My father became an avid “listener” of books at the end of his life as his eyesight gave out. The player and an endless supply of books on tape (in his category of choice) came to him free of charge thanks to an association for the blind in California. It was a lifesaver! My father liked to boast, “I’m a slow reader, but a fast listener.”
I’ve become an avid “listener” of books now as well. I listen to them while exercising, driving in the car, doing chores, and as I’m falling to sleep (see below).
Where to buy audiobooks
I mainly buy my books from Audible.com and listen to them on the Audible app on my iPhone. One nice thing about Audible.com is that you can return a book if you don’t like it, so I’ve become more experimental in my choices. (To return, go to the help menu on their website. It’s easy.) I’ve recently discovered AudioBooks.com and its app, and like it very much, as well.
Falling to sleep to an audiobook
I’ve become fond of listening to an audiobook while falling asleep. (I use a Bluetooth eyemask.) To listen to a book before sleeping, set the app to turn off after a period of time. I usually choose 30 minutes. Ideally, I will fall asleep before it clicks off. Often, the next day, I will backtrack back to a point I remember.
For falling to sleep, it’s important to choose a book that isn’t too dramatic and that has a soothing narration. For me, it’s best to choose books I’m already familiar with.
The most popular audiobook of the year?
No surprise here: it was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale.
My personal top ten audiobooks
All these are great books, but listening to an audiobook edition adds another dimension of pleasure to the experience. Some I end up buying in print as well because I want to savour the book on a sentence-by-sentence level. I also like being able to share a book I adore with friends.
I listened to dozens of audiobooks this year, and it was difficult to cull it down to only 10. Here they are, not in any particular order:
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, narrated by the author.
This is my current fave to listen to while falling asleep and the first from AudioBooks.com I’ve ordered. I’ve read the book once in print and once as a Kindle e-book, so it doesn’t matter if I gap out now and then. Macdonald has a wonderful voice.
All Things Consoled; a daughter’s memoir by Elizabeth Hay, narrated by the author.
I adore this memoir about Hay dealing with her ageing parents, and her voice is low and soothing. It’s a good one to fall to sleep to, but you might want to listen to it twice, in order to catch every word. Hay is a wonderful writer.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author.
Frank, honest and inspiring. This is a good falling-asleep book, but you’ll want to repeat chapters you missed.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar, narrated by Juliet Stevenson,
I love most any book narrated by the actor Juliet Stevenson; her voice is golden! This is a knock-out historical novel (with just a little fantasy). It’s one of the ones I ended up ordering in print, as well, because I loved it so much.
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
This mystery novel of sexual obsession is unusual for Juliet Stevenson — and me. Not recommended for sleeping, however!
Calypso by David Sedaris, narrated by the author.
I’m a Sedaris fan, and I think Calypso is his best yet. He’s a charming reader.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, narrated by Cathleen McCarron.
Room With a View by E. M. Forster, narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
I listened to this twice and plan to listen to it again. It’s a beautiful novel and an excellent audio edition for falling asleep.
Note: there are a number of audio editions of this classic. Be sure to choose the one narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, narrated by Juliet Steveson.
Another Juliet Stevenson recommendation! Henry James is certainly the last author whose work I would describe as compelling or gripping, but this novel is both. I could finally understand why it’s considered a masterpiece.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, narrated by the author.
I adored this memoir about the science life — and learned a lot into the bargain. Eccentric, moving, extremely well-written. The author is an excellent narrator.