the joys of audiobooks

One of the major counter-culture-shocks I experienced upon moving back to Texas from Scotland was the amount of driving I had to do. I had lived without a car for six years in the UK and managed both daily life and international travel without one. I took public transport, cycled, or walked. There was no need for a car.

Not so in Texas.

2017-07-01 - Highway 380

I may live only 2.6 miles away from where I teach, but the public transport that connects where I live and where I work takes 45 minutes for what is a 10 min drive; there are no bicycle lanes and Texas drivers don’t know how to drive around cyclists; nor are there footpaths/sidewalks between there and here; and also, it’s too hot for me to walk or cycle even if there were the appropriate lanes and paths for me to do so. The same problems apply for if I wanted to go to the grocery store, or anywhere else in my city.

Add to that: My best friends live in another city 30 miles away (approximately 45 minutes without traffic), my second job is in a different city also 30 miles away (40 minutes without traffic), and my church is in a third city (20 minutes without traffic). My health specialists are also scattered across the north DFW area and range from 35 min to an hour to get to, without traffic. Have you noticed a theme here? Without traffic. It seems like all of the major arteries in the metroplex have some amount of road construction, meaning that more often than not there is traffic.

2016-10-14 - I35 modern ruins

I haven’t mentioned yet that I hate driving. I get bored in the car. I find it stressful. I get tense even when the roads are relatively clear. I hate having to find parking. The first year or so back in the States I avoided driving as much as I could. I tried to use public transport. I tried cycling and walking. I didn’t go to weekly game nights at my friends’ house because I didn’t want to drive that far at rush hour. I didn’t have a church in my city. It was lonely.

That’s when K. handed me her copy of The Hobbit on audiobook. She hates driving, too, and also wanted me to come over more often. She promised that listening to audiobooks would make driving more bearable.

And it does.

audiobook - Sabriel Nix

I’ve been listening to audiobooks in the car for two years now and it has helped tremendously. Nearly half of the books I read are on audiobook.

I didn’t expect to enjoy audiobooks as much as I do.

Although I was used to listening to the radio, such as NPR or the BBC, I wasn’t sure how much I would like listening to an extended narrative. It helped that my introduction to audiobooks was Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, all of which are read by the talented Rob Inglis. The reader can make or break an audiobook; it is amazing the effect a good reader can have on the whole experience of listening to an audiobook. (It’s also very jarring when a series changes readers mid-series!)

Through audiobooks I have (re)discovered the joy of the oral tradition in storytelling. Books that I loved reading ‘with my eyes’ are transformed into a new experience when reading ‘with my ears’. I’m forced to slow down and read the story at the pace of the spoken word; I notice new things, different things, than when I read silently to myself.

How do I choose an audiobook?

I prefer books that 1) I have already read, and 2) It’s been a while (usually years) since I last read them. That way I don’t have concentrate too much while driving as I have a general idea what will happen next. I make exceptions for new books in a series because I am already familiar with the setting and characters from reading the earlier books.

Where do I get my audiobooks?

From the library! My car only has a CD player, so I began by checking out audiobooks on CD from my local public library. If the library didn’t have the book I wanted, I requested it via ILL (Inter-Library Loan). Yes, the library will ILL audiobooks on CD!

audiobook - TSNotD WillisWhen I exhausted the ‘hard-copy’ options at my library, I began streaming audiobooks on my smartphone. You can check out digital copies of audiobooks from your library, too!

If your library doesn’t have the books you want on Overdrive or Hoopla, you can request that your library buy access to those books. If the books you want aren’t on Overdrive or Hoopla at all, then you can use Audible.

Audible requires a monthly subscription. The basic subscription provides one audiobook credit per month (most books cost only one credit). Once you buy an audiobook using your credits, it’s yours to keep. I use Audible only if my library doesn’t have a copy of the book I want in either CD or digital forms. I wish there were a way to donate purchased audiobooks to my library, but at least I can send audiobooks I’ve bought on Audible to friends.

Audiobooks have made more than just driving in the car more enjoyable. Now that I stream audiobooks on my phone, I listen to them while doing my physical therapy exercises at home or doing housework. They help me cope with chronic pain: If I wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep because of the pain, I can listen to an audiobook so that I am still resting and the story distracts me somewhat from hurting. Audiobooks also made recovering from glandular fever earlier this year more bearable. I didn’t have the physical energy to hold up a book or keep my eyes focused on a page to read visually, so I listened to books instead. It helped pass the time all those hours I was confined to my bed.

If you’re like me and hate driving, often have routine tasks to do, or want to squeeze more fiction into a busy schedule, then I heartily recommend trying out audiobooks. If you want to see what books I have listened, check out the ‘Books read in 2015’ and ‘2016’ lists on my Bibliophile page and look for the books with the # symbol next to them. Make use of your public library and enjoy!

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