One of the questions we get most often about our Adult Reading Challenge is “do audiobooks count as reading?”  There seems to be an idea out there that, because they are different from print books, audiobooks aren’t “real” reading. 

But nothing could be further from the truth!

Research consistently shows that the brain uses the same structures—frontal and temporal lobes and the limbic system—regardless of whether the story is accessed via printed or aural text. In fact, because the brain doesn’t need to use the visual system to interpret words on a page, it can create more vivid mental images with an audiobook. And vocabulary retention can also be improved with audiobooks, as hearing a word often creates a more permanent link to its meaning than seeing it. 

Plus, humans have been listening to stories for millennia, while print is a recent invention.

So, whether you are new to audiobooks or have been listening to them for years, please let go of the idea that they aren’t “real” reading. And if you’re still not convinced, try one of these books in audio format. They are immersive reading experiences that might even be better than the print version. 

World War Z

By Max Brooks
Narrated by a full cast
Adult Fiction

The eponymous movie starring Brad Pitt has only a vague connection to Brooks’s novel World War Z, which uses interviews to tell the zombie-apocalypse stories of individuals across the world. But the audiobook is something else entirely. Narrated by more than 30 performers, the nontraditional narrative structure is enhanced by the audio experience, allowing the many themes—does war ever end? how do humans take care of (and fail) each other in extreme conditions? do governments ever understand the actual impact of policies and decisions on individual lives?—to punch the reader in the gut.

The Lord of the Rings

By J. R. R. Tolkien
Narrated by Andy Serkis
Adult Fiction

Andy Serkis, the actor who played Gollum in The Lord of The Rings movies, narrates this new edition of Tolkien’s famous books. If you’ve read the print books or seen the movies (or both), you will love Selkis’s narration. His use of voice creates distinct images in the reader’s mind of each of the characters and highlights the pathos of the story’s arc. This one is definitely not to be missed by Tolkien fans, but it is also an incredible introduction for readers new to the One Ring’s journey. 

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in The Sky

By Kwame Mbalia
Narrated by Amir Abdullah
Junior Fiction

This middle-grade fantasy explores the myths and legends of the African diaspora, from the trickster god Anansi to the folk heroes Brer Rabbit and John Henry. The narration, full of the accents of different communities, illustrates the way that extreme tragedy and struggle can create strength. 

Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaimain
Narrated by Neil Gaiman
Junior Folktale

Many of Neil Gaiman’s books are influenced by Norse mythology, but this book recounts the actual myths themselves. Listening to Gaiman’s narration of the exploits and adventures of Loki, Odin, Thor, from their beginning all the way through Ragnarok. Author-narrated books can sometimes fall a bit flat, but this one is magical: like sitting in a room listening to Neil Gaiman tell you a story. 

Monk and Robot series

By Becky Chambers
Narrated by Em Grosland
Adult Fiction

Centuries ago, the robots of Panga became self aware; they put down their tools and wandered into the wilderness, eventually becoming little more than urban myth. When Sibling Dex grows dissatisfied with his role as a tea monk, he himself wanders into the wilderness—and discovers a robot named Mosscap. Together they set out to find the answer to Mosscap’s (and all of the robots’) question: What do people need? The audio immerses the reader in Mosscap and Dex’s adventures, which are both physical and philosophical, integrating concepts with story to create a thoughtful, hopeful reading experience. 

Written by Amy S. (Programming)