How Audiobooks Can Enhance Your Reading Game

Estimated read time 5 min read

Imagine that every time you sit down and open a book, time stands still, and along with it, every single distraction that could pull you away from indulging in your favorite pastime. What an ideal world that would be for all readers instead of this fast-paced reality we currently exist in!

In the real world, it’s different. You don’t control your time and the choice of your surroundings 100% of the time. Making deliberate attempts might make little to no difference in your ability to tackle your TBR satisfactorily!

As a result, I have always regarded audiobooks as the more ingenious alternative format of reading available to an avid reader today.

But I also considered it one of those things that might not work for everyone, and especially not for me.

A Journey Through Text and Sound

At some point, I started to get the hang of audiobooks with sub-genres that seemed practical enough, like history, biographies, and self-help. Still, because I was worried that I would mix up the timelines or even lose track of the entire story, I never tried it with fiction.

Then, three years ago, on sheer impulse, following my frustration at the sudden unavailability of a book I had earlier saved on the Scribd App, I began to play Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud.

The audiobook turned out to be a fantastic production and a great listening experience. Since then, I have gone from listening at random to listening to at least one audiobook per month.

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I’m currently at a point where I can comfortably switch between multiple audiobooks in a given period and even follow along with a copy simultaneously, and my reading experience has been better for it.

Which Reads Better? Audiobooks or Physical Books?

There is a world of difference between the mechanics of copyreading and audiobook listening, so the deciding factor regarding a better experience is really dependent on a reader’s preference and goal.

Learning

In the process of reading a physical book, a person can develop their vocabulary, increase focus, and improve cognitive function. With audiobook listening, a reader gains similar skills with the added advantages of improved pronunciation, time management – since it supports multitasking – and listening skills.

The Middleman

While copyreading is primarily an exchange between two parties, audiobooks rely heavily on intermediaries whose interference can either elevate or ruin a readreader’serience.

Some positive examples can be seen in cases where an author self-narrates their book as it was intended to be read, which, in my experience, stimulates a feeling of warmth and exclusivity akin to what a reader can only experience at a reading, especially with works of poetry, lyrical prose and autobiographies as in She Would Be King by Wayetu Moore, Plantains and Our Becoming by Melania Louisa Marte,  As Soft As Fire by Upile Chisala, Finding Me by Viola Davis.

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What Difference Does Sound Make?

Some publishers have made great productions by casting voice actors who know just how to bring a story to life, casting multiple narrators where the narrative style demands multiple POVs, and adding sound effects like thunderclaps, rainfall, bird songs, the whirl of the wind, echoes, etc., to make the experience more immersive for the reader.

Unfortunately, the rest seem to have embraced it with less enthusiasm by publishing audiobooks that have been narrated by people who sound robotic at best and disinterested at worst.

For African authors, the standard can go even lower, as sometimes the narrators cannot speak the local languages and end up grossly mispronouncing them.

These errors are passed on, included in the referenced text, to the chagrin of a native speaker listening and the miseducation of others. Thus, it does a huge disservice to the author whose work is promoted and to the reader who has invested time and money in the book.

Which Option Should You Go For?

Consequently, I have finished and enjoyed audiobooks that I would most likely have DNFed, in copy format, simply because the narrator was fantastic and vice versa.

I have also enjoyed reading books that I know may not translate as well on audio because of the narrative style or for some other reason and vice versa.

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I have also found that some genres that do not work for me as copies read fantastically on audio, like romance.

What Do Audiobooks Mean for Reading in the Future?

If publishers approach the production of these books with more intention and creativity, the number of readers who gravitate towards this format as an alternative to the old favorite, copyreading, could surge.

Busy and aspiring bibliophiles alike can take advantage of its support for multitasking to build and maintain good reading habits.

Adventurous readers can also take advantage of its pliancy to discover new authors, explore new genres, finish tomes, commence new series, and even perfect the art of DNFing.

My Personal Top Audiobook Recommendations

Examples of incredible audiobook performances that have swept me off my feet include:

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo – Narrated by Chipo Chung
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – narrated by Anna Fields
The Street by Ann Petry – narrated by Danielle Deadwyler
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – narrated by Maura Tierney
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue – narrated by a cast.

Blessing Azuka John

Blessing is a lawyer that loves reading for the fun of it. She is Nigerian and mostly enjoys reading books by African and BIPOC authors. You can keep up with her on Instagram @she_reads_and_writes where she discusses the books she reads and how they made her feel.

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