Perhaps it is the result of the hyperconnected world we live in, or the constant inundation of information, I find it quite hard to concentrate nowadays.
Some days it feels like not one single thing is worth placing all your attention on, lest the million other things that need to be done but don’t get their own infinitesimal spout of attention.
My colleagues, noticing this uptake in nervous energy, suggested a good book to calm my nerves and focus my mind.
I relayed my worry that the peacefulness of a book was no longer the sanctuary I once imagined it to be.
In fact, I could hardly ever find the time or concentration nowadays to read a book cover to cover.
My business colleagues, noticing this opportunity to slip in an advertorial, suggested I try out some audiobooks by Storytel in a one-week trial.
Here’s how it went.
Back during the good old pre-Covid days, I actually tried to read a book during the ride to work.
For a variety of reasons, those usually ended with dog-eared pages not far from where I started.
I chose an audiobook that I hoped would help me answer the most pressing question I had:
A small issue I faced straightaway was the speed of the book itself. But that was easily adjustable.
Based on my own experience with the app, I would place the ideal speed at about 1.4-ish, right before it gets kinda whiny and comically sped up, but of course this differs for each person, try it out for yourself to find the optimum speed for your reading pace.
I liked how I could lie back and just rest my eyes and, this is a rather superficial point, how I could choose books that I would be way more hesitant to read in public, like self-help books for instance.
I’m not sure if this was a better way of ingesting information than actually reading though, due to the relatively passive nature of the experience. But I did manage to get through a fair bit during my commutes.
Starting another book
Another great thing about the audiobook experience was how I didn’t have to remember where exactly I had stopped listening.
Somehow, being able to pick up exactly where I left off helped me realise quickly that I didn’t really like that book. I could move on to another title without wasting anymore time on something I didn’t quite enjoy.
This might not sound revolutionary to most, but I have this terrible habit of not being able to start on another book without finishing the one I was currently reading.
Turns out, I have no such hangup for the audiobook version.
There’s also this nifty little offline mode, where if you download the book beforehand, you can peruse it even if you’re not on data or wifi.
I tried a wide variety of books from Storytel’s catalogue of 250,000 audiobooks and ebooks.
The mark of a successful subscription service, which this is, usually lies in the variety and breadth of the library available to the subscriber.
Personally, that many books feels a bit intimidating to me, but the app does well in categorising its vast selection.
So overall, listening to audiobooks while on my way to do other things, or listening to them while typing out droll work-related emails worked out great, much smoother than I would have thought.
Slight problems crept up when I got home, and had the luxury of time.
Paying attention, even at 1.5 speed, was tough for some reason, and I found myself zoning out at various parts of the books, even having to go back a few minutes here and there to repeat what I missed.
I was also surfing the net and texting while listening to the books, so that couldn’t have helped.
I was going to chalk it up to it just being one of those quirks you have to live with for audiobooks, until I chanced upon The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying.
It was beautifully written of course, but so were some of the other books I had been listening to throughout the week.
Rather, I think it was the excellent narration, by Cassandra Campbell, that not only did justice to the book, but at many points, immensely enhanced the experience.
Here is a really succinct article praising Campbell’s performance.
This is of course not to say that other narrators were lacking, but just that this combination worked the best for me.
Here are some of her other narrations on the app:
The idea of reading a book purely because of (or at least strongly due to) a narrator was something that I had never thought of before, but it does a good job opening you up to genres and books you might not necessarily have picked off the shelves.
Honestly the sheer amount of book titles, including really recent releases, and a very commendable mix of local and international books are all incredible plus points.
Is it significantly more engaging than reading a book? Well during short bursts of time when it’s almost impossible to comb through a significant chunk of a book, it does its job marvellously.
The challenge is to find a book that appeals to you, and has a narrator that you really vibe with. With just one week of listening to audiobooks, I’m not really sure how often or how rare those connections might be, but take heed, there’s an awful lot of books to try your luck from.
You can use this link to get a 30-day Storytel free trial.
This sponsored article by Storytel helped the writer find some really interesting books