Listen: On the Subject of Audiobooks

I guess it’s a good sign when just writing the title of a blog post gets my brain going enough that I have a song stuck in my head – or is that just me? Either way, “Listen to Your Heart” by D.H.T. is now my earworm for the next three hours or so, and hopefully you’ve got it playing in your mind, too. What can I say, misery loves company (and a ridiculously catchy song).

But this blog post isn’t about pop music or hearts, now is it? It is about listening, though, and about one of the most “controversial” ways to enjoy a book: audiobooks. (AKA the way I am doing most if not all of my reading over the past couple of months.) It honestly baffles me that there are people out there who claim listening to an audiobook doesn’t count as reading. At bare minimum, it’s a known fact that some people retain information better if they hear it, so for some people listening to a text allows them to understand more than if they visually read it. It also allows for folks to enjoy a story even if they can’t physically read it, whether because of a disability like blindness or dyslexia or just because it’s inconvenient to have a book or tablet or phone in front of them. Dissing on people reading audiobooks is just pretentious at best and ableist at worst.

For me, let’s be real: audiobooks are basically the only thing I miss about my old commute now that I’m living in the work-from-home world of the middle of Covid. I never thought I’d have a reason to want to be sitting in traffic, but the hour in the morning and evening to listen to my current story was always a nice way to start and end my day. I’ve been at least enjoying audiobooks when out walking in the neighborhood (though that hasn’t happened as much recently due to the assault that happened end of June which I’ve shared elsewhere – there will be a blog post on that at some point once I really can process it but this is not that blog post), and even when I’m doing chores around the house or out in the garden. But those story laden commutes were a part of my routine that I am struggling to figure out how to properly recreate.

I am definitely not one of those people who can listen to a book or a podcast while doing my day job sadly. Music, sure, a story I need to actually focus on to follow – not so much.

So yeah, I’d been struggling to figure out a good time to listen/read any of my Currently Reading list with the change in work schedule and location, but this past week, I basically gave myself permission to just do “nothing” in the evenings (aside from the normal eating dinner, showering, any dishes and/or laundry I want to knock out) other than just relax, play Merge Dragon or Love Nikki on my phone, and have my current audiobook playing while I do so.

And y’all, it’s been glorious. I’ve had a lot of external stressful situations happening lately (and haven’t we all? Oof fuck 2020 I swear), and my anxiety brain has had a LOT to say about all of those situations and has proceeded to say it very loudly all the time, but particularly when the rest of the world around me is too quiet like in the evenings or especially right before I’m trying to get to sleep. Enter my audiobook. I already know I have to focus on what I’m hearing to catch everything going on in the story, and if I’m hearing that, I can’t hear the anxiety brain ranting along about how awful everything is and what I failure I am. (PSA: if you have an anxiety brain like me, please know that it is a liar and a bitch and you are awesome and I love you. Also PSA I have a hard time remembering to tell myself the same thing so no worries if you can’t always remember that either. Anxiety is, after all, a loud bitch.)

It feels painfully “unproductive” to spend my evenings that way, I’ll admit, but on the other hand, if I’m knocking out another title on the infinite To Be Read list, that is actually productive after all, isn’t it? Isn’t it??? It’s certainly more productive than just binge watching a show I’ve seen 80 million times for the 80 million and one time. (Unless that show is Leverage. Obviously.) And if I make myself review said audiobook after I finish it, that’s productive, too.

And after all – this is where the stupid controversy comes in – if I spent the evening reading a physical book, I would not be telling myself it was a waste of time and/or unproductive. I read a book – that’s doing something!

As is listening to a book. So there.

Gotta love those internalized biases that we really do know better than to believe but that our brains (particularly anxiety brains!) can still twist around on us.

So, with that in mind, I feel I may actually have been accomplishing quite a bit as I plow through my audio-TBR. Books finished are books finished, am I right? And gods know, I can use a little bit of an escape into a world that isn’t this one lately. Consider this my – and your – official permission to relax and enjoy and audiobook or two (or three or…) or physical book or eBook. However you like to take in words.

Have any of y’all been reading with your ears lately? Have any good recs of audiobooks I should check out?

All content © 2015 by C.L. McCollum unless otherwise noted.

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