When I was working on finishing my English degree, I had very little time to read for fun. I’m sure you’ll notice the irony in that. It was my love for reading that drew me to English in the first place. But it didn’t take long for me to discover that I didn’t have to give up on reading for fun entirely. I started regularly listening to audiobooks. I’m definitely a visual learner, so I was very resistant to listening to audiobooks at first, but I picked up a few tricks along the way and now I love it. Before audiobooks, it felt like all my free time went to studying or working, but listening to books while I drove, cleaned, and cooked made it possible for me to keep checking books off my list. I meant to write a quick post about a few places you can find audiobooks, but then I realized that I have years of knowledge and experience to share with you. Here are my best tips for listening to audiobooks!
Best Free Audiobooks
As a college student, listening to books through Overdrive was a lifesaver. Here’s how it works. Overdrive is a website/app with hundreds of thousands of free ebooks and audiobooks that you access through your library or school. You’ll have to check that your local library participates, but as far as I can tell, it’s pretty universal. Using your library card, you sign into your library’s Overdrive account and can then download all kinds of audiobooks. If you’re a Kindle user, you can also check out ebooks and have them sent to your Kindle.
Each library only has a certain amount of copies, so sometimes you have to put yourself on a waiting list before you can download certain books. The nice thing about using Overdrive instead of picking up physical books from the library is that there are no late fees. Once your loan expires, you can no longer access the book and have to check it out again, which is a pain if you’re in the middle of a book and there’s a waitlist.
- Easy to use
- There are no fees for forgetting to return your book
- You sometimes have to wait a while to check something out, especially if it’s a popular title
- There’s a limit to how long you can have the books
I’ll admit, I haven’t plumbed the depths of YouTube for audiobooks yet, but I know they’re on there. It’s definitely something you could try out while you’re doing stuff around the home. I listened to some of The Canterbury Tales on YouTube for school so I could hear how things were supposed to be pronounced in Middle English. If Middle English is your jam, now you know where to find it. If it’s not (which would truly be shocking 😉 ), this link for Greatest Audiobooks looks like a good place to start on YouTube.
- Requires streaming and so could use a lot of data if you’re not on wifi
Every year, AudioFile Magazine makes it their mission to put books into the earbuds of teenagers. The great thing for those of us who aren’t teenagers is that they’re not exclusive. Anyone can download two books per week each summer. The caveat is that you have to make sure you download them the week that they’re offering them, and you have to store the audiobooks either on your phone or your computer. Anne Bogel has a wonderful guide plus some recommendations here.
- Don’t expire
- Take up a lot of storage space
- You have to download them the week that they’re available
Most Convenient Audiobooks
Spotify is so much more than music now. You can also listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I haven’t tested this out yet, but it seems like it would be a great way to listen to books without worrying about them expiring. They have things like Charles Dickens’ Classics and Love Poems and Scary Stories. Let me know if you’re a fan of listening to audiobooks on Spotify! I’d love to know what I should check out.
- Don’t expire
- More short stories and poetry available here than elsewhere
- Would probably use a lot of data if you’re not on wifi and don’t have a Spotify subscription
My husband has a collection of books on iTunes that he listens to over and over again. Personally, I rarely re-read (or re-listen to) books, so purchasing books on iTunes doesn’t really appeal to me. There are plenty more people who do love to revisit their favorites though, so buying some audiobooks through iTunes would be a great option for you.
- They don’t expire
- They’re easy to navigate
- They cost money
Audible is basically the king of good quality audiobooks. The narration is usually fantastic, though the books are a little pricey. I only recently jumped on the Audible bandwagon, but so far I’m really enjoying it. My husband and I have an Amazon Echo in our kitchen/living area. We’ve been listening to audiobooks together while we’re relaxing or while one of us is cooking. We liked it so much that we got an Echo Dot for our bedroom so we can listen to audiobooks while we fall asleep. Of course, you definitely don’t have to have an Echo to enjoy the benefits of having a book through Audible. But if you do have an Echo, this is definitely the most convenient way to listen to audiobooks. We just say, “Alexa, play Sherlock Holmes,” and away we go to 18th Century England.
There are a couple ways you can listen to books from Audible.
- Get an Audible membership. You get at least one book credit per month plus discounts on all other audiobooks.
- Buy Audible books without the membership. They won’t be discounted, but you don’t have to commit to $15+ a month.
- Buy books using Whispersync (I’ll explain more below!)
- Great quality audiobooks
- Your first book is free
- No waitlist
- You can find pretty much anything you’re looking for
- They’re the perfect way to listen to audiobooks if you have an Amazon Echo
- There are usually a lot of sales if you have the membership, so definitely watch for those!
- If you really hate a book, you can exchange it for another (though there IS a limit to how many times you can do this)
- They cost money
This is the secret to finding cheaper Audible books, especially if you already own a fair amount of Kindle books. This is a way for you to “upgrade” your Kindle books to include the audio version. The neat thing about this option is that you can switch back and forth between the Kindle book and the audiobook, and Amazon will sync where you’re at in the book. Sometimes you can upgrade your books for only pennies, but often it’s much more than that, especially if you’re buying something other than classics. The best way to find out if you can upgrade your existing books is to use this link, and Amazon will do all the work for you, giving you a list of Kindle books you already own and telling you how much it would cost to upgrade.
You can also upgrade to the Whispersync version when you’re purchasing the Kindle version as well. If it’s available, there will be a little checkbox underneath the purchase button that says “Add Audible book to your purchase for just $2.95” (or whatever the price is). Just make sure the box is checked when you purchase the book and the book will automatically show up in your Audible account. You can look for new Kindle books with Audible companions here. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy the Kindle + Audible than it is to buy the book straight from Audible, so that’s always worth checking into.
Tricks for picking out a good audiobook:
Always listen to the sample, especially if you’re going to buy the book. Most of the time the narrators are great, but sometimes you can’t stand the narrator for one reason or another.
Pick things that you know are going to be easy to listen to, especially if you’re just dipping your toe in the water of audiobooks. This is especially true of those who are more visual learners, like me. Maybe you’re the type of person who can listen to Moby Dick or Les Miserables, but I’m certainly not. I gotta see that stuff. I like to listen to Young Adult novels or recent (and usually easier to understand) memoirs.
Some of my favorite audiobooks
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Of course this is on my list. The narrator, Jim Dale, is fantastic, though my husband and I don’t love his voice for Hermione. You get used to it after a little while though.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
This is a really fun series to listen to. If you haven’t read these books because the movies scared you off, just know that the books are basically nothing like the movies.
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This is a classic worth reading… I mean listening to. My husband and I are listening to this version narrated by Stephen Fry right now. It’s plenty long so you definitely get your money’s worth. There’s also a book read by Benedict Cumberbatch that I’ve had my eye on.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
This is a recommendation for this book particularly, but also of an entire sub-genre–celebrities reading their memoirs. There’s something about hearing their books read in their own voices that makes them extra special and extra funny. This one and this one actually had me laughing out loud, which is rare for me.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
There’s nothing like listening to a spooky classic late at night. Dracula is one of the rare classics that’s not super difficult to comprehend, so it makes for a great audiobook.
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
If you haven’t heard of Jim Gaffigan, you’re definitely missing out. He’s a comedian who lives in NYC with his wife and 5 or 6 kids (I lost count). He narrated his own audiobooks and they are hilarious. This one is just as funny, and educational too. I definitely learned about food culture from listening to this book.
On my TBR:
Pride and Prejudice narrated by Rosamund Pike (who played Jane in the Keira Knightley adaptation)
West Cork by Sam Bungee and Jennifer Forde
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle
A Final Note
If you’re anything like me, you love to learn and to experience new stories. A problem I sometimes run into with audiobooks is not giving myself enough white space. Definitely listen to as many books as you want to, but don’t forget to let your brain rest too. Believe it or not, the silence is good for us.
I hope you were able to learn something new about listening to audiobooks. Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite audiobooks are!