There are few things that give me as much pleasure as curling up on the couch and losing myself in a good book. But my love for reading goes beyond my appreciation for eloquent prose or a powerful plotline; I love the precision of the font and the symmetry of the margins, the rhythmic page-turning, the dog-eared corners and the highlighted passages. I love the physical act of reading. But recently, I’ve felt too restless to actually do so. The sedentariness of the quarantine lifestyle has made the idea of doing any couch activity seem painful. Enter my new obsession, a solution for the avid-reader-turned-perpetual-fidgeter: the audiobook.
With an audiobook, you can lose yourself in a story without actually having to sit down and read it. It is the perfect tool for the habitual multitasker; listening leaves your hands and legs free to do other activities. You can draw or paint, complete a puzzle, knit, run, walk, bake banana bread—whatever your heart may desire—all while a little voice in your ear transports you to another time and place, no physical book necessary. All that’s needed? A set of headphones and a smartphone, tablet or computer.
There are plenty of established apps and websites with extensive audiobook libraries to explore. Audible, Amazon’s platform, is arguably the most well–known, but it’s membership can be pricey—though you can purchase audiobooks without officially having one.
Kobo Audiobooks and Downpour are similar to Audible in that they offer subscriptions, but their pricing is found to be more affordable. Google Audiobooks is another option and it doesn’t require a subscription; audiobooks are sold individually, and a comparison showed their choices are generally cheaper than a monthly Audible membership. Librivox provides free audiobooks, but their library is comprised solely of books with public domain titles whose copyright dates have already expired.
It may be worth it to do a little research of your own to find out which provider works best for you and your needs. Once you have selected your virtual library, then comes the fun part: choosing the story. But the options can seem overwhelming: where should you start your audiobook journey?
Here are some great options. For an engrossing psychological thriller—sans jump–scares—try Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient. If you’re looking for a narrator with a familiar and beloved voice, perhaps opt for Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, which is narrated by the soothing and iconic timbre of Tom Hanks. For a steamy page-turner, check out Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire—which is the first book in a trilogy. Ta-Nehisi Coates self–narrates his devastatingly poignant and relevant autobiographical bestseller Between the World and Me, which somehow makes his prose and its message even more powerful.
And for all you Game of Thrones fans out there, here’s a fun fact you might not have known: the audiobooks are as addictive and binge–worthy as the television series. So if you’re especially missing Jon Snow and the world of Westeros these days, perhaps give those a go to help with the separation anxiety.
Listening to audiobooks during quarantine isn’t just convenient for the restless readers. There’s something extremely therapeutic in hearing a book read aloud; it’s reminiscent, in a way, of the innocence of childhood—a time when ignorance was bliss, a time when books were read to us by others. Perhaps, therefore, audiobooks not only offer an escape from today’s disheartening reality by transporting listeners to an entirely new world, but also because they are reminiscent of simpler times in our lives.