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I finished listening to my first audio book yesterday. It was The Firm, a classic legal thriller by John Grisham. I liked the book. I rated it four stars. But I can’t help but feel like a hypocrite for what I’m about to tell you.
Having the book read to me was immensely enjoyable.
I’m torn over whether I should relish in the most effortless “reading” I have ever undertaken or if I should exclude counting this book toward my goal of 52 books this year. I do take my reading quite seriously, and over the years I’ve regarded listening to audio books as something only phony readers dabble in. The post I spent the most time crafting this year was one in which I scrutinized Tai Lopez’s a book a day mantra–insinuating that he wasn’t actually reading the books and that that made him a fraud.
My comprehension of the audio from The Firm was about on par with how I feel when I actually read a book. The voice actor’s pacing, compared to my own estimated speed tweaked by how long friends claimed it took them to read it, was about four times as slow. To make things worse, The Firm is an easy read. Not too many big words. No confusing plot details. There’s no need to take notes or re-read anything. It’s a beach book that conveniently ends on the beach.
I will only seek out audiobooks when I know that my eyes will be occupied. Otherwise it’s just too slow and it will be too easy for me to find a distraction. I’ve tried it out at work, but I can only pay attention to the narrator when my work is mundane and mindless. It’s rarely mundane or mindless. I don’t drive regularly. The gym is too loud and I like focusing on my own thoughts when I run. So that leaves basically no regular opportunities where it’s worth it for me to spend my time listening.
To me, the point of reading a book isn’t just to extract knowledge. Half the fun is zoning out and becoming lost in the material. To make connections between what you’re reading and that which you already know. Not only is it easier to retain knowledge when it’s packaged into a narrative, but there are many other benefits that accrue over time. Based on my experience with my first audio book, I’m convinced. I’m an unabashed proponent, but I can’t see myself as a frequent indulger. I don’t read books in order to keep score, but I do keep score to remain motivated. It takes less effort to listen to an audio book, but it also requires significantly more time to get through the entire thing. For easy fiction like The Firm, listening to an audiobook doesn’t make you a fraud.