I have always been resistant to audio books. I’m not certain, but I think this is mostly because I have rarely encountered a moment in my life when I could listen to an audio book where I wouldn’t rather read a physical book or listen to music.
Reading, for me, also necessitates a certain level of concentration — I hate the feeling that I’ve just missed a key scene or bit of information because my mind was wandering. This is why I’ve remained only an average-paced reader despite reading upwards of fifty books a year. This is also why I can’t read and listen to music at the same time. Because of my distractable nature, I don’t enjoy listening to audio books whilst simultaneously engaging in other activities that require some attention, such as walking the dog (I’ve attempted both Moby Dick and Guns, Germs and Steel but it just didn’t work out) or working on the computer. When running, my other outdoor pursuit, I find upbeat music is too necessary to my motivation to allow for a switch to audio books.
In other snippets of my life (e.g. on the bus, having a coffee, eating lunch), I would much rather read a physical book than an audio book, in part to allow for marking up the interesting passages and in part just because this preference has been established through lifelong habit. The one activity I feel is truly suited to audio books — road trips — just doesn’t come up often enough in my life to allow for getting through a whole book (although it is how I listened to my first audio book — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — approximately ten years ago).
This week, however, I finally discovered what is, for me, the best time to listen to an audiobook: when I’m stuck in bed with the flu. Too exhausted to do anything but lie in bed, experiencing the “hot eyes” phenomenon I only encounter whilst feverish, but having already slept more hours than I thought possible in a row, I set up an audio book that I’ve been holding in reserve for the day I hoped would someday come, the day I would finally say “yes” to audio books. And it was great.
The book in question was Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling – a book I have admittedly already read in its physical form. This was part of my plan. I knew I liked the book, that it was smart, funny and frivolous in the best possible way, and I also knew that if I fell asleep, lost chapters in a fever delirium, or gave up halfway through, that I would not have to add it to my “books I’ve started and never got round to finishing” list. Even better, the book is written (and read by the author) in a conversational style such that I almost felt like Mindy was keeping me company in my weakened state, like some kind of hilarious and much more fashionable Florence Nightingale.
My flu is on its way out now, I’m glad to say. I don’t know if my successful sojourn with an audio book means I’ll suddenly start listening to them all the time. I doubt it. But I do plan to make sure I have a few prepared for the next time I’m under the weather.