Books that Read Themselves

Your brain will never be the same.

How many books do you read every month? If the answer is not many, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even though there’s something special about reading a book the usual way, our modern lives aren’t very compatible with settling down with a book for hours at a time.

And yet, reading is such a fantastic source of new ideas, new ways of thinking, and keeping your brain in tip-top shape. But you know this already. The problem is not that you don’t value books, but rather how can you possibly spend all that time reading when you already don’t have time for everything else going on in your life?

The answer is audiobooks.

For the past ten years, I’ve read (well, listened to) three to five books every month. All made possible through the magic of having someone else read to you. Because it turns out that using your ears instead of your eyes to ingest a book means you can do other things at the same time! Brilliant. I listen while I’m driving, walking, exercising, waiting in line, at the grocery store, or waiting for the kids to pop out of school.

During these unusual months of the pandemic, I’ve been going on hour-long walks, and listening to even more books than before. Sometimes motivation to get out for a walk comes from wanting to keep listening to a book I’m in the middle of, which is a nice bit of extra motivation to get moving. There’s something therapeutic about walking through your neighbourhood while your brain is marinating in new ideas.

Non-fiction works better than fiction in audio format, mostly because reading fiction on paper involves you conjuring your own image of the characters, so when you literally hear their voices when dialogue is read, it disrupts that special part of the experience. But if fiction is very well-produced, it can be great too.

Listening to non-fiction on a regular basis has unexpected benefits that go beyond the obvious fact that you’re being exposed to new facts, knowledge, and ideas. Continuously streaming new wisdom into your ears, which causes you to always be thinking about new things, is like a daily high-intensity workout for your brain. You get so accustomed to processing new concepts that it makes you more open minded, curious, and perhaps even smarter.

Pretty cool.

There are hundreds of thousands of audiobooks to choose from. You may be wondering, how should choose what to listen to? I will tell you: GoodReads. GoodReads is a social network just for books! So good, right? Add your friends (and me, if you’d like), and you’ll have a never-ending stream of book recommendations. They also have curated lists of books in every category imaginable. And yes, GoodReads works just fine for old-school paper books too.

So now you know that you know how fantastic audiobooks are, and you know where to go to get recommendations, your next question may be: how do I actually acquire these things? I will tell you that too: The Library! It’s true—many public libraries around the world, including our very own Toronto Public Library, have a pretty impressive audiobook collection. I recommend you use an app called Libby, which connects right up to your library account and makes it easy to find, put holds on, download, and return audiobooks, all for free.

There are some titles that libraries don’t have, and for those you will have no choice but to crack open your wallet and dial-up Audible, whose collection is immense. They have all kinds of different plans depending on how many books you want to buy every month. The good news is that when you sign up, you get a book or two for free. Yay, free!

One last tip: You can adjust the speed at which audiobooks are read to you. This is an incredible feature, because if you listen at 2x speed, you can consume a 12-hour megabook in a measly 6 hours! Wow. Now you may ask, how the heck can you catch everything someone’s saying at 2x speed? Funny thing—you can actually train your ear and brain to listen at faster and faster speeds, just by ratcheting up the dial a bit at a time. Before long, listening at the original speed will make it seem like the reader is wasted. Which can also be fun.

So there you have it: everything you need to know about how to make audiobooks a part of your life. They really are so good. Happy listening!


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