Many readers, when they hear about audiobooks for the first time, or when someone encourages them to try them out, often show concern about the medium. They worry that consuming a book in this manner will be something difficult to do, or not give them the same joy reading in print does.
I completely empathise with this worry, and I accept that audiobooks aren’t for everyone. While several readers rejoice about how audiobooks made it possible to have a reading life again by helping them focus on a story when print became too demanding, many others claim exactly the opposite: that they can’t seem to be able to focus on what they’re listening to.
Both experiences are valid, and although I am a massive audio fan, I can envision how and why it may not work for some.
In my own personal experience, listening to audiobooks wasn’t an entirely straight path either; I even wrote about that, and how I found ways to practice my focus, going from radio comedies and dramas to podcasts, all the way to audiobooks.
There is a reason why we at Book Riot have written several articles giving tips to those who wish to pick up audiobooks but don’t know how, or tried it and found out they couldn’t. Because, sometimes, it indeed requires practice and persistence.
But if you are already an audiobook consumer, even a very versed one, I have one simple tip which might change your listening experience for the better. Put simply: start your audiobooks all over again.
Now, before you click that little cross in the corner, already expecting me to give you nothing new, grant me the chance to explain. Because what I am asking you to consider isn’t a rereading. I haven’t done a reread in years. With so many wonderful books out there, rereading can feel daunting, taking away precious time that you might as well bestow upon an entirely new story. I absolutely get that, and I only reread audiobooks under a couple of very strict conditions: with some nonfiction — because nonfiction can be so complete and intricate, that assimilating all the information in one go can be tricky — or if I really, really enjoyed the book and the narration.
But no, rereading is not what this tip is about. My advice and proposition is a sort of ramp that will help you understand what you are reading far better, from the very beginning. This is what I do: every time I start a new audiobook, I listen to the first half-hour, and then I restart it. Just that. Half an hour extra of your time.
The reason why I do this is simple: I am a book-out book-in kind of reader, meaning that I take very little time off between books. I will finish a book and start a new one immediately. This also happens for audiobooks. As soon as I get to the end of the credits, I peruse my personal library, choose the next story, and I immediately dive into it.
I know this approach may not be the wisest, and I would have a lot to win from simply considering what I just read for a few days before embarking on a new adventure, but I am always eager to start a new story, so I do.
The only issue is that it always takes me a moment to get used to a new voice, a new story and narrative, and a new pace. And it isn’t as easy to reread a sentence in an audiobook as it is in print. So for the first 30 minutes or so, I am usually just getting adjusted to this whole new array of things, and that compromises my comprehension.
In the last few months, as standard practice, I started to simply let myself get lost in the narration, without worrying about how much of it I am soaking up. Just immersing myself in the experience, all vibes and no thoughts. Then, about half an hour in, I will rewind the whole thing (including intro credits) and start it all over again.
Half an hour doesn’t seem like a lot of time — and, in the big scheme of things, it isn’t — but it helps me to adjust, and to become familiar enough with the story in order to absorb it better.
If you’ve been having trouble getting into new audiobooks, or if you feel like you lose a lot of what is happening at the beginning because of the reasons I mentioned above (new story, new narrator, new pace), maybe this is a technique to consider. Just give yourself the time to let your mind wander a bit, before starting it for real.
You may insist that simply giving yourself a few days before starting a new audiobook might be as productive, but I’d argue with that, at least on a personal level. Whether I plunge into a new story straight away or stop for a minute, I always seem to need some time to readjust and truly get into it. Making this compromise of simply going back allows me to fully comprehend the story from page one, and enjoy it more.
Furthermore, it will avoid the very annoying chance of listening fully to an audiobook, missing almost all of it entirely, and then either having to DNF it, finish it but not know anything about it, or having to start it all over again after reaching its end.
Give this a try.