Tonight I’m continuing my latest series on finding good books. Last week, I shared my tips for finding books from booksellers–whether from a brick and mortar store or an online retailer like Amazon. This week, I’m sharing a few tips for finding great audiobooks as well as my top five audiobooks of all time.
I used to think that listening to audiobooks was cheating on my reading goal, but here lately I’ve found that audiobooks are actually a really good way to get some reading done when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to read. I am an Audible member, and I’ve written more about how Audible works here. But for now, let’s talk about finding the right Audiobooks!
1. Know Your Genre
When I wrote this post about finding your next book, I encouraged you to know what types of genres you like to read. Well, after about a year of listening to audiobooks regularly, I’ve discovered that my preferred audiobook genre isn’t always the same as my reading genre.
For example, I love to listen to books about science and history that I might not otherwise get through if I had to read each page. I find that listening helps me absorb interesting facts without being bogged down by the sheer weight of the material. I also enjoy listening to classic fiction for the same reason, especially if it’s a book I’ve read before. There’s something about hearing a story that makes it a different experience than just reading. It’s also important to consider what you’ll be doing while listening–do you want an audiobook to keep you distracted on the treadmill? Try an exciting, suspenseful novel. Do you want to learn something while you clean the house? Check out a science or history title. If you’re not sure what your audio genres are, walk through the following steps to decide if the audiobook you’re looking at is a good fit.
2. Check the Listening Time
When I click over to an Audible book, the first thing I do is check the listening time. Nonfiction books are almost always longer than fiction books, unless it’s a massive work like War and Peace or Les Miserables. This biography of Alexander Hamilton was almost forty hours long. Check the time before you make an investment. If you’re not that interested in the subject matter, you won’t want to listen to the same book for a month.
3. Listen to the Sample
ALWAYS listen to a sample if you can. While you’re listening, remind yourself of the listening time. If the narrator sounds irritating in the sample, chances are he’ll sound twice as irritating twenty hours in. I always listen to see if the narrator is engaging. Sometimes he or she will perform different voices for different characters–something that can be really helpful if you’re listening to long works of fiction. Listening to the sample also helps ensure that you’ve picked the right book. You’d be amazed at how many different audio versions of the same book are out there.
3. Read the Reviews
This is true for any online shopping, and audiobooks are no different. I’ve found that readers are very, very honest when it comes to describing the narration of an audiobook, so crowdsource your research and see what other people have to say.
4. Double Check the Price
If you’re an Audible subscriber, make sure that the price of the book isn’t less than the amount of your monthly credit. You’ll end up paying more for the book than the selling price.
I hope those tips helped–now for the fun part: recommendations. I’ve enjoyed digging into some audiobooks over the last year, and these are my top five:
- How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson (Five stars, truly fascinating look at innovation)
- What If? Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (Good if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if every human on earth stood in the same place and jumped, also narrated by Will Wheaton, which is a plus)
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Narrated by Rosamund Pike, and quite possibly the best narrated audiobook I’ve ever heard)
- One Summer by Bill Bryson (Narrated by the author–usually something to be wary of, but Bryson does a nice job!)
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Such a great novel–I own the paper copy, too! Also narrated by Will Wheaton)
Whatever books you choose, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments below how your audiobook search is going or if you need more recommendations. I just love audiobooks for when I exercise, get ready for work, and drive to and from work and grad school.