How to Listen to Audiobooks – A Beginner’s Guide

Audiobooks have so many benefits, it’s no wonder that more and more people want to start listening! If you want to know how to listen to audiobooks and how to find the best audiobooks for beginners, check out my beginner’s guide below. I will help you choose the perfect first audiobook and the right audiobook app so you can dive in.

How to Listen to Audiobooks - A Beginner's Guide. Background image showing an open book and white earbuds as audiobook concept.

Related article: The Benefits of Audiobooks

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The Best Audiobooks for Beginners

I know, you expected a list here with 10 books or 20 or whatever. But I’m worried that you would either scroll through them and decide that none of them really interest you, or that you would pick one more or less at random, then get bored with it, and give up on audiobooks. It’s the internet way, right?!

So, instead, we’ll do this differently.

Between the many genre fiction and nonfiction audiobooks out there, the different narration styles, and the many different ways for listeners to get their hands on audiobooks, I don’t think a list of best audiobooks for beginners makes sense or would work. Instead, I want to try and give you the tools to find a good book for yourself. One that is the perfect first audiobook for YOU!

The Best Story for your First Audiobook

If you already love reading ebooks or print and want to try out this new-to-you book format, this is the perfect time to reread one of your favorite stories and to experience it in a new way! There’s a big advantage to this. If you ever lose focus for a moment, you don’t get confused by the story and can get back into it quickly without having to skip back. That way, you won’t get frustrated as easily by your audiobook. If rereading is a total no-go for you, then it should at least be a book by one of your favorite authors. When you’re just starting with audiobooks, it’s not the best time to check out new-to-you authors.

I’ve seen so many people say they didn’t like audiobooks only because they didn’t like the author or narrator they listened to first! That’s like saying I don’t like Italian cuisine because I once tried pizza with pineapple! (I actually love pizza with pineapple, but I hope you get my point.)

If you want to try out audiobooks because you haven’t or couldn’t read many books so far, you could start by thinking about which movies or comics you like. People don’t necessarily have the same favorite movie and book genre, but this is still a safe place to start. For some movies, games, and shows, you can even find companion books that have audio versions, e.g. Star Wars, Doctor Who, or Warcraft.

If you like podcasts, check out if one of your favorite podcasters has an audiobook out as well. Many do!

If you like RomCom movies, you will love how many fantastic romantic comedy books are out there in audio format!

If there’s a celebrity you admire, see if they have a memoir!

The more you’re sure you will enjoy the story or topic of the book and be captivated by it, the better for starting with audiobooks.

There are so ridiculously many fantastic audiobooks out there and one could argue that one is for this or that reason among the “best audiobooks for beginners”. But people have so many different interests. It makes more sense if you take 5 minutes to think about what you enjoy and then look up books that fit this topic and your interests.

Once you know the right direction, you can find good audiobooks e.g. on Audible by typing into the search the name of a famous person or by navigating in the menu to the genre you might like.

By the way, if you are a reader of ebooks, Amazon has this nice feature in the Kindle App called Audio Upgrade**. If you click on there you will get a list of all the audiobooks that are available for the ebooks you already own. They are often offered at a reduced price and you can get some audiobooks for as little as $1.99!

Related article: How to get Audible books cheaper with Whispersync

Narrations Forms

When picking your perfect first audiobook, the way it’s narrated is just as important as the story. So, let’s talk about narration forms!

Full Cast

Full-cast audiobooks are like listening to a movie. Every main character is narrated by a different voice actor. Full-cast productions are often abridged (shortened versions) to make it more doable to get so many voice actors into a studio. Radio plays are typically recorded with a full cast.

Duet Narration

Consider this “full cast light”. In duet narrations for a book with a male and a female characters’ point of view, a narrator with a manly voice reads all male-sounding characters and a narrator with a feminine voice reads all the female-sounding characters.

Dual Narration

This is the most common narration form for many fiction audiobooks, especially Romance. The books often have two points of view and since each narrator just does their part in their own studio, this is easier to produce than the previous forms, which often require narrators to record together in one studio. However, this is also the form that I personally found the most difficult to get used to when I was new to audiobooks since the characters sound so different in each chapter. I recommend passing on dual narration audiobooks until you feel more comfortable with the format as a whole!

Single Narration

This is closest to having someone read a story to you. Depending on the narrator, they might do more voice acting or more reading.

How to find the best Narration Form for your First Audiobook?

For people who are new to audiobooks, I always recommend either a full-cast or a single narration audiobook. Some find it easier to focus on just one voice. If you listen to podcasts, your brain is likely already used to listening attentively to one voice. But if you often follow TV shows without actually looking at the screen, e.g. while doing crafts or ironing, full-cast might work best for you since you are used to hearing several different voices.

Of course, if you are already an avid reader and want to do a re-read for your first audiobook, your favorite book might not be available in your preferred narration form. Full-cast stories, for example, are somewhat rare in comparison to dual or single narrators. In this case, just look up a bunch of your favorite books on Audible and see how they are narrated, or search for the term “full cast” or “radio play” on Audible if this narration form caught your eye!

Whether you are new to books or specifically new to audiobooks, it’s very important that you make use of the Sample function on Audible and Amazon before you actually buy and download an audiobook. The sample gives you a good idea of how interesting the book is to you and how much you like the narrator’s voice.

How to Listen to Audiobooks

The best way hands down to try out your first audiobook is your local library. A librarian can help you set up Overdrive or Libby on your phone and you can borrow audiobooks for free with your library card so you can find out what you like without having to worry about the cost.

Don’t feel bad about stopping one audiobook and starting another if you feel like this isn’t the right one! Listening to audiobooks is a skill and your brain will need some time to get used to it so your mind will not wander so easily. Keep at it and try out several different books, different genres and narration styles, if your first audiobook didn’t work for you.

However, if you don’t have a local library that offers free audiobooks, or if you are like me and rather do everything from home, here are some good alternatives!

You might have heard that a standard audiobook subscription works like this: You pay a monthly fee for which you get one credit that you can exchange for an audiobook of your choice. But there are also a lot of audiobook subscriptions that work like Netflix or your library! And for beginners, these are great because you can try out a lot of different genres, authors, narrators, and production styles to find out what you like.

Audible is the most well-known audiobook service. And in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, they offer Audible Plus which is a catalog of several thousand audiobooks from which you can borrow as many as you like. They also have many audio plays with a full cast of narrators. You can try this out in a 30-day free trial**

Scribd is a service similar to Kindle Unlimited. They have ebooks and audiobooks that you can borrow. There are some limitations, but unlike Audible Plus, you can find new bestsellers and book club favorites in audio format here! You can try this out, too, in a free test month**

Either one of those is a good choice to get started with audiobooks. They are easy to subscribe to and have good phone apps with which you can listen. In the apps, you can set bookmarks which I highly recommend, especially if you’re listening in bed. The bookmark will help you get back to the right part quickly if you fall asleep or get distracted.

The Scribd and Audible app also let you set the narration speed. Some people have a difficult time following audiobooks because they feel the narration is too slow or too fast. With the narration speed function, you can set the audiobook to play exactly as quickly as is comfortable for you.

The apps also have a sleep timer which is really convenient.

Most audiobook listeners prefer listening with headphones or AirPods. They make it easier to stay focused and not miss anything. When you are driving, the car speakers work really well too though. If you have headphones lying around somewhere, use those! In the long run, most audiobook listeners find it’s worth it to buy a nice pair of Bluetooth earbuds. When I listen to audiobooks while doing chores or cooking, I like using just one earbud so I can still hear what’s going on around me.

I hope these pointers helped you to find out how to listen to audiobooks and where to get started with finding your first audiobook. If you have any questions or are looking for specific audiobook recommendations from me that might fit your taste, leave a comment or send me a message!

If you want to know more about audiobooks, check out these 5 fun facts about audiobooks and if you want to know more about different audiobook services, check out my comparison of the best audiobook apps. If you are looking for some more specific pointers for good audiobooks, check out this list with 50 of the best audiobooks of all time, picked by book bloggers.

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2 thoughts on “How to Listen to Audiobooks – A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. I love to use Libby as i’m super pecular about my audiobooks.. Need me a good voice that I can listen for times on end; as I got quite alot of voices that I just- I can’t 😬 depend on their way of speaking/accent/tone and etc.
    Re-reading is actually quite a nice tip!

    My problem is what to do 🤣 even if I listen while laying there, im still scared id pass out or get distracted and end up not actually listening and « blocking out » the noise.. same as if I do anything else- so far it seems to be working.

    1. Have you tried simple relaxing things like a coloring book, puzzle, or puzzle game on the phone? That’s what I do when I just want to relax while listening to an audiobook 🙂

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