Image: Holger Prothmann

Why listening to a book means I can still add it to my Goodreads

Since the advent of audiobooks decades ago, reading a book no longer has to mean sitting down with a physical copy and pouring over each page. While one could never argue there isn’t something distinctive about curling up with a good book, other forms of reading don’t have to be lesser ones. My case in point here is the grand old audiobook.  

Taking off in the 1960s, especially in schools, with the prominence of cassette tapes and players, audiobooks provided a new avenue for everyone to engage with literature. As books play an important role in both learning and leisure, the proliferation of audiobooks opens doors for so many more people to gain something from the wonders of words. This goes beyond just the face value accessibility that audiobooks provide for the visually impaired, which is, in itself an incredible effect. Around 30% of the population are auditory learners; the ability to listen to course material from textbooks, or relevant literature for their classes, is game-changing in increasing concentration, information retention, and even enjoyment from learning. Yet there remains a massive stigma surrounding whether listening to an audiobook ‘counts’ as having read it. 

If you have taken in as much of the information or been moved by the literature as much as you would have if you physically read the book, then yes – it counts as reading. There is always something to be said about the level of concentration reading a physical book forces upon you. You can’t really do anything else, except maybe listening to music, whereas audiobooks mean you can engage with a whole host of other things while listening. From daily chores to accompanying you on long walks, a good audiobook certainly enlivens these aspects of your life, as well as allowing you to carve the time for reading more books that you may not have done otherwise. Yet this only holds if listening to an audiobook means you can actually concentrate on it, as that isn’t true for everyone, and that is okay. I am certainly one of these people; putting on an audiobook as I navigate my commute, clean my room, or do any other task means I find myself too distracted by what I’m doing to actually take in what I’m being told. The next thing I know, five chapters have gone by and I have no clue what has happened in the last 50 pages. Though of course, the same can also be found when you’re reading a physical copy and the words just aren’t going in. In either case, you would go back to re-read or re-listen to what you missed. If like me you find you can’t take anything in anytime you listen to an audiobook, then they may not be your thing. But that doesn’t mean that audiobooks aren’t a valuable way to read for those of us who are enraptured by a story read aloud. 

An amazing example is Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died, as the former child actress takes the reader through her relationship with her abusive mother – to hear her words in her own voice connects you to her story in a way that elevates the words from the page

With ‘reading more books’ appearing on almost everyone’s New Year’s resolutions lists, audiobooks can be the perfect way to make this one of the changes you actually stick to, with the lack of time available being a significant barrier for many people to reading more. It’s not just as easy as replacing the time you spend watching TV with reading, as the latter definitely requires much more brain power, and sometimes you just need to put on a show or film and turn your brain off. But putting on an audiobook as you do the more mundane things in your day can let you be transported to the different worlds that lie in the pages of some great books, while not having to dedicate those hours solely to reading.  

Hearing a book is also an especially unique experience, with some audiobook production companies hiring different narrators for different characters, bringing the story even more to life as you hear the dialogue unfold right in your ears. And there is also something so moving about hearing works like memoirs directly from the author. An amazing example is Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died, as the former child actress takes the reader through her relationship with her abusive mother – to hear her words in her own voice connects you to her story in a way that elevates the words from the page.  

There is no reason you cannot paint the same pictures of landscapes, settings, and actions from hearing a story than from reading it; after all, they are exactly the same words. While in the early stages of audiobooks they were often abridged versions to cut costs, it is now entirely uncommon for an audiobook to not be a full narration of exactly what the author wrote. With the ability to slow the book down or speed it up to match your pace of comprehension, audiobook listeners are indeed fully able to enjoy written works, whether they’re old classics or new releases, just as readers are. So if you listened to an audiobook, it can definitely be added to your Goodreads list.  


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