Why I Have Fallen in Love with Audiobooks

Over the last 30 days, I’ve been running a little experiment. I don’t recall exactly how or why I started this journey, but once I was on it – the ball was in motion.

I’ve enjoyed the random audiobook here and there over the years, but without a commute to work I was missing the most obvious way to add audiobooks to my life. There are so many books I want to experience and enjoy that I’m always trying to read a little bit more, or faster – but I get distracted. Easily. For a short time I had a rule that before I could launch Facebook on my phone, I had to launch my Kindle app – and that did increase my reading for a little while. The thing is, I get frustrated with reading on Kindle, whether it be on my phone, or on my actual Kindle. I have trouble remembering the title name, the author, and not long after I’ve read a book – the majority of it is floating away and I don’t recall nearly as much as I’d like. This lack of recall makes me question the point of reading. I read for enjoyment, but I also read to enhance my life, and if I don’t remember much of what I’m reading… well… let’s just say I’d prefer to remember more of what I read.

On average, I read 6 books a month – give or take. Some months I won’t read anything, others I’ll read so much I’ve caught back up. By the end of the year, I’m usually somewhere in the 70s. However, this year, it looks like things are going to be a bit different. 

Audiobooks have changed EVERYTHING for me. I decided to start listening to audiobooks during all the dead spots in my day, which as it turns out, added up very quickly. Getting ready for work and the day, 20 minutes. Moments at work that don’t require my full attention (hey, I work for myself – the boss says reading at work is cool), 10 minutes. Reading during lunch, 20 minutes. Reading while putting dishes away and cleaning the kitchen, 10 minutes. That’s an hour of reading before the mid-day point right there, and the lunch reading? That’s shared with Dave, so it’s something we get to do together.

All in all, this month I read 18 books, all in audio format. Yes, eighteen. Four of those books were books I read with Dave by using meal times and time before bed. We have been reading together for years but this is the first time we’ve tried audiobooks and I can’t believe we were able to share 4 books this month! Up until now we’ve read together for a short time at night and books will often take us 3 months to a year to finish. Completing 4 books in a month was completely unexpected, and totally fantastic since we got to have some really interesting conversations after completing various passages (thank you Trevor Noah!).

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the way I remember these books. When you read a book, especially in a digital format, there isn’t much that is tangible. You may rarely even see the cover so each page looks the same and the experience is very… oh, flat. Now compare that with an audiobook and you see the cover (title and author) CONSTANTLY, and you also now have the added dimension of sound. Voices. Accents. Sometimes multiple narrators, but even with only one this extra dimension adds a tremendous amount of tangibility (even though in reality, it still isn’t anything you can actually grasp). Even though I completed, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day almost two weeks ago, I can still remember several details as though I just finished it moments ago. Her vocal inflection in places has given my memory something to grasp on to and retain.

After about a week of reading only audiobooks I was shocked at how much I could remember of everything I was reading. I’ve always thought that I could only remember details by reading words on a page, but suddenly realized that I DO recall more by hearing than seeing and I’ve actually known this for years. I remember more of what Dave reads to me than what I read on my own. I have books that I’ve read over the years that touched me deeply but I can’t quite recall the details. Books that he has read to me however, come back to mind so much easier, faster, and clearer.

So… it’s been an interesting month. I’ve read some fantastic books (Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult), had more time available for another hobby of mine (coloring!), and actually got more housework done! And I’m really, really enjoying my library membership!

Other aspects I love about audiobooks:

  • Audiobooks + Chronic Illness = Heaven. Quite a bit of my waking life is uncomfortable. It’s just the way things are for me. When I don’t feel well and I try to read, I often find myself zoning out and focusing on my discomfort. With audiobooks I find it much easier to just be in the moment and relax (as much as I can) and… read!
  • No Reading Regression! You know when you find yourself reading the same few lines, or even words, over and over again? I do that to the point where it’s excessive, and seriously time consuming. When I use some kind of pointer to lead my eye it’s reduced, but it’s still something I struggle with. With audiobooks, obviously, this doesn’t happen. I simply move forward through the narrative. Bliss!
  • Improved Housework – I sort of mentioned this earlier about cleaning the kitchen, but I have to repeat myself because I actually found cleaning the bathtub to be less than a painful experience. I hate cleaning the bathtub. But this month, I didn’t hate it. I actually didn’t mind. Credit for this goes to The Hobbit.

I had absolutely no idea I’d love audiobooks this much and only wish I had figured this out sooner!

The Makings Of… A Little Free Library

Today was an amazing day. I accomplished a handful of things that made me extremely, joyously happy. For one thing, I now have a library card for the local library in Lake Havasu (as a full-time traveler, most counties will not provide such a gift, but as I’ve said before – Lake Havasu is a very special place). And, as I left the library, I left with an amazing book haul of purchased books – as much as I could carry in my arms. Yes, I did this. Yes, I still live in a van. But no, these books are not for me, they are for my library. Yes… my library.

This is how many books I can carry at once.

Little Van Library Book Haul

Shopping for our Little Free (Van) Library was so much more fun than shopping for myself! And since I purchased these in the “Friends of the Library” room, the money I spent goes directly toward supporting the local library. Besides, this amazing book haul cost me $6. Local Libraries are one of the best used bookstores ever that everyone forgets! 

Okay, let me back up a little bit now and give some background. What is a Little Free Library you ask?

A Little Free Library is a book trading zone, usually setup in front of someone’s house, or place of business. The person who establishes the Little Free Library buys or builds a location to house the books, and then will usually collect some books to kick things off, or donate from their personal collection. After that point, it should be fairly self-sustainable with people following the rules of the slogan, “Take a Book, Leave a Book”. You can take a book now, leave one later, pass along the book you picked up from one Little Free Library and return it to a different one (which Pays it Forward), or give to a friend to read. Basically, you share the joy of reading. It’s very simple really. 

I first heard of Little Free Libraries years ago and have wanted one ever since. I love sharing books with people, and I love talking books. Once we decided to travel, I figured there was no way we’d ever have one of these. I mean, who ever heard of a Little Free Library that moves? Well, you have. Now YOU have. Because we are making this happen.

A few months ago I mentioned to Dave that as crazy as it would be, I would still love to have a Little Free Library. I told him I knew it wouldn’t be possible, we most certainly do not have the room for it! But his response was priceless. His eyebrows shot up, and he told me the idea was brilliant. That’s pretty much all it takes for me to start brainstorming solutions. So that officially kicked things off.

The trick is, we live in a 22′ foot van. What would we use to store the library? They’re often pretty bulky (see examples here), and they need to be able to sustain being outside in the wind and rain. And for us, they need to be able to be transported on a regular basis.

At this point, we were committed to figuring out some way to do this, and some way to make it fit in a cargo box. So, we moved forward with obtaining a cargo box, which added 16 cubic feet of storage to our van. Wohoo! It was like adding on a basement! Do you know how LARGE 16 cubic feet of storage is when you live by way of spare inches? It’s ginormous! But I digress…

As much as I would love to have a super cute, adorable Little Free Library, like this one we saw in Columbia, Missouri – we knew we needed to be more creative.

Little Free Library

It’s taken me months to figure out a solution, but now that we have, we are just a few days away from having this fully setup!

Storage BoxOur Little Free Library will be housed in a Sterilite Storage Box, and available for use outside our van on a portable camping table that rolls up and fits in our cargo box.

This covers the weather issue, and the portability issue. Because the box is see through, books will be visible from the outside. Before you think I’ve abandoned the cuteness, don’t give up! I have absolutely not!

People will need to know that this is not just personal property, but something that is there for THEM to use and enjoy!

I have made some colorful attention-grabbing flyers for display next to the library box. I’m still working on the final touches, but I’ll go ahead and show you a sneak peek:

LFL Fliers

No, don’t bother trying the domain name, it doesn’t work yet silly! (Edited to add: The domain works now – yay!) I’m still working my way through my to-do list, but I am just too excited about this to not blog about it.

Anyway, the flyers. I’ll have a few of those printed next to the box of books so it’s clear, the books are meant to be touched, taken, and read.

This has been an amazing project to pull together, but now that we have the cargo box, the book-storage box, and an idea of what to do – I am very excited. It makes perfect sense to me to have a shareable bookshelf just outside my van door, ready for one and all to take, borrow, share – and talk books.

Our Little Van Library is almost here! Just a little more yet to do… stay tuned!