By Annie Suhy, Librarian and Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive.

As a working mom with a young baby, I don’t have time for leisurely reading. To be perfectly honest, I barely have time for showering and going to the bathroom so curling up on the couch with a good book on a quiet afternoon is about as rare as a full night’s sleep. But I do commute to work, and I do exercise daily, both of which allow me treasured time to organize my thoughts, savor the silence, catch up on news and squeeze in some reading.

As an avid reader, I’m equally excited by and agitated with the sheer number of books churning out of the industry that I want to consume. Save for quitting my day job, forgoing sleep, ignoring my child, and reading 24 hours a day, there’s no way I’d have time to get through everything I want to read.

Audiobooks_1Enter audiobooks.

The perfect (and possibly only) way to devour the books I’m craving is to listen to them. Listening to a book is a way for me to stay connected, stay literary, and—a mom’s favorite word—MULTITASK!

And I’m not alone. A brand new generation of readers glued to their smartphones can use these handy devices to play audiobooks anytime, anywhere. This new surge of listeners has already been accustomed to listening to the spoken word through mainstream podcasts (like ours!), the latest digital darling. Readers young and old are jumping on the audio bandwagon and while our busy lives can certainly be a good reason to go audiobooks, there are other noteworthy benefits and ways in which this format has a leg up on print and eBooks. Audiobooks are ideal for introducing new vocabulary. Not only do listeners instantly learn pronunciation, but they also hear how a word should be used in a sentence. They can tackle texts that may be above their reading level and ESL students use audiobooks as a way to learn English and proper grammar.

With so many benefits, it’s no wonder that audiobook popularity is skyrocketing. In a world where technology seems to be wiping out everything in its path (remember pay phones, paper maps, or Wite Out?), audiobooks have proved to be one oddity that has experienced a resurgence. Audiobook publishers are rising to the occasion according to the Audio Publishers Association, releasing more titles than ever before resulting in a nearly 20% increase in audiobooks sold. OverDrive saw a similar story in 2015 with 43 million digital audiobooks checkouts, a 36% increase in audiobook circulation that even surpassed eBook growth. But churning out new audiobooks is no easy feat. The behind-the-scenes engineering, sound quality, and professional narration required in order to create a seamless listening experience can be enough to separate the good audiobooks from the great ones.

This is where the Audie Awards come in. The Oscars of the audiobook industry, the Audies recognize high quality entertainment and stand as a benchmark of excellence in the industry. Just recently announced, 2016’s finalists include:

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey, read by Mike Hodge (Business/Educational)
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, read by Amanda Palmer (Narration by the Author)
Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle (Mystery)
In Search of Sir Thomas Browne by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, read by Simon Vance (History/Biography)
Just Kids from the Bronx by Arlene Alda, read by Arlene Alda, Alan Alda, Christina Delaine, and others (Multi-Voiced Performance)
Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke, read by Dick Van Dyke (Autobiography/Memoir)
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, read by Aziz Ansari (Humor)
Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean, read by Justine Eyre (Romance)
Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko, read by Levi Lusko (Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction)
The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr, read by James Langton (Young Adult)
… and many more.

While most have embraced this new way to read, some purists argue that listening to audiobooks doesn’t foster the same level of comprehension as reading text. While two different ways to read, they are two roads to the same destination. More stories, more information, more ideas, more entertainment.

I’ll continue to cherish my evening ritual of reading bedtime stories to my daughter before tucking her in, but I’ve added fun read-alongs to the mix and I play children’s audiobook stories while we run errands in the car. Every night, I still pick up a book from that neverending stack next to my bed before I crawl under the blankets. And in the morning, as I drive to work, I’ll press play on my iPhone and pick up where I left off.

Whether an avid listener or new to the audiobook game, you’ll find something to love in this year’s best of the best audiobooks list, the Audie Award Finalists. Click here for a full listing of the Finalists in Marketplace.