How Audiobooks Ruined My (Reading) Life and Other Musings

As a child I learned to read early and was a voracious reader of anything I could get my hands on. In grade school and junior high I used to set the alarm clock to go off an hour early so I could get in some quality reading time before school. I still have a very tactile memory of perusing the MMPB shelves at a nearby grocery store or Fred Meyer looking for a book I just couldn’t live without and I would invariably find one. I still have some of them though a bit worse for wear. So it was with not a little dismay that I perused my Goodreads stats for June (coincidentally Audiobook Month) and noticed a startling fact: my audiobook consumption surpassed my book reading for the first time. July rolled around and guess what? The same thing. August is on track to go the same way and I can say without a doubt that my “reading” habit has now become a “listening” habit.

This has led to significantly less consumption of e-books (from an average of 16 per month to 5) and books in general since a typical read takes me about 2 hours and an audiobook… well it takes however long the audio runs or maybe a little longer if I listen before bed and have to rewind the next day to figure out at what point I fell asleep. In part I think it’s because there are so many more choices in audiobooks these days, especially in popular fiction and I’ll always pick audio with a good narrator over text.

Some other ways in which audiobooks have altered my habits:

  • My coffee consumption has increased exponentially. After all, a book is a static thing and one is always guaranteed its physical presence the next day if you choose to put it down and go to sleep. An audiobook has its own momentum and one is never quite sure the story won’t have moved on without you while you slept
  • Since I started listening to audiobooks they have gradually taken over my brain. I spend an uncommon amount of time thinking about things like:
    • Why does one narrator suit my listening ear and another not so much?
    • Do I not like that narrator because she sounds like my first girlfriend?
    • Why do so many people hear different things in a book?
    • Are romance listeners so passionate about who narrates a book because really, once you’ve eavesdropped on someone having sex you can hardly be indifferent to them? As a corollary, does that create a false sense of intimacy with a narrator when a reader connects with them via social media?
    • Does a childhood spent alert to subtle shifts in voice tone affect your narration preferences?
    • Are less dramatic narrators/narrations preferable to introverts because they are more accustomed to listening?

Clearly I am selfishly sacrificing all that extra contemplation time I could be spending…oh, thinking of methods to achieve world peace or devising ways to halt the tragic proliferation of tramp stamps

  • My relationship with family has altered. Earphones in means there is a possibility (OK, likelihood) I may snap or glare when someone just has to make me pause the story to tell me all about their golf game or what they just read on the internet and I start to wonder if I am the selfish one for resenting the interruption or they are for interrupting me
  • I have assumed a new career as audiobook pimp for family members. I have a brother who frequently seeks new audio suggestions (and audiobooks themselves) from me and have learned the hard way to steer him away from audiobooks with accents (damn you Outlander!) because his desire to imitate the accents far outstrips his ability to do so

Well, if you have made it this far, rest assured I’ll be back to reviews with my next post.


  1. Good stuff! Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Outstanding! Hope you don’t mind that I featured this on the front page of with your logo.
    You’re welcome to point your readers there if you like the site.



  3. I enjoyed reading this one. Your experience with audiobooks reminds me of my wife’s experience, except her changeover happened 7-8 years ago.

    I am also a fan and regular reader of @Byron’s and I first saw this entry there earlier today.

    • Jeff,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s an odd sensation to experience such a dramatic shift in a long-standing habit, as it sounds like your wife can attest to!

  4. One of my favorite posts on the evolution of an audiobook addict ever. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  5. So very funny. Good to know I’m not the only selfish addicted person around. I can add that people have learned to use the phone recorder cuz I’ll call back when my book is done. I solved the problem of re-finding my place when I wake up by bookmarking it just before I lay down. Cuts down on searching for the last bit I remembered. Great post

    • Thanks, Jennie. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in being jealous of my time together with a good audiobook. I never thought of bookmarking at the start of my listening session. Great idea.

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