Friday, May 29, 2015

Audiobooks - my tips & recommendations

You guys know I love audiobooks. I told you why you should listen to them, but today I wanted to share my recommendations and tips for choosing the right audiobook for you.

If you know audiobooks aren't for you like you know the back of your hand, that's cool. Stop reading. But I have had several people tell me that they tried audiobooks but they didn't like them.. only for me to dig deeper and discover they chose the wrong book or didn't like the narrator. So if you think you want to give audiobooks a chance, or you have and weren't a fan - then I'm (hopefully) here to help.

Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

First, my (sometimes contradictory) tips:

1. Don't listen to something you wouldn't read.
If a book doesn't sound good, you're most likely not going to enjoy it whether you read it or listen to it. Of course, there are exceptions but if you don't like classics, listening or reading them is most likely not going to make a difference. I also don't like to listen to certain genres or types of books - nothing scary or over emotional thanks. You'll learn what genre you most like listening to. Don’t bother investing in audiobooks for topics that you’re not deeply interested in. 

2. Listen to something you wouldn't read.
I know, this makes no sense, but hear me out. I recently listened to The Martian and I am still going on about how much I loved it. A friend of mine read it and she said the sciencey stuff went too far over her head - I totally understand and I 100% credit my love for this book for the narrator - he made it so interesting and understandable. I also stay way more interested in non-fiction books when I listen to them vs. when I read them because I generally don't enjoy non fiction.

3. Pick something easy, familiar or comfortable.
See that comfort zone everyone is telling you to break out of in every other aspect of life? I am here to tell you, grab a blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle right smack bang into that comfort zone. You love Harry Potter? Listen to it (cough, Stephen Fry, cough, never Jim Dale, cough). You've seen the movie but haven't read the book? You know you already love that author? You read that book years ago, want to read it again but don't have the time? Listen to it. I need the audiobook to be simple and easy enough that if I need to road rage for a second, I didn't miss much.

4. Step lightly outside of your comfort zone.
After you have listened to a book in your comfort zone, step lightly outside of it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I love Pride & Prejudice, but when it comes to other classics my attention can wander or I will read the same line over and over again without understanding. I still love them, but sometimes I don't want to have to concentrate to read. Hearing someone else read it can help me understand it. It's very close to my comfort zone, but slightly outside of it.

5. Be weary of your emotions or limits.
This might not apply to anyone but myself, but I cannot listen to a sad book. I cry easily, so I don't want to be at the gym or sitting in traffic bawling my eyes out. Also, further to #1, I don't want to listen to anything scary or that will make me squirm. I know some people who listened to books like 50 Shades of Grey - good for you, not for me. I can read books that are sad, or romantic, or scary (sometimes) but I know I don't want to listen to them.

6. Don't multi task too much.
I can listen while running or at the gym, in the car or cleaning the house. I cannot listen whilst working, being on the computer or reading anything else. 

7. Look for books read by the author.
I know a lot of people didn't love Eat, Pray, Love. I think I enjoyed it because it was read by the author. Obviously, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are funny anyway and I just feel like I wouldn't have got the same thing from their books if I had actually read them.

8. Be picky.
I am so picky with choosing an audiobook. Most of the time, I am listening to a book, reading a physical book and reading one on my kindle. Not at the same time, but you get what I mean. I look on my TBR list and I choose a few that would be good to listen to and I see if I can get a hold of them for free or cheap. If I can't, I see if I can get the physical books for free or cheap. Sometimes I go months without listening to an audiobook because the right one did not come along with the right price. I'm picky, but I would rather love a book than hate one because I knew I shouldn't have listened to it.

9. Learn when to give up.
I have stopped more audiobooks than real books. For some reason, it's easier for me to say 'nope' and give up on an audiobook than on a real book. Sometimes the book is just bad and sometimes the narrator sucks. Sometimes I stop listening and start reading. Sometimes I give up altogether. Don't keep listening if you're not enjoying it.

10. Preview the narrator. SERIOUSLY.
Saving the most important for last. Can't stress this enough. I do not like Jim Dale, everybody else does. I listened to The Night Circus and I am quite certain I did not like that book because I do not like his voice or the way he reads. Unfortunately, I didn't realise this until afterwards. I love the Stephanie Plum books and tried to re-read / listen to them recently and I couldn't stand the person reading so I had to switch to ebooks. The narrator can make or break your enjoyment, I am not kidding.

Now! For my recommendations:


Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

Bossypants by Tina Fey - This is my first recommendation when people ask about audiobooks.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I am not a huge fan of Amy Poehler and not in a mean way, just in a I don't know that much about her way, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - again, not a huge fan but only for lack of knowing anything about him, and I really really enjoyed this.
Other books I haven't listened to but have heard great things are Seriously... I'm Kidding by Chelsea Handler's books

Non Fiction

Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - highly recommend. I did cry a lot though, so it was a strictly while driving book and not at the gym. Bonus, it's read by Edward Herrmann, who was Rory's grandpa and had a fabulous voice. He died last year, sadly. 
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - you might be thinking 'but Kristen I have friends' but seriously. Good book, worth a listen (or read).
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - I actually read this but I think I would have enjoyed the audiobook more as it very sciencey.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey - This isn't as self help-y as it's sounds, I promise. Very, very interesting.

Awesome narrators
Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I know, I know but it's read by Patrick Stewart. Need I say more?
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - read by the author, seriously absolutely brilliant.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - if you haven't read this, I would recommend the audiobook over the real thing. It's read by Gilbert and I enjoyed it, though not sure if I would have if I'd physically read it.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman - This is a great book, and a fabulous audiobook. It's read by Rob Reiner - unfortunately it is abridged, but it's still good.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - read by Sissy Spacek. Seriously, I have both read and listened to this and I just love love love the audiobook.
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe - read by James Earl Jones. His voice is probably more famous than his face.
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy - read by Alan Rickman you guys. Alan Rickman!
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling - I don't know what it is but I despise Jim Dale's voice. Stephen Fry forever. It's freaking Stephen Fry you guys!

Fiction or Favourites

Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

The Martian by Andy Weir - Seriously, this might be my favourite audiobook ever.
The Rosie Project by 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by 
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - this is like listening to the movie, maybe because Octavia Spencer who plays Minny reads the character in the audiobook. So good. Not just one narrator.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I really enjoyed this series, I know some people didn't, but it was like my first dystopian or the like so it was all new and enjoyable to me.
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins - I didn't listen to this because I thought the content would be more suited to reading for me, but it wasn't that bad.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack  - one of my favourites of all time.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I'm actually listening to this right now, so far it's an absolutely amazing book.

These are all my personal recommendations, I have listened to all but one or two and I listened to the samples for the ones I read but did not listen to.

Do you like audiobooks? Do any of these sound like books you'd enjoy listening to?


  1. Ok so not going to lie here, I can't listen to audiobooks. I totally tune them out and stop paying attention. Doesn't matter what I'm doing, I've tried. If I'm not reading it I just don't pay enough attention. Although maybe I'll try Bossypants and see how it goes with that one... Happy Friday!

    <3, Pamela
    Sequins & Sea Breezes

  2. Awesome recommendations! I am just starting to try to get into audiobooks after listening to a few podcasts. I have read the HP series about ten times so I think I'll try the audiobooks...have heard nothing but good things!!! :)

  3. I've never tried audiobooks, but think they'd be great for long car trips. I just picked up The Girl on the Train (finally!), so I'm definitely looking forward to digging into that :)

    Happy Friday gurlie <3

  4. Ah thank you for sharing! I listen to audiobooks on my drive to work but I usually need a really action packed book instead of lots of narration. I was just trying to listen to Life after Life and there is so much narration and little dialogue, it could not keep my attention.

  5. So many good tips and pointers. I find while driving I have to really concentrate on the book instead of yelling at the bad drivers, so it really helps keep my mind occupied. Some narrators are just the bomb and I've found myself looking for books read by them that I might not have been interested before that.

  6. I absolutely love audiobooks. I don't listen to them enough, but I think you're right. There are so many different features that go into choosing the right audiobook to listen to. I really enjoyed "Remember Me" by Sophie Kinsella, "The Good Father," by Diane Chamberlain and "My Story" by Elizabeth Smart (which was actually narrated by Elizabeth herself which made it that much more interesting).

  7. All of your book posts (audio or regular!) are so helpful! I have only listened to audio books on a road trip and it was a really great way to make the time pass. And FWIW I did not like the Night Circus at ALL and I read the regular book. So it's probably the book AND the narrator that did you in on that one!

  8. I STILL haven't listened to an audiobook! I'm so behind the times! Lots of great book recommendations that I haven't had the chance to read yet though :) Happy Friday!

  9. Oh awesome tips! I haven't really tried any audio books, but I think I would like doing the non-fiction ones. I think sometimes there are fantastic ideas for non-fiction books that look amazing, but that reading them can be difficult for me because they aren't that compelling.. making me turn pages like crazy, but they are still long. I think audio books might be a great solution to that issue. There was one I saw at Target about NASA wives.. it looked so cute, but I knew it would take me months with reading fiction at the same time. Love it! XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  10. This is extremely helpful and I think you're so right about listening to something you wouldn't normally read like the science book!! xo, biana -BlovedBoston

  11. Great tips, I have never listened to an audiobook but my friend loves them. I totally need to try one.

  12. oh we love a good audio book - it is the only way I can get Reid to read the classics! Have you ever done the swap out program at Cracker Barrel? It is legit!

  13. After you highly recommended them, I finally jumped on board and now I love them! I think I'm the opposite of you, though - I will stick it out with an audiobook longer than a regular book, simply because I mostly listen in the car and it's too hard to change to something else. I just listened to The Art of Fielding and I LOVED it, which I think was in large part due to narration. I also loved Rob Lowe's book (which he read) and Liane Moriarty's books, which I would likely never read in print but something about hearing them read by a pleasant Australian woman makes them more enjoyable.

  14. Ohhhh.... i need to check my library for Still Alice

  15. Great tips! I've only listened to one audio book and I liked it but it was way back when I was driving to that I take the metro, I think I'm better suited to reading =) Though, I would definitely take these suggestions into account for a roadtrip!

  16. I think #3 is my favorite. I've read a lot of books in my life, but I'll be damned if I can remember the plot or any real details about 90% of them. I just can't retain it all after a year or so and it's so frustrating! Unless I've read a book to memorization (Gatsby, Perks, JD series, most Judy Blume, etc.) I can only really remember how it made me feel...but not what it was about. I always want to re-read but feel silly re-reading when a) I'm a slow reader! and b) I have a massive list of books yet-to-be read. So thank you for this, because I didn't even think of it. Also, #5 me too.

    I love that you have David Sedaris on this list! He is my favorite essayist and I love, love his books. I've read Seriously... I'm Kidding and I love that too, but I love Ellen so it's a no-brainer. Looking forward to reading How to Win Friends on my drive to WV coming up. Thanks again for sharing it with me!

  17. such good tips. I listened to David Sedaris on audiobook and I enjoyed his stuff waaaay more than when I read it. And I loathed Eat Pray Love but I was also young when I read it and maybe wasn't as forgiving of the character as I should have been. Might need to retry with an audiobook.

  18. I like the idea of listening to a science book! I've mentioned it before, but I feel like my attention is too all over the place for an audiobook, but I really need to actually try it one of these days!

  19. I have to bookmark this for later. I don't know if it's terribly unfortunate that The Princess Bride is abridged. When I read it, the author?/abridger?/whatever this is called's notes would say things like, "the next 7 pages were about trees, so I cut those out." And a lot of it was satire that I probably wouldn't have understood, not being from the time period or locale.

    I think I need to try the Harry Potter books. I've heard so many good things about Stephen Fry!

  20. I'm a podcast freak and I fly through like 9 different episodes a week. Do you ever listen to podcasts? I've been trying to figure out how to get audio books on my iphone from my library but I guess it varies with every library system! Thanks for all of the great tips!

  21. I don't think I'm fully on the audibook train because even if I'm just driving, I hate that I miss parts of the book (like I'm doing with the Mockingbird audio you provided me). Nevertheless, I enjoy the audio version of Mockingbird so much more than reading it. I actually like that I remembered parts I read while listening to it. I think memoirs read by authors is a great place to start because I don't like memoirs but having the person read it (who I probably like in person) would make the book that much better.

  22. I agree listening to a book narrated by the author really makes a difference, they are so much more connected to the telling of the story. I do tend to wander at time so anything too deep or intricate will go over my head so comedy ones are good for me.

  23. Ah, so you LISTENED to Bossypants as told by the lady herself? That's genius! Why did I not think of that?

  24. You pushed me over the edge with your last post about audiobooks and now I am hooked, so thanks for that!! :)

  25. Thank you so much for recommending these. Believe it or not I have never actually listened to a book on tape. I dont know why. I am going to give it a shot with Amy Poehler's book. I have been meaning to read that anyway so two birds. Have a fabulous weekend! xo

  26. I think this is an amazingly helpful post! The main reason I stay away from audiobooks is the same reason I don't listen to many podcasts. I have a tendency to tune them out and then I'd miss the whole story and have to keep starting over again. It would just take me way longer than actually reading a book.

  27. I love audiobooks! I actually get into them more then reading it I think, especially if the person reading it is really good! I love how they change their voices to fit the character haha! Have a great weekend!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  28. these are awesome tips! I tend to start listening to something and just tune out and stop paying attention. I love finding something I really enjoy because then I actually listen and love it!
    xo, Candace | Lovely Little Rants

  29. I would love to listen to more audiobooks but I have a hard time subscribing to the service. I'm trying to not spend any money on things I definitely "don't need" and while I def don't need an audiobook I really, really, really want one. Sigh! I dunno, I might end up getting a subscription or honestly what I should do is drive to my library, get a library card and see if they have any audio CDs... Ugh. That sounds like so much work hahah


  30. Yay! So glad you did this post! Now that I'm slowly starting to run for longer periods of time, I've been debating trying to listen to a book instead of music. You have me soo tempted with The Martian but I'm going to try and read it first. So many good recommendations- I'm definitely going to keep the 'awesome narrators' list in mind!

  31. I love audiobooks! I drive a lot for work and they seriously make my trips so much more pleasant! Great tips!

  32. I have never listened to an audiobook, I am not sure I have the attention span for it, I have the tendency to zone out haha

  33. Oh man I made the mistake of listening to the end of the Faults in our Stars audiobook while on the bus back from work and it was just waterworks....I was crying and I'm sure everyone thought I was crazy!

  34. Ohh even if I don't listen to these as audiobooks you have a great collection of recommendations which I am always looking for!

  35. Great tips. I still haven't gotten into audiobooks but with the lack of good podcasts I just might!

  36. i just downloaded the How to Make! I got a yr sub to and have LOVED it. don't download lena dunham's book. it was a nightmare listening to her read. there's someone else who does it and i should have gotten that one.

  37. Wow, these are all awesome tips. I need to try a Christmas Carol and the harry potter books!!!

  38. Love these tips and book round up! Thanks!

  39. Good tip to read something by the author rather than a random! Pete's mom LOVES audiobooks. I wish I had a newer car... I'd load them onto my ipod and listen during my commute!


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