Listening to audio books is just like anything else. It is a skill that we can develop and practice. Some of us naturally learn audibly, but all of us can develop the skill further. There are a few repeated complaints I hear from people who are hesitant to listen to audio books. Often they don’t feel they retain the information. We will explore this further, but often the information is there, we just have practice accessing is. Some feel they can read faster than they can listen. That may be true, but it’s hard to physically read while riding a bike or cooking dinner. Spending more time listening means you end up consuming more books. Some are against it because they enjoy the feel and smell of a book as the pages turn through their hands. Listening to audiobooks does not mean you’re cheating on your library. Your book collection is not going to get jealous. It just means that driving, walking, and cleaning the house end up being more profitable and enjoyable.

For those who feel they have a hard time retaining information they learn audibly, I want to share some tips for exercising that skill. Throughout our years in school we are required to physically read in order to answer questions. Every time we do this we are exercising our ability to grasp what we are reading. During a lecture we are encouraged to take notes, and in some cases answer questions, but these experiences are much more intermittent, and often we rely on our written notes in order to answer the questions. During most of human existence average people even those who could read, had no way of taking notes or writing anything down. When we hear of young Jewish boys memorizing the whole Pentateuch along with many of the Psalms and other passages from scripture, it seems incredible. Even more so when we realize that they had no Bible of their own. They instead relied on listening, repeating out loud and in conversation, occasionally reading, and meditating on what they had consumed. In many ways having written information readily at our disposal is actually damaging to our ability to memorize and exercise our brains. I remember when I had many phone numbers stored in my memory, now, with a smartphone I struggle to remember even my own number. It imbareses me how long it takes me to learn how to get around in a new city when I use a GPS instead of glancing at a map a few times. Audio books are a great way to exercise our memory, and in the case of the Bible, a great way of consuming scripture the way that many received it in its own day.

The first advice I would like to give, is that someone who is new to audio books, or has not enjoyed them in the past start with highly entertaining books. Many these days treat fiction as though it is beneath them. Don’t make that mistake. If you can understand truth, as true explanations of the human condition, you will find that many works of fiction contain far more truth than the nightly news. Those books are profitable to our daily life, and easier to retain. When  we have listened to, thought about, and enjoyed listening to books like; The Chronicles of Narnia and To Kill a Mockingbird, we will be much more able to retain audible information from more expository writing.

Second as you listen to good books, make it a habit to tell people about what you are reading. If possible, bribe others to read the same books. Talking about common interests is a great way to solidify what we learned from a book into our own words. Sometimes I will tell my wife about something I read, just to help myself remember it. I think she would sometimes prefer that I talk to a mior or a stuffed animal, either way talking about what you are reading moves it from something you listened to, to something you participated in.

Another habit worth cultivating is learning when to pause what you are reading. When you are listening and find yourself moved emotionally, or just perhaps feel a check in your spirit, pause the book and ask why. Often I find this I a great time to pray, to consider, to meditate. These moments present an opportunity to metabolize what we are reading more fully. Often In those moments I find that what I am reading relates either to life or to something else I have read recently. Making these connections goes a long way towards moving what we are reading towards a more permanent place in our memory.

Many times when I finish an especially good book I write a short book report. Just a few paragraphs to help me remember why the book was worth reading. I almost never reference these reports, but the practice helps solidify the main ideas found in a book into permanent memory. Occasionally the reports have come in handy when trying to remember in which book a favorite author said something specific.

Finally when I listen to a book, and I know that I am going to want to refer to it later, for writing, sermon preparation, or just study, I try and find a hard copy. I then go through and highlight two or three things that jumped out to me while listening to the audio version for future reference. Again, this is just a simple step that helps me keep track of where information came from.

Listening to audiobooks is an incredible tool. Even those of us who live busy lives can now ingest a great deal of information. The information we are receiving is in no way second class if we train ourselves to retain it. In its nature the information we retain tends to encompass wider ideas from the books we listen to rather than individual details. This is especially helpful when listening to the Bible. Audibly we are less likely to miss the forest for the trees. Mostly because listening tends to lend itself to reading much larger sections at a once. I hope you find this helpful, as you develop a love for audio books.

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