In uncharted waters with audio books

So I’ve been sick of my music and sick of the radio. Tired of everything I listen to during my commute, and even more worn out by the idea of going through my back catalog of CDs looking for something that won’t make me want to crash into a tree.

I have some depressing stuff in there.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the long drive my boyfriend and I made to New York and lamented the fact that, with nothing but time spread out before me, I couldn’t read in the car. I get terribly queasy and headache-y. And everyone was so supportive, chiming in that they have the same issue, but the same comment kept surfacing: Listen to an audio book.

Well, I actually have audio books . . . several of them. And after a brief attempt to listen to Emily Giffin’s Heart Of The Matter years ago, I’d preemptively decided they weren’t for me. The trouble was that I’d put several chapters on my iPod and was trying to listen at work, and . . . well, I was at work. I was doing stuff. Typing emails. Answering phones. Writing things. So of course I didn’t absorb anything. And of course the experience was lukewarm at best. I couldn’t concentrate on the words.

But I’ve been thinking about your comments. And though I didn’t think I spent anywhere near enough time in the car to make listening to an audio book worthwhile, I was wrong.

Heart Of The Matter has taken up residence in my Toyota’s CD player for the past week and let me tell you, friends: it is awesome. When calculating how much time I spend driving weekly, I somehow failed to add in the amount of time I drive to and from seeing my boyfriend (about 40 minutes a day, every other day or so); my time running errands at lunch (at least 20 minutes daily) and my drive to and from work (about 20-25 minutes daily). And that’s just, you know, on a normal day.

I find it soothing, having someone read to me — like I’ve gone back 20 years and am gathered around my second-grade teacher as she recites some of our favorite stories. Listening to a story opens me up for further visualizing what’s happening, too, and paints a surprisingly vivid picture of each scene in my mind.

I no longer cringe and smack my steering wheel when I miss a light or have to take a detour. These unexpected shifts in my driving schedule are an opportunity to squeeze in a few more “pages” of Giffin’s novel, a delightful listen narrated by Cynthia Nixon. As I know each route by heart, having taken these particular roads approximately 11,800 times, I can get lost in the story while still safely reaching my destination. And it is awesome.

I’m more than halfway done with the book and am already looking for how I can get my next fix. At our local library, I paged through the shelves of books on audio and marveled at the new world that’s suddenly opened for me. Even though I have four discs of Heart Of The Matter left, I couldn’t resist walking out with Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata.

I’m officially converted.


18 thoughts on “In uncharted waters with audio books

  1. I like audiobooks for long car trips. I used to listen to them when I was driving back and forth from New York to New Jersey…now I think they’d be great for exercising. If you know, I could actually motivate myself to exercise.

  2. I absolutely love audiobooks now and never thought I ever would! My favorites are Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (read by Emilia Fox), The Help, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (read by Cassandra Campbell), the Valentine series by Adriana Trigiani (read by Cassandra Campbell) – well, anything by Cassandra Campbell is normally a plus. I’m also listening to the 31 hour audio of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and love it (just as good as when I read the book twice in the past five years). You will love audiobooks, and once you find exactly what you love, you will always have one in the car, when you’re doing errands, etc…!

  3. For me it was an acquired skill. I had a similar experience as your first attempt. I tried to listen to the wrong book under the wrong circumstances and said nope, not for me. A few years later I tried again (while relaxing and gardening) and now I can’t even walk to work without listening to my book.

  4. My experience exactly: I didn’t realize how much time I spent in the car til I got the audiobooks going; and I’m now much less bothered by traffic jams. 🙂 Bonus: I have a pretty long walk (10 min or so) between parking my car and my workplace. Enter earbuds. Pleasure. Glad you figured this out. 🙂

  5. I adore audiobooks! I’ve started listening to them while cleaning my house! It makes it much easier to motivate myself… sort of.

  6. I can’t even function without audio in my life. Not only for the car, but working in the yard, cleaning the house, walking, or cooking. Brainless things you don’t have to think about. You are going to double your reading now!

  7. I only listen in the car, and sometimes while walking. So it takes me FOREVER to get through an audiobook. There are times when I’m tempted to keep driving…

  8. Welcome to the club! I had to train myself to be able to listen to audiobooks, too — and I’ve never looked back. Now, I get a little twitchy if I don’t have my next audiobook lined up by the time I reach the 2nd-to-last disc of my current one.

  9. Yay! I fell in love with audio books a couple of months ago. I haven’t been to the library in a couple of weeks and am already tired of the radio. I hope to go get a couple of new audio books this afternoon.

  10. Yay! Glad you are loving the audiobook experience. I am officially converted too…and so happy to have opened myself up to trying them out! I already read HEART OF THE MATTER in book form, but it sounds like it would be good as an audiobook!

  11. I love audio books in the car, but I’m really fussy about the book. It can’t be something that requires too much thought – like a mystery or a serious literature novel. I really enjoy women’s fiction in the car – Emily Griffin, Elin Hilderbrand. I listened to Julia Glass’ novels too and enjoyed them.

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