All About Audiobooks {And a Few Recommendations}

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You guys.

Audiobooks have changed my life.

{Also, my favorite book of 2016 is in this post.}

How It Began

When my professional life changed and my commute went from 5 minutes to 30, I knew I had to do something. I’ve been a nervous driver since our accident last February. I over-anticipate what’s going to happen. I think every vehicle is coming into my lane. I don’t trust anyone. {I’m not a very good rider, either. But that’s another story. That’s when real books and magazines come in to play!}

Truth be told, I used to love driving! I used to drive all over the Twin Cities teaching about wine! Back then, I happily listened to mixed CDs that my husband made me. There were only a couple of audiobooks that I had ever listened to at that time; but they were books that I had already read: The Secret and The Power by Rhonda Byrne. I was discussing them with a colleague and she mentioned how listening to them on CD in her car really did wonders for absorbing each book’s message. So I bought them.

When I discovered I could borrow audiobooks from the library just like any other books, I thought, Why not?” 

Does It Count as Reading?

Now I listen to books as if I’m reading them – for the first time. At first, I wondered if listening to an audiobook “counted” as reading the book itself. I read several articles on this topic and the verdict is – It sure does! You do need to concentrate when you are listening to an audiobook. I find that I cannot listen to one while I’m cooking and concentrating on what needs to added next to my dish. However, with driving, it allows me to focus on something else just enough to keep my mind off the driving anxiety, but without distracting me completely. It’s not like the radio, which can be more like background noise. I’m thinking I might enjoy listening to an audiobook while walking or running, now, too.

Choosing an Audiobook

The hardest part is choosing the right one. Not all audiobooks are equal to their originals. It’s a different experience whether you devour a book with your eyeballs or your ears! A book may be great, but the reader’s voice may not suit you, or even suit the book. Sometimes the book might come off better on audio. Other times, it just takes a few minutes to get used to the voice or the style and then I’m okay. All I really can rely on?

Recommendations.

First, I have found that books written by comedians tend to make great audiobooks because they are often read by the authors. They know how to deliver! How did I discover this?

Trial and Error.

One of the first ones I listened to was Amy Schumer’s The Girl with The Lower Back TattooLoved it.

Here are a few other audiobooks I’ve tried, written by comedians and other celebrities. Of course, if you aren’t interested in any of these celebrities, you probably won’t enjoy them.

why-not-me

Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
 (non-fiction) – worth a listen

For me, this was more a bit of fluff. I got to learn a few things about Mindy and what Hollywood is like. I feel like she’s someone I could hang out with sometime. She seems pretty easy going.

~

yes-please

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler
 (non-fiction) – must listen

This is is one book that I could argue that the audiobook is even better than the hard copy without having read the hard copy. Why? Because it’s as if Amy Poehler is talking to you. She reads from her own studio and invites guests in to talk in between about some of the chapters. The last chapter is actually read on stage at a stand-up show. I loved it.

~

oprah

What I Know For Sure
by Oprah Winfrey 
(non-fiction) – must listen

There’s just something about Oprah sharing the things she’s learned in life that makes me feel like I’m “almost” talking with a mom or a mentor over coffee.

~

Audiobook Duds

I’ve had a few other recommendations that were utter duds for me. But sometimes it’s the only way to pick them! Here’s why they didn’t work for me:

short-history

*A Short History of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson 
(non-fiction) – DNF

I picked this one up not based on recommendations, but on a whim when I returned another one. I pulled it off the shelf because one of my favorite books is by Bryson – Neither Here Nor There. I read it right after my 12-week post-college backpacking trip through Europe. It was laugh-out-loud-funny. But as an audiobook, I just could not get into this one. The author did not read the book. Instead, it was a gentleman with a British accent. Bryson is not British; but he did live there. And most certainly books read in a British accent can work well. This one was just to dry for my tastes. Maybe I’ll find the humor if I read the hard copy one day…

~

what-if

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
by Randall Munroe 
(non-fiction?) – DNF

I know that this one was recommended on a Best Audiobooks list somewhere. Someone commented that they liked having it read by Wil Wheaton. But the book is horribly absurd. Why did you take these horrible minutes from me! Truly the worst, in my opinion.

~

getting-things-done

Getting Things Done: The Act of Stress-Free Productivity
by David Allen 
(non-fiction) – DNF

I thought that a motivational book would be great on audio! I was wrong. The Secret and The Power worked for me; but not this one. It just couldn’t keep my attention. There was too much theory and asserting of how these “methods” work before actually getting to the methods. I kept finding my mind wandering.

~

the-kitchen-house

The Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom 
(fiction) – DNF

Here is an audiobook that was recommended from the fiction category. The truth is, I did like the reader’s voice. She did the other character’s voices extremely well, too. I think it probably is a pretty great work of fiction set during the era of slavery. I just had trouble concentrating. It could have been timing. Or just me. It might be worth a revisit.

~

Best Sellers

The best part about borrowing bestsellers on audiobook is that you often don’t have to sit on the library waiting list nearly as long as you’d have to for the hard copy! Here are a few books I decided to soak up with my ears instead.

a-man-called-ove

A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman 
(fiction) – must listen

Yes! Yes! This one was worth it on audiobook! They chose the perfect gentleman to read the English version of this book of Swedish origin to convey the essence of the main character. I also would have never known how “Ove” was pronounced. I am looking forward to seeing the movie now. After listening to this audiobook, I’m wondering if The Nest would be worth a listen rather than a read? I haven’t seen the sound recording on any recommended lists yet; but the audiobook is readily available at my library while I’m on the long wait list for the book. Should I take the plunge?

~

the-couple-next-door

The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena 
(fiction) – currently listening

I’m currently listening to this audiobook. I was strangely drawn to the cover. I’m not sure I love the reader’s voice; but it certainly is appropriate for the genre. I’ll have to get back to you on this one. As of right now, I think the book itself would be an easy read.

~

But the best, best, best audiobook I’ve read so far – AND my favorite book I “read” in 2016 is…

kitchens

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal 
(fiction) – must listen

I didn’t know anything about this book prior to listening to it. I probably saw it on a list somewhere and added it to my Good Reads audio list. In fact, I thought it was non-fiction. I suspected it would cover actual kitchens and chefs in the Midwest.

But, no. It’s a genius work of fiction! I loved, loved every second of it. You must listen to this book if you live in the Midwest and are interested in food at all whatsoever. I laughed out loud so many times. Both readers are excellent and do accents and the character voices well. I did see a review of several books on a blog recently, and next to this one they noted, “Good/Not Great.”

WHAT?! I guess that goes to show how hard it is to rely on someone else’s opinion. I cannot recall the blog, but perhaps this person isn’t from the Midwest and couldn’t relate. Or perhaps the audiobook made all of the difference in the world! This one comes highly recommended from me. I knew I had only a few minutes left in the book when I arrived home from my commute one day. The book was so good that I drove a round the block a few times just to finish it!

~

Going forward, I’ll include my audiobooks with all of my others, because to me, they are just as important.

 Do you listen to books on audio? 

If so, how do you choose them and what are your favorites?

Cheers~
Carrie

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7 responses »

  1. I love audiobooks for my commute too 🙂 Actually I listened to a couple of Louise Penny’s books (I think you read them too?) They were great
    I liked the books by Mindy Khaling (read them, felt like chatting with a friend).
    And I listen mostly to mysteries, since I feel more engaged and compelled to pay attention 🙂

    • Yes! I read Louise Penny’s first, but haven’t done the others yet. I want to try one on audio! If you like mysteries, you might like the current audiobook I’m listening to – The Couple Next Door. Do you listen to them in French or English?

      • I can only get English ones at my library / on the online library app so I’ve only been listening in English! I might look for French ones at some point but I have so much to explore still 🙂 I really liked the voice of the actor reading Louise P. I’ll see if I can find the one you recommended

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