My own personal Jesus: using audiobooks for the first time.

Those of you who know me, on this blog or in real life, know that I’m a slow reader. In fact, everything I do is a slow, long, drawn out process–I’m pretty much the sloth of academia. But that’s getting away from the story:

I’ve always harbored negative feelings towards audiobooks, feeling as though they are “not really reading”. In fact, it was in an act of utter desperation that I turned to them. It was last weekend and I’d spent the better half of Saturday afternoon fighting desperately to “get into” Persuasion by Jane Austen. But no matter what I did it would result in glazing over words, an utter lack of comprehension, and general fussiness on my part. So when Sunday came I was staring down nearly 200 pages of impossible. That’s when I realized the only way I’d make it out of this alive (and having read the novel) was to turn to the audiobook. One chapter in and I cursed myself for not thinking of this sooner.

audiobooksThe great thing about audiobooks is there’s a set time. As a slow reader, who also struggles with comprehension, I never know how long things are going to take me. Audiobooks may go a lot slower than a regular reading speed (ex. if I’m reading at a good pace I can complete an “8hr audiobook” in 6hrs) but audiobook time is static–it’s guaranteed. Because while I can read faster than the audiobook recording I can also read a lot slower. Another benefit of audiobooks is that they clarify the text for you: voice shifts help you identify who is speaking and the tone of the scene more easily. This seems extremely basic but when you’re reading a text that is very stilted, one you naturally struggle to engage with, it can make all the difference. Reading along with audiobooks is the literary equivalent of cruise control. It doesn’t mean you can leave the driver’s seat (you still need to consider the text’s formal elements and look for motIfs/thematic patterns), but you can relax a bit because the easy part is being done for you (though for me the easy part isn’t always so easy). 

Never in my life had I read a book in the span of a weekend. Never. Not even one I liked, not even one for fun, not even over the summer. NEVER. I take things slow; I drag things out: I knock out 10 pages here, 10 pages there, 30 pages at most. For me, audiobooks give me the scaffolding I need to absorb so all this literary content at once.

My goal is to become a better reader: to increase my speed, my stamina, and attention span. But until I reach the heights of my peers, where they can sit down and knock out 100-200 pages at a time, I will turn to iTunes. I will put on my headphones, lay out my highlighters, and follow along for this 8hr journey of steady exhaustion but consistent progress.


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