Favorite Books, Audiobook Recommendations, and Tips When Running

January 3, 2020

While this may not seem running related, I promise you it is! As you know, I log a lot of miles and don’t always have company other than the thoughts in my head. Because of this, I will oftentimes turn to audio books as I tick away those miles. Audiobooks have been the real MVP when I’m at the peak of marathon or ultra training and spending 4+ hours out on a training run. I thought I’d share some of my favorite books from this past year, as well as my all-time favorites from a few years past. In addition, I’ll share what works for me while running and listening to audio books, as well as tips about purchasing/renting audio books. If you want to get straight to the book list, scroll on down to the end (I’ve put it in bold).

First things first, I primarily get my audio books via my Audible subscription, however when I can I will also get them from my local library system. I find I just have to wait longer for the newer books or they may not have availability for books that are higher on my reading list. But that being said, if you have a big reading list of some older titles, this can be an easy and free way of getting your rentals!

If you are new to Audible, you can get a 30 day free trial with the following banner link:

I just subscribe to two books a month. If I go through those two books, I either turn to my local library for additional books, or I switch over to podcasts. You may find that you need more or less books, but I start on the low side. You can also pick up deals as they are constantly having sales or offering free books each month.

Here’s how I comparison shop for my audio books and determine whether to rent/buy them. This is what I recommend for my best ‘budget’ audio book usage, but it can be a little time consuming if you go through a lot of books. Generally, once I do the grunt work, I am set for a few months (or longer depending on how much I put in place in the beginning). First things first, I open up a few tabs on my browser:

  1. My ‘want to read’ list. I keep track of these books on Goodreads.
  2. My Audible account. I can add books to my wish list and see what’s available.
  3. My local library website. Here I can search for what is immediately available, and what has wait lists. Depending on how long I want to wait, I add it to the list. If I want instant gratification, it goes into my Audible list.

Essentially, I go through my Goodreads list, and search for books between the two sites. If it’s available on my library website, I turn there first. Keep in mind though that you are at the mercy of your library system. So if a book becomes available, you generally have two weeks to listen to it. This has been a problem for me when multiple books come up at once. What I like to do is see what is available and pick one that is in stock. Otherwise, I add others that are generally available at a moments notice to my wish list. I can then turn to those as I need filler from my Audible subscription. If a book has a long wait and I’m not in a rush to get to it, then I put myself on the wait list. However, if it has a long wait and I want it sooner rather than later, that’s when I move over to Audible. New books especially have this issue within our library system. I can wait months before my name comes up. I’d rather just get the book when I want it if I don’t have anything else calling to me in the meantime.

On to shopping on Audible specifically. Here is a tip in shopping for your audio books: My Audible subscription is a little over $20 a month. Yours may be more or less depending on how many books you subscribe to. I keep a wishlist of books that I want to read directly in my account. When selecting my monthly selection, I aim for the books at the higher end of the price range. They cost the same to me no matter what: 1 credit each. So I might as well get the most bang for my buck, right? For example, one book will be $19, another $14, and another $10. While In theory any combination of the two will be over what I pay (unless I have multiple inexpensive books in the queue), but I tend to go for the more expensive of the two or the highest and lowest price. They do have many books for $10, or even $5 or less, but why get those if I’m paying over $20 a month regardless for my two books? I save the cheaper books for sales or when I’m really desperate for an additional book. Otherwise, I try to add them to my library wait list so I can just get them for free.

If you’ve ever found yourself totally backlogged on your books, or just at a point where you don’t need the subscription or know you’ll be busy with some other things in the meantime, you can put a hold on your subscription. Within a 12 month period, you can put your subscription on hold for up to 3 months. Otherwise, you can just cancel it. Also, once a book is in your Audible account, you ‘own’ it. It’s yours, even if your membership isn’t active. Of course, they may change this policy at some point, so read the fine print when you sign up. Once you own the book, you can listen to it as many times as you want; it’s not a one-and-done deal.

Moving on (har har) to some tips about listening to audio books while running.

There have been many a run where I’ve had to stop a book, switch over to music, or just get back to the thoughts in my head. While it seems intuitive, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful in jumping into running while listening to audio books. This may not be what works for you; find your quirks! But when it comes to listening to audio books when I run, some things that I have found that worked for me include:

  • Unless I know it’s going to be a fast paced book, I start it somewhere else such as my car during my commute. Or on a very easy run. Sometimes it can be hard to just get into a book, especially if it has a slow start. Once I’m hooked on a book, it’s easy to get out there and just zone in, but sometimes I have a hard time beginning books on a run.
  • Similarly, if I find that I find that I am constantly tuning out of my book, I table it for another day.
  • Emotional books can be tricky. I have many a time been in the middle of speedwork hyperventilating not from the effort, but because I’m sobbing at the end of a sad/heartwarming tale. That doesn’t help anyone. If you know it’s going to be an emotional read, you might want to table that part for an easy run.
  • I have also been unable to breathe or just looked like a crazy person when I’ve laughed hysterically at a book. Though I find this happens more during podcasts (My Dad Wrote a Porno, anyone?). Good or bad, at least I’m smiling, right?

Now for the books themselves. You’ve gotten this far, here are my top books from 2019 in no particular order:

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright

As you can see, I primarily listen to Fiction, but I do throw in some non-fiction and memoirs from time to time.

Other favorites from past years include:

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

Circe by Madeline Miller

Educated by Tara Westover

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry (don’t let the title fool you. Similar to Wicked, this is the story of Captain Hook from his point of view and is classified as a ‘horror’. It can be a bit gory but I thoroughly enjoyed it).

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Oh man, I could keep going! As you can see, I love reading in general, but audio books have been a game-changer when it comes to getting in the miles, or even just doing mundane tasks (dishes, laundry, etc). I also love playing them on speaker while working on a puzzle or other relaxing activities. If you want to look up more of my book recommendations or even follow along, feel free to add me on Goodreads. I’m pretty picky, and my book club loves to tease me about my book criteria, but I’m also going to toot my own horn and say the majority of what I’ve selected for my book club has been well-received or loved. We’ll see how the test proves for this month as I selected The Murmur of Bees which was my favorite book of 2019.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite books or recommendations? Have you read any of what I listed? Do you have any tips for listening to audio books while running?

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