Audiobooks are the most underrated form of quarantine entertainment — these are the best apps for listening

  • Audiobooks are an underrated form of entertainment. They're an easy way to soak up information, whether you're jogging, taking a bath, or doing the dishes.
  • I listen to audiobooks using Scribd, Libby, and Audible, as well as the audio from MasterClass classes. It's boosted my happiness by helping me stay productive without feeling burned out.
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I spent the summer of 2015 with perpetual grime underneath my fingernails. For 13 hours a day, I was paid to fill tiny nail holes with putty on a construction site, as solo as Tom Hanks in "Castaway." 

Despite performing a job so boring it sounds imaginary, I enjoyed myself because I got into audiobooks. I cried inside thick goggles listening to "Miracle in the Andes", and marveled at Roxane Gay's prose in "Bad Feminist" whilst wearing my brother's least-favorite pair of straight-leg jeans. 

Without trying, I learned so much. I finally read the classics — "Wuthering Heights," "Pride and Prejudice," and "The Importance of Being Earnest" among some of them — and listened to old favorites like "Eragon" twice. Through my Scribd subscription, I dabbled in topics that interested me, like linguistics, when the desire struck.

Audiobooks are convenient, low-lift tickets to another world. 

Now, six years later, I find myself in a similar tear. A year of isolation and stress, it turns out, can manifest itself in a perpetual state of exhaustion — to me, it feels like a listless (yet impatient) energy. At the end of the day, when my eyes are tired, a paperback can feel more like a stationary exercise in self-improvement than viable escapism. 

Audiobooks are convenient, low-lift tickets to another world. And they allow me to pack more activities into a single day without burning out.

Sometimes I lounge in a bath listening to "Bad Blood," or crank out some endorphins on a walk while a British narrator reads me a new mystery thriller or an author provides her first-hand experience researching extremism. And when I run out of baths to take or walks to go on, I find useful tasks to justify listening for longer — like doing the dishes or re-organizing the kitchen drawer — that otherwise feel too tedious to tackle. It actually helps me remain productive without feeling pressure. (Right now, I'm marveling at Roxane Gay's prose in "Hunger' while I clean out my closet.)

In essence, audiobooks are my MVP of isolation entertainment. They're one of the very few activities that I can experience creatively and passively at the same time — listening to a story feels a bit more "nutritious" than the junk food of ambient television (which, don't get me wrong, I also need many days). Some of them are narrated by the authors, or celebrities, or are even organized as "performances" with a full cast of narrators. 

If you're looking for a way to get into reading — or expand your nightly routine beyond reruns and doomscrolling — I'd recommend getting into audiobooks.

Like I did in 2015, I'm learning a lot; When audiobooks of new topics feel too dense, I've even used the audio of MasterClass classes as de-facto books. In the MasterClass app, you can toggle between a video or audio format of the class. I hit audio and let Margaret Atwood share her best writing tips or Apollonia Poilane teach me about sourdough. 

So if you're looking for a way to get into reading — or expand your nightly routine beyond reruns and doomscrolling — I'd recommend getting into audiobooks.

Of course, there are a few small cons to consider. For instance, while an excellent format for fiction, audiobooks are less suitable for certain books — namely, dense topics or literature you want to control the delivery of (such as poetry). Audiobooks also aren't particularly conducive to data-heavy reads. If you let your mind wander, you'll find yourself perpetually rewinding — and may miss out on visual aids included in the physical book. 

You also may open an audiobook and realize you can't stand the voice of the narrator, for whatever reason. It happens. To save yourself the disappointment, I'd recommend listening to a sample first.

And for books you want to share with others, like "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," which executive editor Libby Kane buys just to keep giving away, I've personally used the low-cost, high-volume audiobook space to read more books — and only purchased hard copies of the books I want in my home forever. Altogether, I'm saving money and lowering the clutter on my bookshelves.

So the next time you scrape the bottom of the barrel on Netflix or get tired of your favorite podcast, consider the underrated audiobook. And send me your favorites. 

Here are the three audiobook platforms I've used:

Borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library for free. If you don’t have a library card you can sign up for one in the app.

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