At a party a few months ago, I was envying how well-read another woman was when she mentioned that she does most of her “reading” via an audiobook subscription on her phone while driving to and from work.
Children’s audiobooks from the library have been a staple of our family’s car trips for years. Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks series, anything by Kate DiCamillo, and even Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series have seen us happily through many a long, hot drive across the Utah desert. That night at the party, I decided to give audiobooks for adults a try.
I subscribed to the same service my friend used and began listening to audiobooks in the odd scraps of time that make up a surprising amount of my life. While folding laundry, cooking dinner, and running errands I’ve now listened to several novels, a memoir, and a non-fiction book. Six books that I simply would not have had time to read otherwise.
Audiobooks are not without their drawbacks. I like to fill the margins of books with notes to come back to later and audiobooks just don’t lend themselves to that kind of textual interaction. Also, for better and worse, audiobooks introduce an undeniable physical voice to the story. The all-star cast of George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo brought that story to life for me in a way that reading the book did not, but I actually quit listening to Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton because the reader’s flat voice drove me crazy.
I still love hunkering down with a regular book, pencil in hand, no voice in my head but my own. But adding an extra book a month to my life while getting laundry folded, errands run, and dinner cooked feels like getting away with something.