Hidden Gems: The kaleidoscopic joys of audiobooks

An insider's guide to audiobooks

Audiobooks can be a great hideaway for those who need a break.

We’re living in a media-saturated world. As millennials and Generation Zs, we’re constantly overloaded with YouTube ads, pinging texts, images and videos on social media, and news from around the world.

This constant flood of media can be anxiety-inducing and result in burnout. With the threat of midterms looming closer every day, there needs to be an easy way to ditch distractions, increase productivity, and remain entertained. The answer to this problem is audiobooks.

Audiobooks are recorded readings of books that come in a surprising amount of styles and formats. Just like physical books, they range from non-fiction, such as biographies and self-help, to fiction, including science fiction and romance.

Most audiobooks are unabridged: the entire book’s manuscript is narrated. Others are abridged or condensed, though these are less common.

Not only are Audiobooks diverse in length, but in narration as well. Most are read by a single voice actor or the author themselves, while some blur the lines between audiobooks and audio plays by having a full cast of readers. It takes some time to find the styles and formats that suit your tastes, but there’s more than enough out there to appeal to everyone. 

Audiobooks make great study aids, either for keeping up with class readings or to keep your mind engaged while working. Unlike listening to music, which often leads to more time spent shuffling through Spotify than actually studying, listening to audiobooks gives you little excuse to pick up your phone. The stories keep you engaged and entertained, while also free to keep on task.

Hearing finely-crafted words roll off the tongues of voice actors, movie stars, or celebrated authors can help get your creative juices flowing. They can inspire you to make magic happen across the blank screen of a Word document during essay-writing crunch time.

Comedic memoirs are particularly great for studying, as they fulfil your all-purpose, easy listening needs no matter your mood. I would recommend Braindroppings by George Carlin or Bossypants by Tina Fey for great laughs and a sense of company during your midterm struggles.

Audiobooks also make a good alternative to workout tunes for your visits to the ARC. Shuffling through songs while on a workout machine isn’t just distracting, but can also be dangerous if you reach for your phone at the wrong moment. For me, it’s easier to ignore the impulse to quit a difficult workout by focusing on the story that’s being told, not the scattered sequence of my music apps’ shuffling algorithms.  

Personally, I like to listen to non-fiction at the gym. I want something controversial that gets me fired up, like 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson or Becoming by Michelle Obama.      

Most important of all, I find that audiobooks can be calming and relaxing mental health aids. Our parents used to read to us before bed for good reason: there’s something deeply comforting about being told a story.

In times of stress and anxiety, many people use audiobooks as a way to shut off the world for a while.

Classic books are always a good choice. They tend to have lyrical prose, familiar plots, and a lack of graphic violence that could keep you up at night. I would suggest Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll—it’s in the public domain, so there’s plenty of free versions on YouTube.

During my ill-conceived year at the University of Ottawa and while I grieved the death of my father the following summer, I wrapped myself in the world of the Harry Potter audiobook series like a warm blanket. The tender, bright voice of Stephen Fry (a prolific narrator I couldn't recommend highly enough) helped heal my battle scars and brought me back to the world. I’m not ashamed to admit the earnestness and beauty of J.K. Rowling’s books are the reason I am where I am today. 

Whether you use audiobooks to study, work out, expand your horizons, or even just as entertainment,  I encourage you to explore your interests. They can offer the perfect hideaway if you need one.

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