How audiobooks make me smarter

Last year I listened to all the Harry Potter books on audiobook for the first time (the narrator, Jim Dale, is totally awesome). I was amazed by how many little things I picked up on, and my Harry Potter trivia skills really took off. I am a fast reader and that means I lose a lot of information. I still know what I’m reading and plot points and subject matter, but I rarely do a true deep dive into a book anymore. What I discovered with the Harry Potter audiobooks is that audiobooks force me to stay at one speed and not rush, and in that slowing down I can absorb a lot more information.

Last year I also listened to some Great Courses and learned a lot about religion (The Meaning of Life:Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions and Cultural Literacy For Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know). ¬†Again, the steady pace forced me to slow down and I got a lot out of it. And now I am benefiting from this strategy again with a Coursera course called Buddhism and Modern Psychology. In that class I’m learning how ancient Buddhist belief and practice relate to the modern field of Evolutionary Psychology and it’s changing everything for me. I can’t help but wonder if I would have been as impacted by what I am learning if I was reading the recommended reading for this class by itself (Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite) rather than in conjunction with the audio/video course. I don’t know this topic well enough to connect the dots myself. Having the dots connected for me in this class has been one of the most enjoyable moments of learning I’ve had in years. It’s completely energized me.

The reason I read is to learn. I enjoy it and it’s fun but the reason I read is to learn. Taking this class has taught me the value of the classroom again and how truly educational it can be to read books under the guidance of a teacher who understands the context of what is being read. If my goal is to learn, then I need to keep this in mind and make more time for things like Coursera classes and maybe a little less time for just reading whatever strikes my fancy.