Before getting to our topic for today, let me ask you a simple question. Does the idea of someone reading you a story appeal to you? Whether you had a tradition of your parents reading to you before bedtime or even just remember in school when you got to put down whatever busywork you had and just listen to the teacher read through a book, nearly everyone has had some fond moments of taking in a story guided by another person’s voice rather than words on a page or actors on a screen. Hang onto any warm memories you are revisiting for just a second.

Simply put, today’s topic is that audiobooks are a great hobby to get into and people’s lives are a little brighter when they are both learning and engaged in a story. If I had to guess why listening to audiobooks isn’t a more common practice, I would imagine it has something to do with a phantom “book snob” that people imagine might look down at them over a bespectacled nose. This figure might resemble the teacher’s pet from your middle school English class, but their role in your psychological interior is to feel superior to you because they have a bookshelf at home filled with “the classics.” Real literature, we are told, requires serious study and quiet, pensive reflection; and while there is something to be said for giving some work your full attention, I think many people allow this imaginary figure to bully them away from exploring new forms of entertainment. To put it another way, there are adults with the silly notion that if they want to start exploring fiction then the only place to begin is a leather-bound copy of Moby Dick.

To return to my original question, isn’t it lovely to just listen to a voice reading you a story? First off, there really is something to be said for how simply hearing a human voice can help people fight off loneliness‒a tactic people have really found during times of quarantine. Second, you might just think of it as maximizing downtime. For instance, it’s pretty hard to make time spent driving your car feel productive unless you really have a big decision to mull over. However, if you spent that time listening to a book on history, psychology, or cooking then you might feel like it was time well spent. Instead of listening to the same songs on each commute or walk to campus, you could have a new segment of a story to look forward to. Your home is getting a little messy? Listen to twenty minutes of that book you just started while you fold that laundry (I honestly don’t know how people’s houses stay clean without this incentivizing tactic). And yes, of course, for falling asleep there are few things that can match a calm voice speaking to you while every screen in the room remains peacefully, thankfully dark. Also, for the uninitiated, plenty of the people who record audiobooks are voice actors so you sometimes get the drama of a little voice-work thrown in. Alternatively, sometimes it is the author themself reading to you which for some listeners really helps draw them in. As a tiny point of advice, it is possible for your attention to drift away from a story or topic if you are really multitasking so perhaps choose your listening material from things that sound engaging and fun rather than a way to make it through any stack of classics you might have on your bucket list.

Of course, this isn’t an advertisement for any specific service of audiobook purveyor, and it’s worth mentioning that the audiobook’s near cousin, the podcast, is an even more flexible and affordable option. Whether you are interested in sports, video games, humor, politics, history or finance, the market of podcasts has really exploded in the past few years so you are nearly guaranteed to find something that can suit your tastes (and if you can’t, that probably means you should buy a mic and make it). Of course, even Life University has gotten into the mix so be sure to subscribe.