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Okay, so here’s my thing with transitioning to audiobooks. Just because you are an awesome reader does not automatically mean you are going to be an awesome listener, at least not immediately. But this is actually good news. It means if you try an audiobook once and aren’t really into it, you aren’t somehow a person who is just incapable of audiobooks.
Audiobook literacy is a skill, just as printed word literacy is a skill and, while they are complementary, they do not overlap completely. If you are already a good reader, you have a huge leg up on developing your audiobook literacy, but you won’t just be magically there. It does take a little time to train your brain to process the spoken word in the same way it processes the written word; most of us haven’t sat and listened to someone read aloud to us for decades before starting to listen to audiobooks. I jumped right into audiobooks, but I found I would often have little to no idea what happened at the beginning of the book for my first 5-10 audios, because it wasn’t until the story sucked me in that my brain would realize it should be paying attention. Now, if you are trying to listen to a complicated audiobook, this can be an incredibly frustrating problem, because some books cannot be caught back up with easily. Obviously everyone will progress at different rates, but here are some things you can do to help acclimate your brain to audiobooks without frustration:
- Listen to books you have already read – Listening to old favorites is a great way to break into audiobooks. For one thing, if you lose concentration on the audio, it doesn’t particularly matter, because you already have a good idea as to the plot. It is a great way to let your brain work on the process of paying attention to the spoken word.
- Listen to audiobooks with less complex storylines – I still regret the fact that I attempted Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese on audio relatively early in my listening career. The narrator, Sunhil Malhotra, was fabulous, but the frequent jumps in the timeline of the story just lost and frustrated me. Straightforward plotlines are easier to follow along with, which is a huge help when your brain is still figuring this whole audiobook thing out.
- Listen to engaging narrators – If your first audiobook experience is with a mediocre narrator, you’re going to have a tough time paying attention, even to a really interesting book. Ask your listening friends who their favorite narrators are, and pick something up by them.
- Listen to an audiobook with quick pacing – Quick pacing catches your attention right away, and helps keep your interest for longer periods of time, without getting any listening fatigue. Mysteries tend to be particularly good for this, as long as they aren’t overly convoluted.
Do you have any tips to add? What are your top recommended titles or narrators for new listeners?