Falling ears on heels for audiobooks


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Last vacation, my beloved looked beyond my wish list (books, books and books) to surprise me. At the bottom of my stocking, I found and unpacked a mysterious square box to discover headphones, my initials on the case and all. Little did I know that this generous and intuitive gift would bring unexpected changes to my life as a reader.

In the past, I had a brief romance with audiobooks. Mostly on the roads in Northern California, disc after disc of titles I borrowed from the library, they drove me to and from work. With the volume all the way up and the windows down (my air conditioning had failed years before), I returned to a few favorites in a different format: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Edith Grossman and narrated by Armando Durán, and that of Janet Fitch White Oleander, narrated by Oprah Winfrey. I listened and listened until my battery died. Because I couldn’t find the security code to access the CD drive, I drove in silence until I discovered the forgettable numbers years later.

Since my bookish trip to the East Bay, a lot has changed. I said goodbye to my dear car and, for now, to the Golden State. I work from home. Audiobooks come through my wireless in-ear headphones, or I put my phone in an empty orange coffee can as I orbit a room.

Halfway through a sweltering July, I finished 40 audiobooks this year. That’s 39% of the books I’ve read in 2022 so far. The popularity of audiobooks has increased, and I’m late to the party and catching up. But I calmed down at first, only slipping my headphones on for afternoon walks with my pup and listening at normal 1.0x speed.

audiobook cover of Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy by Larissa Pham

My first audiobook of 2022 was Larissa Pham’s Pop Song, and it was a fluke. At the front door, I tied my sneakers while Cindy Kay narrated the opening of “On Running”: “October in Connecticut. I’m 19, lacing my running shoes well. Me, not 19 years and in Mississippi, I looped my switchbacks then the neighborhood cul-de-sacs with prose in my ears. I started to walk longer, my heart pounding and my brain wrinkling. I finished the book in a week.

On my second listen, my crush on this format deepened as the repetition, poetry and to-do lists of A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, narrated by Siobhán McSweeney, moved me. be on the move and reading suited me. (It reminded me of those days long ago when I brought a novel on the elliptical from the gym.) Suddenly my reading was no longer limited to where I could open a book long enough for a poem or a page. . I didn’t even need to remember a book; they were already with me. Also, I liked the fact that when I wanted a title, I could download it and get started – amazing for that slice of mood reader pie from me.

Before finishing my second book of 2022 with my ears, I found Libby, downloaded it and borrowed another one. Finding this format in a new way, I wanted to assess how audiobooks would fit into my life. Once I was officially in love, I wanted them with me almost everywhere. My time dedicated to walking and listening extended to folding laundry and listening. While Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, narrated by Shayna Small, played, I cooked and washed the dishes, brushed my teeth and stretched before bed. At the end of January, I finished three titles and paused my fourth at 60%.

One thing about me: I crave background music — podcasts, music, TV shows, and movies for comfort — while I work. Between daydreaming and concentrating, I prefer something there when an easy task or a moment between tasks comes along, like waiting for a page to load, heating up lukewarm coffee, or gazing at green trees and puffy clouds.

Cover of The Poet X audiobook by Elizabeth Acevedo

Knowing that I wouldn’t be 100% present for new readings during work hours, I brought back an old habit that worked. I borrowed books I was hoping to see again, including The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (both narrated by the authors). I found myself pausing to hear sections I loved and falling in love with new ones. I sampled faster speeds: 1.25x and 1.5x. I’ve studied the beginnings, and I can’t count how many times I’ve rewound the jaw-dropping ending to The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade, narrated by Gary Tiedemann. I loved listening to familiar books so much that I started buying titles I already treasured and owned in paperback format on audio.

This time with the format, I learn a lot. 73% of my audiobooks come from the library, so I find myself diversifying in terms of reading: gobbling up more contemporary fiction, mid-level novels, and romance with my ears; sampling – and liking – titles that I wouldn’t usually pick up at a bookstore. Some things stay the same too. I bookmark phrases and passages (with a simple tap) to copy later. An assiduous proofreader, I enjoy listening to it again.

With fewer headaches, rested eyeballs, and a cleaner kitchen, my headphones and I bonded. With nine unread titles ready to download and an audiobook credit awaiting a blue afternoon, I’m focused on finishing Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation, narrated by Julia Whelan, to come back early for the long line of takes. All this to say that the audiobooks and me, totally enamored, are just getting warmer.

If you’re interested in audiobooks, check out these wonderful articles: How to Listen to Audiobooks, 9 of the Best Audiobook Subscription Services, and The Best Audiobooks 2022 Has to Offer (So Far!).

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