Audio Book Virgin? 6 Tips to Pick the Best Audio Book for Your First Time

Making the switch from reading to listening isn’t always easy. Many of us stop listening to books read out loud once our parents stop tucking us in, and it’s a skill that gets rusty. New audio book listeners sometimes complain that they lose focus, don’t understand the story as completely, and get interrupted or distracted. But believe me: it gets easier. Choosing the right book to help ease you in will make a world of difference and can kick-start a long love affair with audio books.

1)      No Long-Winded Epics

Atlas Shrugged audio book by Ayn Rand

At 63 hours strong, maaaybe not the best first choice.

If you’re new to audio books, the idea of putting in 40 hours–a work week’s worth of time!–to finish a book may seem ridiculous. If you’re only listening to 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there, it could take months before you finish—and you’ll have forgotten everything that happened in the first half, anyway. Picking something shorter means you’ll move through the story and get to the pay-off quicker.  I’d recommend going with something 10 hours or less, or trying a short story collection by an author you enjoy.


2)      Go Easy On Yourself

Finnegan's Wake audio book by James Joyce

I would suggest holding off on this one.

There are a lot of books out there. There are some that are easy to read, and some that are very, very challenging. This might not be the best time to dig into an overly technical new subject or take on a notoriously difficult tome.  No one’s suggesting you start out with Hop on Pop, but picking something a little more easily digestible will start working out those auditory comprehension muscles so you can work your way up to Finnegan’s Wake.


3)      Genre Matters

Second Honeymoon audio book by James PattersonChoosing a genre ultimately comes down to personal taste, but there are some that lend themselves particularly well to audio books. Biographies and memoirs are great, especially celebrity autobiographies: often times, the celebs themselves  narrate the books, adding a bit of star power and some acting chops into the mix.  A good comedic

The Perks of Being a Wallflower audio book by Stephen Chboskyessay or memoir is deeply entertaining without requiring you to latch on to every word. Mysteries and thrillers will have enough suspense and action to keep you engaged when a dense piece of literary fiction might leave you drifting. Young Adult books generally have shorter durations, and are written in a straight-forward style that’s easy and enjoyable to listen to.

4)      Narration Matters – A Lot

Audio books introduce a new player into the reading relationship: there’s suddenly a strange third wheel elbowing their way between you and your mental narrator. Picking a book with a narrator whose voice you find enjoyable is critical to your enjoyment of a book. Always listen to the full sample: if there’s anything you find irksome, be warned that it only ever gets worse. Do not engage! Find something else with a narrator you enjoy.

5)      Familiarity

The Shining audio book by Stephen King

If you find yourself losing focus, try listening to something you’ve already read and enjoyed, or have seen a movie adaptation of. Knowing the story ahead of time means you won’t be left totally clueless if you happen to blank out for a minute or two.

6)      Learn When To Walk Away

Sometimes, a book is just bad. Or it’s not to your taste. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy, and forcing yourself to sit through 15 hours of a nasal-y narrator or insipid plot is one way to guarantee a horrible audio book experience. Don’t blame the format; just hit Browse Books and find something new.

Not interested.


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