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Learning to Listen: Tips to Help You Get Into Audiobooks

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Carina Pereira

Staff Writer

Carina Pereira, born in ‘87, in Portugal. Moved to Belgium in 2011, and to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 2019. Avid reader, changing interests as the mods strikes. Whiles away the time by improvising stand-up routines she’ll never get to perform. Books are a life-long affair, audiobooks a life-changing discovery of adulthood. Selling books by day, writer by night. Contact

First, you should know that this audiobook lover used to claim that she couldn’t sit long enough to listen to an audiobook. That she would get distracted and lose focus. That audiobooks weren’t her thing. Well, she was wrong. I was wrong. Getting into audiobooks was easier than I thought, but I have to admit I started in cheat mode.

A very skeptical me sat listening to the famous radio sitcom by John Finnemore, Cabin Pressure, and I knew then there was no turning back. I was hooked. After that, little I-don’t-know-if-I-can-stay-focused-enough-to-listen-to-this me was craving radio sitcoms. From this to audiobooks was just a small step.

So if you’re trying to get into audiobooks and every attempt so far seems to have failed you, here are some tips which worked for me.

Start with radio comedy sitcoms.

Comedy taught me to pay attention to stories in audio form. You don’t need to focus when you listen to music, but you will not want to miss the cue on a joke. You can choose stand-up comedy, there are many albums out there, but radio sitcoms are better: they have an original plot, different characters and, therefore, different voices. The change in intonation, the adequate background noises, and the funny twists will make it easier to stay tuned.

Cabin Pressure, Bleak Expectations, Wooden Overcoats and Reluctant Persuaders are just a few of my favourite comedy sitcoms. Some of these are even available to download for free, and some still have ongoing series. Be aware, though: you’ll be laughing like a maniac, so it’s wise to avoid public spaces.

Go on to book dramatization.

Radio dramas are to audiobooks what movies are to books. You get the content, and the story, but with a quick succession of scenes that cut through the chase and keep the most important bits. Of course, if you are a book lover, you’ll know the book is always better, but if audio dramas can help you get into unabridged audiobooks, anything goes!

As it happens with comedy, BBCRadio4 has many good dramatizations. From Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, there’s a lot to choose from.

Find an audiobook read to an audience.

This is very specific, so I’ll direct you to a lovely reading of The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.

It was filmed on one of  Gaiman’s book tours, and it was the first complete audiobook I listened to. The reason I found this live version more enthralling than the recorded audio, is because it almost feels that you are part of that audience. You’ll empathise with the reactions of the crowd, which will make you interact more with the story as well.

Find a biography or a technical book.

I’ve spent countless hours listening, among others, to Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Bruce Springsteen, and Trevor Noah, finding out interesting details about people I admire as if they were by my side, telling me their life story.

I learned about neuroscience, about writing, about the susceptibility of the human mind.

I wouldn’t have read these books if it wasn’t for their audio form, and they’re one of the easiest things to listen to because you’re not only being told a story, you are also gathering new information, so your mind is entertained and will stay focused more easily.

Choose a story you already know.

Now it’s time to experience some recorded audiobooks. Different people like different voices, so go on to Audible, choose a few books you like, listen to their samples, and then choose the narrator you enjoy the most. By listening to a book you already know by heart, you will train your ear without minding too much about missing parts of the story.

As a recommendation, you’ve got the old tale, Matilda, by Roald Dahl. Read by Kate Winslet, it’s a pearl. She nails all voices, intonation… a wonder.

Finally, get a new fiction audiobook.

Okay, the hour of the great reveal. It’s now time to choose an audiobook with a new story and give it a try. Take the chance to do those dishes you’ve been piling up or the ironing which never ends, you can even use the ride to the supermarket to put on an audiobook and get lost in the story and while away time.

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m sure you’ll now be able to listen to the millions of audiobooks available out there.

Here are 11 websites where you can even get them for free.

Enjoy it!