I recently started going to the gym after a hiatus that lasted longer that I care to admit. I have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to going to the gym, but one of the biggest is that I’m terrible at reading and using cardio equipment simultaneously (and when it comes to my free time, I prioritize reading over most other things). Clearly, audiobooks are the easy solution to this problem; there’s even a Freakonomics episode about a study that used audiobooks as a “temptation bundling” method to get people to use the gym more often.
I’m typically a nonfiction audiobook listener; I love podcasts, and a nonfiction audiobook is a lot like a REALLY long podcast episode. Unfortunately, nonfiction audiobooks take a lot of concentration and it’s easy for me to lose track of what’s going on if I’m not paying attention. The result is that I don’t know what’s going on in the book, and it hasn’t done anything to help take my mind off the fact that I’m stuck in an expensive hamster ball. So, my new plan is to find incredibly engaging fiction audiobooks to listen to at the gym. I’ll probably start out by re-listening to some of my past favorites; audiobooks that combine a great story and a great narrator aren’t hard to find, but I can be awfully picky. I think the following five audiobooks are good enough to help me get back into the gym habit; I know they’re all good enough to merit a re-listen anyway:
Bird Box by Josh Malerman, narrated by Cassandra Campbell – This book is TERRIFYING. I was late to a work meeting because I couldn’t stop listening, and then I was jittery through the whole meeting because the book had me so on-edge. It was GREAT. The premise of the story is that Earth has been infiltrated by something (creatures? aliens? supernatural beings?) that, when seen by people, cause the seer to devolve into a murderous/suicidal rampage.
The Shining by Stephen King, narrated by Campbell Scott – I suspect any well-narrated Stephen King book would make for great gym-listening. In fact, I suspect that horror in general will be a good gym-genre for me. Nothing like having your pants scared off to make you want to run like hell. Ya’ll don’t need me to summarize The Shining, do you? It’s a story about a loving family that manages a beautiful hotel in which nothing ever goes wrong and they all live happily ever after with oodles of puppies and sunshine and flowers.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl – This one might not be the best choice for the gym (it’s not all action/suspense all the time), but it is one of my favorite audiobooks. For a doorstopper of a book (almost 700 pages) the audiobook flew by thanks to a great narrator. Highly recommended for epic-fantasy fans who are willing to put up with an annoyingly infallible protagonist.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, narrated by Steven Crossley – I am (predictably) a sucker for a British, and the narrator here is perfect for this fantasy series set in a several alternate versions of old-timey London. This book’s changing points of view, scheming wizards, political intrigue, Dickensian orphans and a fast-moving plot definitely meet my standards for “highly engaging”.
Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older, narrated by Daniel José Older – I love when authors narrate their own books. If anybody is going to get a story’s cadences and inflections right, it’s the author. I adore speculative fiction short stories, but I haven’t listened to many as audiobooks, and I’m doubtful that many will live up to the high standard of Salsa Nocturna. I love that some of the stories in this collection are set in the same world Older’s Bone Street Rhumba series.
Based on the preferences I’ve expressed in this list, I suppose that a horror novel by a British author who narrates the audiobook him/herself just might be my ideal audiobook for listening to at the gym. Time to start hunting for that book!
Until next time, find the stories that make you stronger. #WorkOutNerdOut