Audiobooks – I need your expert advice

Audiobooks are something I’ve never got into even though I know they are popular amongst both friends and bloggers. I didn’t mind those books as a kid where you had a cassette to accompany the book (remember the sound when you had to turn the page?) but I graduated to reading on my own fairly quickly. As an adult, my brain put audiobooks into the category for old ladies only. I know this is very remiss of me, and a browse through the internet shows me that audiobooks can be or everyone, no matter your age or reading tastes.

Now that I no longer commute on public transport, I turned to the radio to keep me entertained in those traffic jams that seem to be inevitable no matter where you drive these days. I got bored pretty quickly. I used to joke that I would hear the same song both ways in my 10 minute trips to the train station – but it’s true! The same 10-20 songs seem to be on rotation in between occasionally good interviews and a lot of cross-promotional pieces about TV shows I’m not familiar with. I’m not ready for ABC Classical or Newsradio just yet. I really miss being able to read a story while half listening to the Slightly Too Loud Commuter’s whinge about his/her boss/friend/flatmate/colleague/random person. That’s why I’ve decided to reach out and ask those of you who are audiobook experts to help convert this newbie.

I’ve asked several people about how they listen to audiobooks. It seems that the most popular is through Bluetooth or direct connection from a phone/iPod to the car radio. Now, my car is built to be tough rather than technologically advanced, so I have none of those things. I have a CD player that won’t accept MP3 recordings. Is iTrip the way to go? (Buying a new car or car stereo isn’t an option). Are plain audio CDs doable or are you forever changing the CDs?

I’ve also read that the narrator can make or break a story. Does anyone have recommendations for awesome narrators? I’ve looked at the library catalogue and seen that some books are read by one person, another stated proudly that the book had a ‘full cast recording’ which made it sound a bit like a theatre event.

Last set of questions. Promise. What’s a good genre to start with? Is there even one? How do you get your audiobooks? Is everyone using Audible or is there somewhere else I should be looking?

11 thoughts on “Audiobooks – I need your expert advice

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  1. I LOVE audio books. Previously I either used CDs or iPhone with headset (is that legal?) but we recently got a new car so now audio books can be played through blue tooth. When I travel with kids, it’s so much better if we’re listening to an audio book. If not, there’s fights and bickering the WHOLE way.

    I agree that a narrator can make or break a story but I don’t keep track of narrators. I just try my luck. I usually buy cheap (or relatively) audio books off iTunes, rather than buy books of my favourite authors – cos they are usually VERY expensive.

    But yes, I’m HUGELY in favour of audio books!! Also good to listen to when exercising or doing housework (of which I do very little).

  2. You can get devices which translate an iPod/mp3 signal to a radio signal which will play on your car stereo from places like JB Hi-Fi. They’re not super dear. I recommend the Belkin brand. I used one until we upgraded the car to one which had a plug in the console for direct connection.

    As for which genre, well, whatever you like to read. There will be an audiobook in your genre I promise.

    I’m a romance reader and I also read a little sci-fi and fantasy, along with some biography and non-fiction. Favourite narrators include Nicholas Boulton, Davina Porter, Sophie Eastlake, Tanya Eby, Grover Gardner and Renee Raudman.

    I get my audiobooks from Audible or Downpour, as well as from the library.

    If you want more specific reviews and recommendations, I review audiobooks at my blog and also at AudioGals (there are quite a few reviewers at AG) – though mostly romance books so if that’s not your thing…

    There is also a lively audiobook group at Goodreads.

    Good luck!

  3. I listen to audiobooks through my iPod with headphone – whilst driving/walking to work. I tend to read SFF books and a couple of recent ones with good narrators include The Martian by Andy Weir (Narrator RC Bray), and Lexicon by Max Barry (Narrators: Zach Appelman and Heather Corrigan). Oh, and Gone Girl was good too (Narrators: Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne).

    Narrators definitely make or break a book. I enjoyed the ones above, but there have been other books that I wish I’d actually read because I think I would’ve enjoyed it more. But on the whole, I think they’re getting better. Plus you can generally listen to a sample before purchasing. Just ask yourself, “Can I listen to that voice for 10+ hours?” 🙂

  4. Sam, i would advise starting wirh an audio book that only has a few charcters– easier to follow when driving. I use books on cds a lot- each disc plays about one hour and for me changing discs isn’t a big deal. Lots of great narrators out there these days too.


    Sent from my iPhone


  5. I’ve been trying audiobooks on and off for a while now. I use my library’s Overdrive system or One Click Digital through them via iphone.
    I want to like audiobooks but for me an audiobook doesn’t work as well reading, I find my mind tends to wander.
    And I agree that the narrator makes or breaks the experience.

    So I’ve found non fiction works best for me ie travel memoirs. I think Cd’s from your local library would be the place to start, unless you get your phone to work in the car and that way you can carry on with your book while walking or doing other stuff.

    Just on another tangent, have you tried podcasts? There are a number of book based ones, I tend to listen to them now. ie The Readers, Books on the Nightstand, but many more. Also, Conversations With Richard Fidler is fantastic. (yes it is ABC) he does great interviews, about 1 hr long and very interesting people from all walks of life.

    Enjoy your exploration.

  6. I am currently listening to Remembrance of Things Past from Naxos audio while I drive to work. It makes the trip marvelously entertaining, and yet also relaxing. I can’t stand listening with earbuds in for long periods of time, so a cd works perfectly for me. But, that’s easy to do in a car.

    A few years ago I listened to Room, and it is an experience I will never forget. The young woman’s voice who read the book through the eyes of the child will be forever in my head every time I even look at the title.

  7. True audiobook fans will be HORRIFIED by my answer…. but… I ‘listen’ to books on my Kindle. Some Kindle models (the older ones) have a ‘text-to-speech’ mode which reads the book. The voice is bland, robotic and devoid of emotion BUT once you get used to it, it reads every book in the same voice which I quite like. The best part of it is that I can switch between reading a book and listening to the same book.

  8. My car doesn’t have those capabilities. I used to have a car FM transmitter that could play music from my iPod through the radio. It just plugged into the iPod and cigarette lighter, and you tuned it to a particular radio channel. However, it stopped working after a year or two.

    Now I just use CDs. Each audiobook CD usually plays for about 2 hours, so there’s really not too much switching.

  9. My mother in law listened to audiobooks and I scoffed at the idea but now I’m hooked! CD’s sound like the way to go for your commute. Each CD is a little over an hour so hopefully that works for you. I got into audiobooks first by rereading favorite books, and memoirs also work well. It’s trial and error to find the narrators you like, and since that’s up to personal preference I hesitate to share my favorites. Email me if you want more info and I’ll be happy to list some titles to consider.

  10. My phone doesn’t let me listen in the car either so I bought a portable blue tooth speaker. It has been the greatest thing ever! 🙂

  11. I check out the cds from my library and you really don’t have to change all that often, every hour or so.
    I like when the author reads it themselves -Sherman Alexie. Elizabeth Berg and Rob Lowe have been a few favorites.

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