Confessions of a Former Audiobook Hater, aka The Starter Audiobook Guide [+My Audiobook Recs!!]

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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman | ★★★★☆
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman | ★★★★☆
#audio# Neil Gaiman
#time# eight hrs each

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.

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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.

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Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco | ★★★★☆
Hunting Prince Dracula 
by Kerri Maniscalco | ★★★★☆
#audio# Nicola Barber
#time# ten hrs each

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty | ★★★★★
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty | ★★★☆☆
#audio# Caroline Lee
#time# fifteen hrs

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.]

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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.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | ★★★★★
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | ★★★★★
#audio# full cast
#time# sixteen and eighteen hrs

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.

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The Diviners by Libba Bray | ★★★★☆
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray | ★★★★★
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray | ★★★★★
#audio# January LaVoy
#time# eighteen-twenty hrs each

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.

If you need more, Jamieson has a post with several recs of her own!

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!

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32 thoughts on “Confessions of a Former Audiobook Hater, aka The Starter Audiobook Guide [+My Audiobook Recs!!]

  1. Hilary @ SongsWroteMyStory says:

    Audiobooks are the great thing I’ve discovered recently (I started in October). I’d always been intrigued by them, but they were so expensive that I never bothered. Then I discovered Overdrive, and have been hooked since. Totally agree on the Neil Gaiman ones and If I Was Your Girl. A Head Full of Ghosts is also amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kalinasbookblog says:

    I only started listening to audio books this year as well and I totally love them now. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was really good on audio book, it makes a huge book a lot less intimidating, and I loved the narrator’s voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. aravenclawlibrary says:

    I’ve thought about doing an audiobook of like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter just to get the feel of them but I’m not sure when I would listen to them. I could maybe while playing video games. But regardless, I’m keeping this blog post in mind for when I do start audiobooks. So thank you for this! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Holly says:

    Can I just say how much I LOVE this post?! I was a former audio book hater too before I started studying abroad and realized how much extra reading I could get done if I listened to audio books while walking to classes, lectures, doing laundry, cooking, etc. I am an avid Overdrive user but have never heard of Libby, so I’m definitely going to check that out! Awesome post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. shai @ cadeunderbooks says:

    Thank you so so much for the recommendations! I no longer have a commute which is great ofc but not so much for listening, so I’ve gotten out of the habit. I’ll have to get some of these on my phone and listen during walks/bike rides.

    There was a BBC Radio Play released as an audiobook of Neverwhere that featured James McAvoy as Richard and Sophie Okonedo as Hunter which was pretty fab but only if you’ve read the book before (otherwise some actions/scenes were confusing.) I really loved it though.

    I also only got through the last Divergent because the fella who played Pyro in Xmen narrated Four and I was like Ok? Ok!

    And I love it when the author of a memoir narrates their book. OH As You Wish by Cary Elwes as an audiobook is INCONCEIVABLY wonderful 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Madalyn @ Novel Ink says:

    I love audiobooks, and you mentioned a few of my favorites here! The audiobooks for The Diviners series are by far my favorites of all time. January LaVoy is SUCH a talented narrator. I also really enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper and Six of Crows audiobooks! My library has most of Neil Gaiman’s books on audio, and I’ve been meaning to listen to one for so long. I tend to really enjoy audiobooks with multiple narrators– The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, You Bring the Distant Near, Sleeping Giants, and All American Boys are a few of my faves with multiple narrators.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EIise @thebookishactress says:

      I haven’t listened to ANY of those audiobooks, but maybe I should fix that! I read Sleeping Giants last year in physical copy and was not a fan, so maybe not that one. BUT MAYBE AN EVELYN REREAD?? and I’ve been wanting to read You Bring the Distant Near for ages!

      Like

  7. emmareadstoomuch says:

    this post may save my actual literal life and i’m bookmarking it EVEN THOUGH there’s a two star rating that breaks my heart in here……that’s how you know elise = a brilliant goddess queen

    Liked by 1 person

  8. bookwormscornerblogspot says:

    I love audiobooks. It means I can read in the gym, doing housework (ugh) and while driving etc.. I regularly do audiobook tours which are great too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tucker Almengor says:

    Great Post!! I can’t believe you used to hate audio books!! They’re amazing but I get that there not for some people. Also, Big Littles Lies is one of my favorite audiobooks. I noticed Illuminae was not in the list. Did you not listen to it yet? I use overdrive or hoopla because Audible is so expensive

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elise @thebookishactress says:

      They took me a little while to get into 🙂 and hell yes, Big Little Lies is such a great audio! I use Libby [it’s the same system as Overdrive].

      I’ve actually read Illuminae once [not on audio], and I liked it enough, but I can’t see myself rereading… ever. so that doesn’t make my personal list; you can always make your own!!

      Liked by 1 person

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