If you were one of the many online-dwellers that lurked on the internet around 2013/2014 you may have been permanently scarred by the never-ending sponsorships and collaborations by your favourite online personalities with the Amazon-owned subscription platform for audiobooks: Audible *shudders*. Occasionally, I too am still partial to abruptly waking up in the early hours in a cold sweat, mumbling ‘first book free’ over and over again. Audible is just another one of Jeff Bezos’ money suckling machines but it is successful for good reason.
If you’ve ever taken a jaunt on the London Underground, especially before the rise of the smartphone, you have probably encountered half a dozen Tube passengers with their noses pressed firmly in their books, pages turning with every clatter of the moving carriage. Although this is perhaps less common now, I believe that the consumption of novels and non-fiction via audio is still very much alive. The development of high-tech headphones and various different apps have meant that an endless plethora of audiobooks are now available at the touch of a button. Whatever your preferred genre, apps such as Audible have a limitless catalogue of books that can be enjoyed whenever and wherever you want.
"Audiobooks have been the supportive friend that I’ve turned to over the years"
As well as being a great companion for commuters, audiobooks can also take up residence as an insomniac’s best friend. We’ve all been there: mind racing, thoughts swirling, unable to get to sleep. Anxious taunts and insistent worries attempt to wriggle into your bed like a persistent ex. Whether it’s chronic insomnia or just a patch of disruptive sleep, lying awake with just your thoughts to mull over can, at times, make for an awfully long night.
In the (thankfully few) times that I’ve suffered with periods of insomnia, I’ve come to learn that sitting amidst the silence and nothingness can, at the very least, piss you right off. The torture that is the inability to sleep has meant that my long-term lover and saviour over the years has always been the presence of a good audiobook. Listening to a story (especially when sleep timers are available on apps such as Audible) allows you to focus on something other than your thoughts and it’s not the end of the world if you drift off mid-chapter. Audiobooks have been the supportive friend that I’ve turned to over the years, so here are my recommendations and what I believe to be the top 5 listens for the insomniac.
1. Harry Potter - JK Rowling
Returning to a childhood favourite is always a safe bet; the nostalgia is both comforting enough to focus on without being too invested, as well as being familiar and safe so you won’t worry about missing parts once you fall asleep. I usually stick to the first three, after that they can get borderline spooky for bedtime (yes, I am pathetic). The Harry Potter books are a classic, with the added bonus that the delightfully spoken Stephen Fry narrates the audiobooks.
2. A Promised Land - Barack Obama
Hear me out, okay - you probably won’t want to miss any of this book, but nothing will put you straight to sleep quite like a 768 page long autobiography bursting at the seams with political jargon. Plus, you can always go back and revisit parts the next morning. Frankly, any political biography will do the trick, it’s not that they’re boring by any means, it’s just that often the level of detail can knock you out even at the best of times. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be lulled to sleep by Obama’s dulcet murmurs?
3. Blue Gold - Phoebe Smith
This one is available through the mindfulness app Calm, along with plenty of other gentle short stories with next to no plot that have been written with sleep in mind. Blue Gold is narrated by Stephen Fry (are you sensing a theme?) and is basically just a descriptive journey through some lavender fields. It sounds a bit meh, but it works wonders - I have truly never made it through to the end without falling asleep.
4. Girls in Love - Jacqueline Wilson
Sometimes you just need a bit of YA for stories that are easy on the eyes (or in this case - the ears). Wilson’s books are iconic, with just enough trauma sprinkled with teenage fluff to exist as the perfect audiobooks to help you get to sleep
5. Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
If the worries and stresses of everyday life are keeping you awake, a dip into fantasy could be just what you need to escape the anxieties that come with reality. What could be a better distraction from the modern age than an abundance of trolls, hobbits and elves?
So, go forth and listen. Once you enter the world of audiobooks, not only will you never look back, but you might just find a new way to help you battle that pesky bout of insomnia.