Book Club / Culture

This is your sign to start listening to audiobooks


Many of us are fresh from holidays or still inhabiting them. It's likely those trips meant a lot of time on the road or in transit, hours that cannot be filled through talking alone. My own drive up to Queensland was soundtracked to Naomi Klein's voice as she unpacked the uncanniness of our online selves in Doppleganger. Listening to the audiobook reminded me of the opening scene of Lady Bird where upon finishing The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf share a moment of tenderness – a brief and rare interruption to the mother and daughter's usual bickering.

Like their paper forms audiobooks are a form of escapism, which is not an unwelcome thing when stuck in traffic on the Pacific Highway. Although, I've always had a sense that listening to a novel is somehow inferior to picking up a physical book. While I'm not going to engage with the discourse around whether audiobooks count as reading (they do – and isn't the oral tradition the oldest form of storytelling?). That's not to say that certain books are better suited to listening than others. Looking back on 2023, majority of my audiobook listens were memoirs – The Woman In Me, I'm Glad My Mom Died, Down the Drain – better still if they're narrated by the author themselves.

Last year, I listened to music less, podcasts about the same, but mostly the time I spent folding laundry, cleaning my bathroom, and commuting to work, I was engrossed in stories from the likes of Curtis Sittenfeld and Jane Austen and Ann Patchett and Sue Townsend. I should never have worried if the listening experience would be deficient to reading. Sure, when the washing machine finishes its cycle or between polite small talk on your morning walk you might miss a couple of sentences. But as Leonie Elliott demonstrated in her narration of Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks, the voice talking can be honeyed, evocative and lyrical, more so than the words being spoken.

Plus, as a reader who has a habit of mispronouncing words I've read yet never heard aloud, audiobooks eliminate this problem. (I once presented a speech in seventh grade where I confidently said "inevightable" about five times... I meant "inevitable".)

To aid you on your audiobook journey, here are some titles the RUSSH team enjoyed recently.

Where to listen to audiobooks


Audible was the major player in the world of audiobooks until recently. Started in 1995, the platform is now owned by Amazon. You receive one free title when you sign up, then your subscription (priced at $16.45 per month) buys you one audiobook each cycle.


If you're signed up to Spotify (sorry Apple Music listeners) your premium subscription allows you up to 15 hours of free audiobook listening per month. Which explains the recent uptick in audiobook listeners. While this is a new feature on the music streamer, Spotify boasts a wealth of popular titles and new releases. Once you exceed your free 15 hours, you can then pay extra for any titles you wish to listen to.

It should be noted that authors have shared concerns regarding Spotify's deal with publishers, believing it could result in a similarly disastrous situation to the music industry where streaming caused musician's to earn less in royalties. Authors also claimed they weren't consulted on the licensing deal.


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