Why listening to books is good for you
Do you Tolstoy on the treadmill? Christie on the commute? Kipling in the kitchen?
Humanity has a long history of storytelling, with oral stories pre-dating written language by tens of thousands of years, passed down between generations. Whilst stories are universal, the way we tell them changes with technology.
There's no real difference between listening to a book and reading it - the point is getting to and enjoying the destination, not which route you took. Here are 13 reasons why listening to books is good for you...
1) You can listen while you do other things
You don't have to have your full attention on the book when listening to an audio book as your eyes are free to gaze at whatever, whenever.
Obviously, not every task lends itself to this, but there are plenty of things that can be done while listening.
You could go for a walk, do some exercise, or focus on a more visually concentrating task.
2) They're hands-free
The fact audio books are hands-free means you could listen to Tolstoy whilst on the treadmill in the gym or hear some Kipling in the kitchen when preparing dinner.
Audio books also ensure those who might find holding books and turning pages a challenge - such as the elderly or disabled - can enjoy the same stories as everyone else.
3) They have entertaining readers
Listening to another voice injects more personality into a story.
Many audio book readers are actors, which means they do voices for characters and actually act out the dialogue of the book a bit.
This can help make the story even more alive than it was on the page and bring you into a story faster.
Some of the audio books available on Radio 4
4) They can make a journey seem faster
We only have a finite amount of attention, so if we focus on something fun then we pay less attention to the passing of time, and time can feel like it's flown by.
Long or stressful journeys can be boring or monotonous, but listening to a good audio book whilst travelling can make the journey seem to go faster.
5) They're great company
Audio books can serve as a way of combating loneliness.
Books in general are a great way of alleviating feelings of loneliness, whether through interesting characters or a plot involving a big adventure. An audio book is like having a companion in the room, telling you a story.
6) They can transport you to another world ...away from your commute!
Sick of the same old commute? Irritated by your fellow travellers? By listening to an audio book you can distract yourself from reality for a brief while and transport yourself to another world.
Why be on the underground when you could be trekking through a jungle or conversing with Mr Darcy?
7) They make boring tasks more interesting
There's no escaping it - boring tasks need to get done eventually.
However, doing the dishes, cleaning, tidying, ironing, clearing out the shed etc can be made a lot more interesting when you have an audio book to listen to while you do them.
Just think how productive you could be!
8) They're beneficial for people who find reading a challenge
Children and adults with dyslexia may find audio books open up a whole world of reading they otherwise might not have had such easy access to.
Audio books enable blind or partially sighted people to enjoy the latest books just the same as sighted people, and can also aid recovery from a stroke.
According to a 2010 study from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, listening to narrated stories, similar to listening to music, can stimulate parts of the brain that are associated with attention, memory, language and mood.
9) You can enjoy a book with others
Even though bookclubs remain hugely popular, it can be hard to share the experience of a story with someone. With audio books, you all hear the same words at the same time, in the same way, providing a shared adventure.
Sharing an understanding of a book is a good way to share feelings, and literary characters can also be useful as personas.
Audio books can also help provide a bridge between generations, either through helping parents and children listen to a story together (whether at home or while travelling to friends or after-school activities) or by enabling adult children to help an elderly parent continue to enjoy books.
Audio books can also help provide a bridge to important topics of discussion without varying reading abilities getting in the way.
10) They're an aid for insomnia
We all know the power of a good night's sleep. Sleep disorders can lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression and poor performance in daily tasks.
Numerous blog posts are devoted to the benefits of audio books to lull insomniacs back to sleep.
Listening to audio books draws attention to only one thing, with the attention getting softer over time until you fall asleep.
11) They can help you to get through a book faster
Modern life isn't always book friendly. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on a book when you're stuck on a crowded train or have little free time.
Audio books can help cut out the distractions, meaning you get through your book faster - and on to the next one.
12) They're soothing
Remember story time as a kid? The first way most people are exposed to language and stories is by being read to as young children by parents and teachers, and audio books can provide that element of nostalgia.
Who doesn't love being read to!
13) You can get them free!
There are lots of audio books available to listen to for free on Radio 4! Check our Audio Books collection regularly for new titles and fantastic readers - there's something for everyone.