In Praise of Audiobooks

Unless you have a lot of household help, or a large family of unusually capable children, I’m betting that there are at least some mindless drudge tasks that you must do on a daily or weekly basis, some of which you put off repeatedly because you just hate doing them.

Some tasks–ironing, laundry-folding, Nordic-Tracking (ha!)–can be easily combined with TV-watching, but others–dish-washing, mopping, onion-chopping, dusting, bathroom-cleaning, sweeping–can’t.

Now, you may envision these activities as potentially social, or as opportunities to practice mindful attentiveness. Call me a distraction-driven introverted bookworm, but I see these kinds of activities as prime opportunities for audiobook listening. Without trying too hard, I can listen to one or two books a week while going about other necessary tasks. This sometimes gets me into trouble when I don’t hear the phone, or my children, or my husband while washing the dishes and listening to the story of the deadliest pandemic in history, but often it works quite well.

You can find audiobooks at, of course, but don’t ignore your local library or library system, where you will likely be able to borrow audiobooks in a variety of formats, from the charming cassette tape to the downloadable mp3. If your library system is anything like the one we had in New York (oh, Suffolk County libraries! How I miss you!), interlibrary loan will provide you with as many or more choices than Audible, although Audible is dangerously and appealingly easy and the files take very little space on your mp3 player when compared with uploaded CDs.

If you are always saying to yourself that you would like to read more, but you ‘just don’t have the time,’ it’s possible that you could find a lot more time to ‘read’ by letting someone read to you, especially if you have a long commute or an exceptional amount of laundry or knitting to do. Audiobooks are a refreshing break from the radio or television because they don’t switch on and off every five or ten minutes to tell you what’s new or what you need to buy next. Plus, if you tend to skim books, they slow you down and force you to pay attention, and remind you of what’s really happening when you read a book–you are encountering another human voice, which is a remarkable thing.

Most recently I listened to Terry Tempest Williams read her book When Women Were Birds. What have you been reading/listening to lately?

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8 thoughts on “In Praise of Audiobooks

  1. Best of all, I think, is what audiobooks can do for children. If I hadn’t seen the boys casually talking over dinner about the great figures ancient history like a couple of old Oxford dons I wouldn’t have believed it.

  2. I am an absolute audiobook addict, and yep, I listen to them while I’m doing housework. I have some serious audiobooks, but most of them are pleasure reading, fun fantasy novels I don’t have time to read otherwise. I think fantasy novels work particularly well in the audiobook genre. There’s nothing quite like hearing The Hobbit read in a deep British accent.

    I just finished the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and loved it. I think my boys will, too. Narration-wise, the Bloody Jack series takes the cake. Katherine Kellgren is a genius.

  3. Love audiobooks. Literally have 100s of them. Currently listening to Through the Eye of the Needle: Wealth, The Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity by Peter Brown. I actually really like listening to slightly dry audiobooks while doing data entry. I can zone out a little and keep going and get through books I would never get through in print. But also there are some great readers out there. Madeleine L’Engle and Neil Gaiman are two of my favorite Author Readers.

    Also as much as I love audibile (and I do) check out They give away a free book every month (This month is Andy Stanley’s Enemies of the Heart).

    Also agree about the library. I use my library’s overdrive system and get audiobook and kindle books without leaving the house.

  4. Great for kids who struggle with reading. I have a son whose comprehension level is so far above his reading level that reading is super frustrating for him (everything he can read is too boring and childish). Audiobooks are a treasure for him!

  5. Another audio resource I use listening to recording of talks from conferences we’ve attended. I had to drive to Fresno and back last Thursday to teach a class, three hours each way. I loaded the CDs from four talks Darrell Johnson gave a few years ago on the Upper Room Discourse and got a load of Bible and theology. I’ve heard the talks before, but love hearing them again and being reminded of God’s truth.

  6. I would further add that listening to such audio resources in a foreign language is indispensible for improving one’s “ear,” as well as for building vocabulary. With TV or films we follow the action and thus fill in the gaps with visual cues; an audio file removes this crutch. At first it is a lot harder to understand, just as phone conversations in a new language are always much harder than when face to face. Eventually, however, audio comprehension improves and leave you much better off.

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