Listening to Books VS Reading in 2023

January 4, 2023

I’ve heard it said that those who refuse to read are no better off than those who can’t. I’ve also heard that the people you meet and the books you read will have the biggest impact on who you become over the next 5 years. Analytically, we could pick these general sayings apart, but they do communicate an overall point that is worth considering. Reading is a gift. Outside of our relationships, reading may have the biggest impact on our personal growth and development.

Reading is a gift. Outside of our relationships, reading may have the biggest impact on our personal growth and development.

This is actually why I no longer read! That isn’t literally true, but almost. About 5 years ago I committed to going audible. I will admit that the learning curve on taking in content audibly was a little steep, but once I got in the groove I really haven’t looked back. Below are the 2 main reasons why.

Before I list them, let me give a few caveats: There are times when I deviate from audible. I still read a physical Bible during my quiet time with the Lord and have started a couple of books on audible that I just had to switch back over after a chapter or so (Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” was this way). When I am studying to preach, I use physical commentaries. I also have some of the most impactful books in my life in physical form and when I go back and read them, I actually read them (“Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliot would be in that category). With that said though, I bet 95% of my reading is actually done by listening, and below are two reasons why.

First, and maybe most obvious, I like audible books because I can take in more content this way. There are many times when reading would be inconvenient or even impossible, but listening is easy. Driving down the road is a good example. The radio is fine, and podcasts are great, but audible books give me an opportunity to redeem this time in a way that feels more advantageous for me. Audible books are also easy when I am in the gym or on a walk. And of course, they are just as available during normal times when I may read, like in the evening.

Secondly, I’ve stayed switched over to audible books because they help me retain more major concepts. Part of this comes from taking in more content. If I am getting through more books in a year, then I will have more major concepts. That is true. But I also have found that my recall got better concerning the books I’ve listened to over the books I physically read. I am sure there is something here that I wouldn’t be able to explain about the way some people learn. But I also think there is another explanation for this that’s pretty simple. When I listen to a book I take fewer, but more high-level notes. Have you ever finished a book and in trying to go back through it you realize you highlighted 50% of the material? That certainly has happened to me! With audible, that doesn’t happen. When I am voice dictating notes through Evernote, I am much more selective about what goes into the notes. Then, when I look back on my notes from a given book, they are simple high-level concepts. I think that is a major reason why they stick with me a little better, even a long time after I completed the book.

When I listen to a book I take fewer, but more high-level notes.

So, as we turn the page on 2022, I hope you have a strategy for taking in content this year that will help you grow. Growth in wisdom isn’t just spiritual growth. I hope you are thinking about growing in leadership, finances, physical health, emotional intelligence, etc. The Bible helps us in these areas more than any other book under the sun. But it is not the only resource that can help. Listening to great books is a way to take in more content this year.

Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)


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