Audiobooks: Reading with your ears

I’m not a fan of audiobooks. I know a lot of people who swear by them, but I just never could get into it. I like to feel the book in my hands. I like to read the words at my pace. I like to go back and ponder particularly good sentences.

And, perhaps most importantly, I like to hear the characters voices in my head rather than aloud because they always sound better with the voices that I give them than what someone else will actually produce on a recording.


This last point occurred to me when I read a recent New Yorker article “Returning to life with Jane Austen’s ‘Emma'” by David Denby. It was a really interesting piece about listening to Emma on two different audiobooks while recovering from eye surgery. The combination of those two things is interesting, and while the thought jumping between the two doesn’t always work well, it was a good read and Denby’s descriptive capabilities are impressive.

He switched from one audiobook with a male reader because he felt that the reader’s voice was disingenuous or at least ill-suited for the character voices. He was better able to accept the attempt by the second (female) reader.

I don’t listen to audiobooks because I don’t think I would be able to really accept anyone’s voice other than the one in my head when I’m reading.

It kind of stinks actually because audiobooks are so useful. Basically, anytime that I can listen to music, I could be listening to a book instead. My reading list might actually start to balance out rather than continuously growing and expanding like the universe.

However, my brain was made for written words. I have trouble focusing on spoken things. Speeches, questions, YouTube videos… I have trouble focusing for more than a minute or two on what the person is saying and retention of material is difficult unless I’m writing things down, which is ultimately another distraction from the oral material, which is why I prefer recording interviews or important things.

Does anyone else have this resistance to audiobooks? Or are there books out there where the reader was so phenomenal that they couldn’t possibly be a distraction from the book itself so I should check it out?

Let me know in the comments. In the mean time, I should get back to reading The Eyre Affair, which was originally intended to be the review for this weekend. The markings in it are proving more distracting than I had originally anticipated which is making me even more frustrated than I was when I made this video about it.

2 thoughts on “Audiobooks: Reading with your ears

  1. Lunar says:

    Audiobooks are hit or miss for me. I can only really focus on them if I’m on a long car or bus trip (when I have a few hours of solid listening time) and I prefer to listen to books with a lighter tone or overall theme. Anything more complex and I tend to rewind because of missed details.

    Liked by 1 person

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