGLE AUDIOBOOK REVIEWS FOR THAT BOOK OR SOMETHING.]
Honestly, though, just try one! Audiobooks definitely take getting used to, and for me, they’ve become more enjoyable every time I’ve listened to a new one.
Some other tips for the actual listening: Find styles that work for you! One narrator not feeling engaging for you is okay and normal, just be sure to know. And play with speed: you might like 1x speed and a casual experience, or you might want 2x for the speed. I tend to be on 1.5x because it’s a good balance between the unstressed-but-lacking-in-tension and the stressful-but-fast experience of 2x scenes.
But if you’re going to just try a new audiobook, or if you’re already into audiobooks and are just looking for more to try, I have recommendations for ones I love. I’ll start off with audiobooks I enjoyed, and lead up to my favorite audiobooks.
Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky | ★★★★☆
#audio# Barrett Wilbert Weed
#time# nine hrs
I did not listen this to this audiobook. However, I did read this book and really like this book. And then two years later I got obsessed with the off-Broadway soundtrack to Heathers and one fated day, while stalking Barrett Wilbert Weed’s wikipedia page, I discovered she’d narrated exactly one audiobook. Of a book I happened to have read and really liked. Her voice is very cynical and perfect for this book’s vibe.
Neil Gaiman knows his own characters better than anyone else, and I love how he narrates these. With middle-grade novels like this, sometimes hearing the story out loud can be an amazing experience, and I found this one to be no exception.
You by Caroline Kepnes | ★★☆☆☆
#audio# Santino Hassell
#time# twelve hrs
Okay, so full disclosure: I didn’t like this book. It is predictable and contains absolutely one of the most creepily homophobic narratives I have read this year. BUT I adored the narration. Santino Hassell stars on Crazy Ex Girlfriend as a very sweet character, and he is so good here, making Joe sound saccharine sweet even as you know he’s doing something evil. Since I know this book is super popular, if you’re thinking of giving it a shot, please do the audio. You won’t regret it. I promise.
This audiobook narrator is just really entertaining. These audiobooks are easy to just consume and rush through, which is helpful for what these books are: 350-400 page suspense. Sometimes books like these are better enjoyed in a format that’s easy to dip back in and out of.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie | ★★★★☆
#audio# Dan Stevens
#time# six hrs
Yes, this IS narrated by Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey. He does such a great job. There are different accents and voices for every character, making it much easier to keep track of the twelve-or-so leads. That’s one reason to listen to audio over print! I also think this one is an excellent starter audiobook, as it’s very short and the need to figure out the mystery makes it very easy to binge as an audio.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo | ★★★★☆
#audio# Samia Mounts
#time# nine hrs
I have a crush on this audiobook narrator. I seriously, seriously think I do. She gives this character so much life and so much personality. A lot of this book is happiness after a life of tragedy, and I think this narrator makes that come across far more than the text does. I would actually genuinely tell you to listen to this on audio rather than read it in print, because the audio truly adds to your experience.
Hunger by Roxane Gay | ★★★★★
#audio# Roxane Gay
#time# six hrs
I listened to this on audiobook, and the experience somehow made it even more powerful. Gay’s narration perfectly conveys every emotion, perfectly conveys just how horrifying and hard to talk about her experiences are without melodrama or tears. This one is also nice and short for true beginners.
These are really, really long books, but so engaging. Caroline Lee does such a great job getting you invested in characters and making you care. I remember especially loving how she did Madeline’s character in Big Little Lies — she feels so vivid and well-crafted in the audio. And the tension buildup towards the end of each book… holy shit. I honestly didn’t love Truly Madly Guilty, but I absolutely adore Big Little Lies and would recommend it to anyone, on or off audiobook. [But especially on.] [Also, don’t be deceived by the length; I listened to these entirely on 1.5 speed.]
Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee | ★★★★★
#audio# Christian Coulson
#time# fifteen hrs
This was a reread for me rather than a first-time read, but I absolutely adored it. Christian Coulson, who you might know as young Voldemort from the HP movies, does an excellent job bringing these characters to life. His Monty is so hilarious, and his crush on Percy is conveyed so well.
Oh yeah, remember how I’ve read both books in this duology four separate times? One time for Six of Crows and two times for Crooked Kingdom were via the full-cast audiobooks, and I adore them. Lauren Fortgang, who did a far less excellent job on Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, is literally the perfect Inej, bringing this character to life exactly how she sounded in my head. It’s worth listening for her alone; my mom commented that she fell in love with the raspy voice she does for Kaz, and I agree. Elizabeth Evans, who apparently narrated Throne of Glass as well, makes a great Nina, and Jay Snyder makes for an excellent Matthias. I think Brandon Rubin has the most perfect Jesper voice I can imagine; he’s just excellent. The first book’s Kaz [David Ledoux] is a bit hit-and-miss, but Fred Berman makes a fantastic second-book Kaz [apparently in some versions he does both, so look out for that]. Kevin T. Collins is not the most excellent Wylan narrator, as his voice sounds vaguely whiny for his character and his Kaz and Inej voices are just bad. Ah, well, it happens with full cast audiobooks. Overall, this one is a great choice.
These are, seriously, some of the best audiobooks of all time. January LaVoy does distinct voices for every single character and is so lovely and fantastic. I think this narrator absolutely nails every voice, making Ling’s voice sound different from Theta’s and from Evie’s and from Mabel’s. You could cut all the names out and tell who’s speaking by the lilt in her voice. She also is sometimes incredibly fucking creepy. Remember that bathtub scene in book three? I have never been more scared in my life and it’s 75% because of this narrator. I have never been less okay in my damn life than after reading that scene. Cannot recommend these enough, and they’re genuinely even better on audio than in print.
What do you think? Have you tried audiobooks? Are you planning on trying them? What are your favorite audiobooks? Let me know down in the comments!