Almost ten years ago, while living in China, I had laser eye surgery
My eyes have always been bad—and one was worse than the other, causing depth perception problems (yes, that’s what I’m blaming my poor performance in high school PE class on. Okay?). I’d worn contact lenses since I was 15, but for a few years, my eyes had become increasingly sensitive and irritated by the lenses. I tried switching to glasses full time, but suffered vision headaches and just generally hated having something resting on my nose every day.
After the procedure, the doctor advised me to reduce the strain on my eyes, and particularly the time that I spent looking at computer screens, for about six months.
At first I thought I’d be fine—I planned to listen to music and sleep a lot. But no, it was a lot harder to cut back on reading than I had thought. We had a vacation coming up, to Xinjiang Province in far western China. What was I going to do on our long bus and train rides?
The answer: audiobooks.
Now, some of my readers here might know that I was homeschooled as a kid, and whether that's the reason or not, it has never been quite comfortable for me to take information in only by listening. I don't particularly enjoy listening to the radio, other than for music, and when I took lectures in college, I took as many notes as I could so that I could read them back later.
Knowing this, my husband picked out the first book for me to listen to. We thought it would be easier for me to enjoy if it was a book I’d actually read before on paper. He chose George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones. He’s an OG GOT fan, and I had recently bought him paperbacks of the full series (well, whatever was published up to that point; we didn’t even know there’d be a TV series then!) at an English-language bookshop in Macao. So one of my first experiences with audiobooks was listening to the narrator describe Westeros as we sat on a train going across the yellow Taklamakan desert near Kashgar.
On later trips that year, I listened to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich and other authors I enjoy read aloud. Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and his own reading of The Graveyard Book stayed with me particularly. I listened on a ferry down the Yangtze, *tried* to listening while going to the gym (but the music was too loud and to be honest, going to the gym is another thing I’ve never been able to get into…), and stayed up late at night in cheap hostels in India, mosquito netting inches from my face, riveted by one plot point or another.
But once the doctor approved me for reading screens again, I let my interest in audiobooks lapse. Until this year.
While training for our hike in Spain next week, I’ve started listening to audiobooks again, as well as podcasts, to make the miles pass under my boots faster. Plus, since I’ll have to carry everything I need for the hike in a 26L backpack, I don’t really have room to take a paperback (one paperback is not enough for a week trip anyway). My Kindle’s small and light, but I would worry about damage to it if it rains. These past two months, I’ve learned I’m still a newbie listener, and often have to back up to re-hear what happened if my focus is pulled elsewhere. I would never be able to listen to audiobooks and drive a car—that seems like a superpower!
Lately, I’ve been listening to thrillers. I’ve finished Rena Olsen’s The Girl Before and AJ Banner’s The Good Neighbor, and now I’m working on Carla Norton’s What Didn’t Kill Her—which I’m really enjoying.
My next Audible credit this month will go to Steven King’s latest release, Outsider. I hope the tension will keep me on the path while walking—but I’ll probably switch back to podcasts after dark!
Do you listen to audiobooks? Which ones would you recommend?