What nobody tells you about picking an audiobook

What nobody tells you about picking an audiobook

In Expert Tips, For the Love of Reading by Kelsey Fritts

What nobody tells you about picking an audiobook

If you’ve always wondered about the allure of audiobooks but never really tried them out, this could be your sign from the universe that it’s time. Audiobooks are trending, and time-strapped readers are turning to this format while fitting in activities like walking, cleaning, and even traveling.

Audiobooks are a fantastic medium for consuming books and learning new information (without the eye strain). Plus, you can listen on the go, which makes chores and commuting a heck of a lot more fun.

But when you’re new to the game, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few ways to make sure the audiobook you pick is also one you finish.

1. Pick a book you're excited to read

First things first: You want to pick a book you’re looking forward to digging into. After all, this should be fun. 

Start with a genre you enjoy, not one that’s totally new to you. If you aren’t happy when listening to an unfamiliar genre, it may be difficult to dissect whether it’s the topic you don’t like, or the delivery. For example, if you’ve never read a fantasy novel, tackling a high fantasy saga might be too overwhelming when you’re still adjusting to listening. On the other hand, if you adore murder mysteries and can’t resist a good whodunit, start with a classic like And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. 

2. Check if there are visuals

While audiobooks sometimes come with supplementary PDFs, they aren’t conducive to visuals — that includes: maps to flip back to, charts to review, and illustrations that might clarify concepts. Even if you have the best intentions, most people don’t get around to downloading them. 

Instead, keep it simple and make it as easy as possible to follow along. That means a book on a complex scientific concept might be better suited to digital or print. But if you enjoy a good popular science read, you could try something like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which comes with unexpected laughs but no reference materials.

3. Determine the recording length (and go short)

One of the most underrated parts of audiobooks is that you can see how long the recording is up front and choose wisely. Keep your books at a manageable length so you can practice your active listening skills without getting lost or overwhelmed. Plus, a shorter book typically means faster pacing, which can help you stay engaged with the story.

If you enjoy young adult books that tackle social themes like race and sexuality, try The Poet X, which clocks in at three hours. For a fantasy choice of the same length, listen to Burning Roses, a novella. Or, if you have five hours to spare and want to dive deeper into mindfulness, download The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now. (Remember the first tip — pick a book you’re excited to read in a genre you’re familiar with.)

4. Listen to a preview first so you can hear the narrator(s)

Before you download a book, listen to the sample and see what you think of the narrator. 

You might find their accent enchanting, or too difficult to understand. You might love the soft female voice, or you might struggle to hear her, even with your volume turned up. You may think that gravelly rasp perfectly suits the mood of the book, or it might become grating.

If you’re finding it difficult to engage with a narrator during the five-minute preview, you’ll likely struggle throughout the whole book. 

Additionally, some authors narrate their own titles — which can be a pro, or a con. When you find an author who is also an excellent narrator, the story can become even more captivating. Neil Gaiman, for example, is known for wonderful narration of his own books, including The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

As you listen to more audiobooks, you’ll be able to better gauge the types of narrators you gravitate towards.

5. Note the reviews

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of reviews. You can find commentary on the story, the narrator’s voice, and the narrator’s performance — all of which can help you make a decision if you aren’t sure. If 15 glowing reviews gush about how the narrator brought the story to life, that’s probably a good one to try. 

Don’t let a lack of reviews stop you, though. You’ve got four other great tools you can use to inform your decision. Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to pop open your Scribd app and download your audiobook.

For summer travel inspiration, check out the Essential Audiobooks for Your Summer Road Trip, or even The Best Books and Audiobooks of 2021 list from our Scribd editors.


About the Author: Kelsey Fritts

Kelsey is a writer, editor, anthropologist, and bookworm. She's also the author of two young adult fantasy novels. When she's not out exploring in nature or playing with her ridiculously spoiled dog, you can find Kelsey curled up with a mug of hot cocoa and a novel—likely one by Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, Margaret Atwood, or Ursula K. Le Guin.