In Defense of Audiobooks (And A Story of Anxiety…)

collection of books - the priory of the orange tree by samantha shannon, the dead house by dawn kurtagich, the graces by laure eve, the harm tree by rose edwards, state of sorrow and song of sorrow by melinda salisbury, oh my gods by alexandra sheppard

Ahhh, the audiobook argument. It comes up time and time again. “You’re not really reading if you’re listening” or “audiobooks aren’t real books!”

Yawn.

Well ladies and gentlemen (and all those between), here’s my defense.

So we’ll start with the standard argument – but don’t worry, there’s more to it so stick with me. But it seems the main criticism of audiobooks is the simple fact that you use your ears instead of your eyes. But guess what folks? Reading isn’t restricted to the act of understanding words with your eyes. Braille is read. You can read a situation – no written words there! The word “read” has almost become a synonym for “understand” and so yes, while technically using your ears means you’re listening, you’re still reading and understanding. Just because something isn’t following the norm, doesn’t mean it’s just…wrong. And you don’t get to dictate that.

Also, why would you want to? Audiobooks are such a convenient way to get through more books. There’s so much dead time that can feel wasted, simple, mundane, day-to-day tasks that could be used for something more entertaining. I recently started listening to audiobooks on my walk in to uni, or when I’m getting ready in the morning, and I honestly feel like my life has changed for the better. I can fit a tiny bit of reading into my mornings and get through a book one chapter at a time, whereas before I just…wouldn’t read on uni days because by the time I get home I’m too tired.

Or even better – one thing I LOVE doing is reading alongside an audiobook. I love using both my eyes and ears to take in a story. If I have the book open in front of me while listening, I can speed up the audiobook and read at a much faster pace than I do when left to my own devices. I don’t miss anything because I can see what’s being said, or hear what my eyes might want to skip over. And having two senses engaged? My god, you get so much more involved. I’m a person who fidgets and gets distracted when reading, taking a break every chapter for literally no reason at all. But when I’m reading and listening, there’s much less room for distraction and you are well and truly in the story. It’s incredible.

And to put it simply – why would you want to criticise anything that encourages reading? If people can fill dead time with stories or reading more books in their usual time frame…what’s wrong with that? I mean, c’mon.

But here’s where it gets personal. No, I’m not anywhere near done yet.

Audiobooks are helping me get through life.

Yes, they help so many people in so many situations. They can help blind people take in stories. They can encourage people with dyslexia to read more. They can even help people learning a new language get the hang of things a little more.

And they help me, a gal with preeetty bad anxiety.

Now this isn’t a case of “books are my escape”. I actually don’t read books to escape – it just doesn’t work for me. If this anxious brain of mine is on any kind of roll, it ain’t gonna let me forget that, let me tell you. I try, I really do. But I sit down with a book and try and read the words and they just…don’t go in. My eyes gloss over them all while my brain is busy shouting about all the things that terrify me. Which is, like, most things.

Audiobooks help focus my mind. If both my eyes and my ears are taking in the words, it’s much more likely to stamp down the louder thoughts. Not entirely – never entirely. But more. And if my books aren’t at hand, my phone almost always is. I can whip out any audiobook and have something to hone in on. Especially recently. I’ve suddenly been thrown into so many medical situations, which is without a doubt one of my worst anxiety triggers. Any threat of having to see a doctor, dentist, go to hospital? It could be a simple check up and I’ll feel like I’m walking to my death sentence.

And so 2019 so far has been hard – but more manageable than usual, thanks to audiobooks. I haven’t felt so alone when walking to appointments, with someone nattering away in my ear about a thing unrelated to my worries. It’s not a person who cares for me, trying to comfort me with repeated reassurances of “you’ll be fine” which actually make me feel worse, my brain arguing against the claim every time and reminding me of the anxiety I’m trying to stamp down. It’s a story. They’re words I can force myself to pay attention to. It’s a voice I can listen to to avoid my own inner voice taking over completely. Audiobooks soothe me, distract me, keep me grounded. And for that I will defend them every day.

I don’t care if you think I’m “cheating” for listening to a book and classing it as read. I don’t care if you roll your eyes at me for not using my own to read every word in said book. What I DO care about is how much audiobooks have helped me, have helped so many others, have encouraged people to read, have gotten people out of reading slumps. I care about how people are being criticised for not fitting in with the norm, yet again. An so here’s my defense. I will repeat it for as long as needed.

Until next time,

sign off handle saying "Ashleigh" for A Frolic Through Fiction blog

20 thoughts on “In Defense of Audiobooks (And A Story of Anxiety…)

    1. Thank you! It’s a new thing to me too tbh. I have an audible subscription, which I was reluctant to buy for so long but I actually only really use one credit a month (which is included) and then they have LOADS of deals on all the time. I also use free audiobooks on youtube for classics, especially for uni reading, although they’re not the best. And my library has a few audiobooks available too!

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  1. I don’t think listening to audiobooks is cheating. I listen to them often. However, I have to admit that I’m not much of an auditory learner so I tend to space off a lot while listening to audiobooks. On the other hand, I can read a book for hours and maintain my concentration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you! I love audiobooks. The ‘audiobooks are no actual books’ thing is nonsense, as you clearly explain!
    Happy to see that it helps you with your anxiety!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a brilliant post Ashleigh, frankly the whole Audiobooks aren’t real reads and its cheating arguments amaze me to this day. I don’t get why their is such snobbery some people have to say it isn’t reading at all. Its just like picking up a book, you still pour hours of your life into listening and audiobooks can help bring the world even more alive!!

    I’ve never tried listening to an audiobook for my anxiety, me and audiobooks kind of don’t work because my brain goes so haywire like you say if I have the anxious thoughts they are being shouted louder than the book regardless. But I might try an audiobook and reading along at the same time. See if that can help drown it out and give me some peace.

    xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s just weird how angry people get about audiobooks? Or how other people choose to consume a story?? 😆
      It doesn’t always work because anxiety is so good at being all-encompassing, but I really hope the listening-and-reading thing works for you!

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  4. I quite like how you bring in the anxiety-mitigating effect of audio books for this post. For one thing, it’s the sort of observation that hadn’t occurred to me but made perfect sense the moment I read it (I think I do something similar, except it’s playing Tetris while listening to history podcasts: a soothing lecture over a menial task). And for another, it put a unique spin on a discussion that tends to devolve into semantics depressingly quickly–and I say that as someone who loves that sort of thing!

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    1. It’s not something that comes up for most people so that’s understandable! I’m glad you liked reading about it and I could give that extra side to the argument 🙂

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  5. You hit two big things for me. The whole “reading” thing has always bothered me, and I always felt it was a little ableist to limit reading to visual intake. I also find audiobooks help me focus on other tasks. I mostly listen to them at work, and they help me focus on my job and not get distracted by things going on around me. I also feel less anxious when I drive and listen to audiobooks.

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    1. Yeah the ableist thing comes up a lot (and rightly so) – it’s like people can’t imagine something being useful if it wasn’t made specifically for them? Glad they work for you as a focusing agent too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well said! I get so mad when people say that audiobooks do not count as real reading… I’ve often used the braille analogy as well to describe why audiobooks are indeed books. My son has a visual processing disorder (similar symptoms to dyslexia), so audiobooks have been good for him. So happy that you’ve discovered audiobook and that they have been helpful in your struggle with anxiety.

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  7. It’s interesting that you read and listen at the same time! That would really keep you engaged. And I’m glad it helps with your anxiety too.

    I’m so bored with the whole ‘audiobooks don’t count’ argument so totally agree with that *YAWN*.

    If I were being nitpicky, I’d say I had listened to an audiobook rather than read it, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. Take in the story in whatever medium suits you.

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