Either you love a good audiobook, or you haven’t discovered them yet.
My own love affair with audiobooks began right about the time I gave up on meditating. An avid bookworm, I didn’t need much convincing beyond “Free Trial,” at which point I immediately found ways to double my literary pleasure by “reading” in places I normally couldn’t (in a taxi, on a walk, in my “meditation corner” etc.).
As it turns out, listening to a story is its own act of mindfulness. The narrator just keeps reading whether you’ve stopped to think about what you need from the store, or to rehash that awkward encounter with your new neighbour. So it pays to shut off those little voices and be present. What’s better is that this applies to children as well, and I swear mine enter the deepest state of relaxation when we listen to an audiobook before bed, helping them (and me) to fall asleep twice as fast. You’ve already downloaded your first book, haven’t you?
As long as you have a smartphone, you can very often get books for free and without leaving home. Simply download an app – Audible, OverDrive (some school libraries offer student membership – ask at your kids’ school!), Naxos Spoken Word Library (which is free to use via Hong Kong Libraries) or Downpour to name a few. Whether you’re a newly convinced listener or a veteran, here are some wonderfully-addictive audiobooks for any occasion.
This modern classic is familiar to many and one of those children’s books that appeals equally to adults. So go ahead, lie down with your children and get lost in a parallel universe where part of the spirit lives outside the person as an animal companion. The main character, Lyra, will deal with missing friends and relatives, a shady church, scientists, soldiers, a witch queen and giant polar bears before the story’s out, and you’ll believe in the power of one small girl to make a difference against all odds. What I like about this recording is that several actors are brought in to voice different characters, helpful indeed for this relatively complex tale. There are some scary themes and images, so do a preview to decide if your kids can handle it. (Best for ages 9+.)
Good for: When it’s the (bigger) kids’ bedtime and you’re tired of listening to your own voice
An evergreen hit with the 5-to-7-year-old-set and parents alike, pop this on in the car to enjoy the classic tale of five siblings who go digging in the garden and find a fairy. But this fairy is no Tinkerbell – rather, it is fat, old, and grumpy! Still, wishes are granted and isn’t that really the most important thing? Or is it? A great be-careful-what-you-wish-for story so filled with unforgettable adventures that your little ones will be almost disappointed to reach their destination.
Good for: A road trip
My kids throw the term “epic” around to describe pizza and I wonder if it’s becoming the new “literally”. So when I say this book is EPIC I mean it in both senses. The story is about two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, who are born into different villages in 18th-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, while Esi is imprisoned beneath Effia in the castle’s women’s dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery. The book goes on to trace generations of the sisters’ descendants, in gripping detail. The sheer volume of characters and fast pace can be confusing for a listener, but I can’t imagine experiencing this story without Hoffman’s beautiful narration (although I admit that many online reviewers disagree). While the brutality of the slave trade can make this an emotionally difficult listen at times, it felt like an essential experience which, like the best books, changed me for the better.
Good for: A long flight by yourself
I found myself looking for excuses to run errands so I could spend a few minutes with my hilarious and dear friend, Jessi (okay, I don’t actually know her but you’ll see what I mean if you listen to this). Klein’s confessional essays cover dating, marriage, infertility, aging and childbirth with touching honesty and true hilarity. Many of her essays focus on her struggle to make peace with her femininity – or lack thereof. Those of us who have ever been called a tomboy, or who still don’t know how to apply eyeliner find it especially relatable.
Good for: Commuting, running errands, or doing the housework
Do you know the five-second rule? The moment you have the instinct to act, you must count 5-4-3-2-1, and then physically move and make something happen before your brain kills off that glimmer of purpose. It starts with getting out of bed in the morning and it carries over to every aspect of your life. Applying it changed Mel Robbins’ life and there’s a boatload of science that says it can change yours, too. I like the author’s no-nonsense tone, which makes it feel like following her advice is the most practical and essential thing you’ll do all month – or maybe ever. Give this a listen if you are experiencing that mama-malaise we all fall victim to at some point.
Good for: Getting yourself out of a rut