Escape by Audiobook CategoriesTo Your Health & Sanity

Escape by Audiobook

I discovered audiobooks a few years ago when reading traditional books caused my eyes to blur and my brain to rock. While I struggled to cope with a neurological blip in my life, I needed ways to escape the stress and the reality of my situation. Reading had often been a days-end pleasure, but it was simply causing more problems at the time. A friend’s suggestion that I try listening to books was a game-changer. An audio-book, while still a book, is a whole different creature, requiring a completely different approach. I made it work for me and found listening released me from the physical effort of reading.

In a rather dark alcove of my house, right off of the living room, sits a recliner that I had hardly ever used. My husband (ex) and I purchased it years ago, as a sort of “recliner compromise.” He had wanted a traditional, manly hunk of leather with cup holders. I had petitioned for a sleek chair with an ottoman. We ended up with a modern-looking recliner, sporting a geometric design in primary colors and curved dark wood arms. It’s a massive chair and one I never used much – nor did he. But we parked it in the corner and it looked cool.

Anyway, the point is, when I started listening to books I decided that the compromise chair, in its dark, cozy corner, was the perfect location for listening. The chair became a place of refuge and comfort. Listening to a book doesn’t require good lighting or propping up. It doesn’t require page-turning or focused eyes. It’s all about listening. I usually set a book to play just one chapter at a time, so I don’t miss too much if I doze. My arms rest at my sides and I close my eyes. I focus on listening and experiencing. The books become a total escape. It’s a type of mindfulness or meditation.

The books I choose to listen to are varied. Often I end up with what is available on the library app and appeals to my mood. I’ve listened to dozens of them, but it takes a certain type of book for me to stick with it. It’s different listening to a book than reading the words on a page and often more difficult mentally. I can’t skim down a page or quickly look back to clarify the spelling of a name or place. The story and the narrator’s voice/tone have to grab me quickly or I simply won’t focus. I pay close attention so I don’t get lost in the words.  Once I’m hooked on a story, I’m obsessed. And I love that I can close my eyes, sit back and be entertained.

When I first started listening I found that only quick, fun, humorous books were relaxing. I enjoyed Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and The Number 1 Women’s Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve read inspirational/self-help books like, When It All Falls Apart by Pema Chodron, How To Make Disease Disappear by Rangan Chatterjee, and Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf. I listened to several memoirs like Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott, Education by Tara Westover, Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, and Inheritance by Dani Shapiro. I recently loved The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Camino Island by John Grisham, and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. One non-fiction book I was intrigued by was The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery, although it often put me to sleep.

There are often books on my “want to read” list, but once ready to listen, I found the narrator’s voice to be unsettling or droning. I’ve tried listening while I’m driving or walking or cooking, but I don’t enjoy multitasking – probably I really just can’t – so I keep the listening for my big, somewhat ugly recliner. This week I’m listening to Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. It’s holding my attention. It’s allowing me to escape from the news, the COVID boredom and the heat. And sometimes it lulls me to sleep for a quick nap – the ultimate escape!

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Karen is a 60-something, retired teacher, mom of two fabulous sons, and keeper of a small yard. Over the years she's been a social worker, writer, teacher of young children, and other assorted titles. Richmond has been home for over 30 years, although originally Karen is from "up north." Writing, hiking, yoga, reading, and traveling have always been joys and escapes. As Karen enters into this next phase of life, as a newly divorced person, with a few physical challenges, she's ready to embrace/tackle whatever comes along.

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