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Audio Books and Coloring Books: A Perfect Combination

audio books and coloring books

I have a new obsession: coloring books paired with audio books.

I place most of the blame on Andi (Estella’s Revenge) and Heather (Capricious Reader), who have been sharing beautiful photos of their coloring book adventures on Instagram (Andi is here, Heather is here). I’m definitely not as talented as they are, but seeing their beautiful work is inspiring.

When I was in the Twin Cities a couple of weekends ago, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a couple of coloring books I’ve seen quite a few images from – Secret Garden by Johanna Basford and Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick. I wasn’t really sure when or how I’d use them, but I do find that creative crafts – crocheting and cross stitch, mainly – are good ways for me to turn my brain off at the end of the day when I don’t feel like reading.

I stumbled across the nearly perfect marriage of audio books and coloring books when I got home that Sunday. The boyfriend and I had been listening to Armada by Ernest Cline in the car and I wanted to keep going, but the weather wasn’t conducive to walking and I was too worn out to think about chores, my two main audio book activities. After listening to the book while eating dinner, I grabbed Splendid Cities and my new box of Crayola colored pencils and decided to give it a try.


Perfection. I need some activity while I listen to an audio book, otherwise my mind wanders. But that activity needs to be nearly thoughtless – and absolutely cannot involve words – for me to follow the audio book. Coloring is just the right mix of movement and mindlessness I need to listen to an audio book at home. I think I ended up reading and coloring for a couple of hours that first night, not quite realizing where the evening had gone. It helped me relax without making me feel like a slug (hello, bingeing on Netflix), and led me right into reading a book before bed.

secret gardenI’m hoping that this little hobby will continue. If it does, I think I’ll eventually get another coloring book with some less detailed designs. As much as I like both Secret Garden and Splendid Cities, they make me feel a little cross-eyed after staring at them for too long. And while basic Crayolas are nice, I can see investing in some more high-quality colored pencils… if the hobby sticks.

For now, I’m in the middle of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (a fantasy/dystopia – my audio catnip) while trying to finish up my first full spread in Secret Garden. It’s looking pretty awesome so far.

Have you hopped on the coloring bandwagon? Any recommendations for great coloring books or coloring supplies? Where do you get your coloring inspiration?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BermudaOnion(Kathy) July 30, 2015, 7:52 am

    I went to a coloring event at my local bookstore the week before last and found that I am not good at coloring. I don’t like my color selections at all. I’ve been coloring a little while I’ve been on the phone and haven’t even finished the first page yet. I’m finding it stressful instead of relaxing!

    • Kim August 2, 2015, 12:17 pm

      It shouldn’t be stressful! I’m probably not very “good” at it either — there’s always something in each drawing I end up not being thrilled with — but at the end I just turn the page and move on to something different 🙂

  • Kay July 30, 2015, 8:01 am

    I do think that coloring has become the new ‘thing’ lately. And I’m attracted to it and also feel like I’d have an experience much the same as Kathy above. I used to like cross-stitching – the precision and the simplicity was about all I could manage in the creative end of things. But, my eyes won’t let me do that any more. I do see how audio would work very well with coloring. And I can also see the relaxation angle. My husband knows a woman at his workplace that has been coloring on lunch break for years. She’s kind of famous for it at his company. She says it relaxes her. Enjoy!

  • Lucy July 30, 2015, 9:49 am

    Great idea to pair audio and coloring books- I’ll have to try that! I can pretty much listen while I do anything, sometimes I’ll listen while I’m playing candy crush or most likely cooking. I have a few coloring books but haven’t started using them yet. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Kim August 2, 2015, 12:18 pm

      I sometimes do audio books when I’m cooking too. I think it just needs to be something kinetic that doesn’t take a lot of extra attention. I cook simple recipes, so I think that’s why it works 🙂

  • Jenny @ Reading the End July 30, 2015, 11:32 am

    Coloring definitely scratches the same itch for me as cross-stitching, but I’m also pretty new to it. I’ve been using a largeish pack of markers so far, which is fine for the Johanna Basford books, but not all coloring books have that high quality of paper. So if you do end up getting fancy colored pencils, I’d be interested to hear what kinds you get and how they work.

    • Kim August 2, 2015, 12:19 pm

      My sister recommended Prismacolor pencils, I think, but the price was a little steep for me until I figure out if this is hobby I am going to continue. I will give you an update if I do end up investing more.

  • Courtney July 30, 2015, 3:29 pm

    I’ve started coloring too! I’m working on the second page of Enchanted Forest – man, coloring that book is going to take a while, but I like it. I’ll have to try it while listening to some audio books now.

    • Kim August 2, 2015, 12:20 pm

      Yeah, the Basford books are super detailed! I’ve been skipping around, looking for simpler pages to work on when I just need to feel like I’m making progress with something 🙂

  • Bellezza August 1, 2015, 6:04 pm

    So fun, I agree! I recently wrote a post reviewing the coloring book mandalas created by Wendy Piersall, and an interview I conducted with her. She suggested polychrome pencils which are expensive, but when I bought a set at our local art store, I could see they are totally worth it. I even bought The Enchanted Forest while I was there, because with the start of school this Fall? Comes a perfect time to renew our relationship with coloring.

    • Kim August 2, 2015, 12:23 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations! I was thinking about looking for a mandalas coloring book, if I can find one with more simple designs.

  • Care August 2, 2015, 6:32 am

    I am hoping someone will get me a coloring book for Christmas because I can’t choose just one and I was nervous abt going whole hog addicted on a new craft. Yesterday, I tore apart zinnia flowers for seeds while listening to my audiobook which worked great.

    • Kim August 2, 2015, 12:23 pm

      That’s a good audio book activity! I’m a person who tends to jump way into new hobbies, then not go anywhere with them. So I’m trying to be slow with coloring, just two books and a new pack of colored pencils to start with 🙂

  • Michelle August 2, 2015, 3:51 pm

    I was coloring last night. It is peaceful, and I actually felt like I was doing something other than just sitting there watching TV but it keeps your mind engaged at the same time. I love it!

  • Beth F August 3, 2015, 6:18 am

    Right!! I just wrote about this the other week too. Love that combo.

    • Kim August 4, 2015, 7:01 pm

      Great minds! I’m so behind on blog reading I totally missed that post…

  • Isi August 3, 2015, 8:49 am

    OMG Kim, this might sound stupid to you, but I had never thought about colouring and listening to audiobooks before!
    I have a couple of coloring books because a couple of years ago they become popular also here in Spain and the publishers sent me two of them (they are basically mandalas, not as beautiful as yours), and I tried them but I felt like I was wasting my time. Howevery, your idea about the audiobooks sounds great to me – I think I’m going to try it!
    I usually listen to audiobooks while I go for long walks and also when I do the house work (especially ironing), and that makes me feel better 😉

    • Kim August 4, 2015, 7:01 pm

      Let me know how it works! I probably wouldn’t have thought of it if I hadn’t been so excited to listen to Armada — happy coincidence!

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey August 4, 2015, 10:09 am

    This does sound like the perfect pairing! Right now, I almost exclusively listen to audiobooks while I drive and since I’m about to have a much shorter commute, I need a new audiobooking activity 🙂

  • susan August 6, 2015, 3:58 pm

    I admit I haven’t colored since middle school perhaps, big jungle scenes that a company put out. But I agree that audios need you to be something while you listen. I like cooking & gardening while listening to audios!

  • Joss Arden August 7, 2015, 10:46 pm

    “I need some activity while I listen to an audio book, otherwise my mind wanders. But that activity needs to be nearly thoughtless – and absolutely cannot involve words – for me to follow the audio book.”

    I’m the exact same way. I like to knit and crochet and find these activities work well with audiobook listening – at least for me. Lately, I’ve been working on crocheting a blanket while listening to an audiobook. Coloring books sound like they’d work well for me as well. Maybe when I’m done my blanket I’ll pick one up.

    Also? The whole binge watching Netflix making you feel like a slug thing perfectly describes how that activity makes me feel.

    • Kim August 9, 2015, 10:29 am

      I like crafting while listening too — crochet or cross stitch. They keep me moving, but don’t distract from the words. Watching many episodes of anything on Netflix inevitably makes me feel like I wasted my day. Coloring and audio books makes me happy 🙂

  • Christy August 10, 2015, 8:52 pm

    I recently bought Splendid Cities and Prismacolor colored pencils. I probably should have been wise and waited on the Prismacolor until I was sure this would stick, but I’m really taken with the idea. My gesture of restraint was just to get a set of 24. I love your idea of pairing coloring with audiobooks. I might do the same, with audiobooks or with podcasts. I used to listen to podcasts more when my work was more mundane, but now my work is more interesting and I listen to podcasts when I do housework.

    • Kim August 11, 2015, 8:56 pm

      I think I’m going to get some Prismacolor pencils when I get back from vacation. I like my Crayolas, but I’m excited for something a little more sturdy.

      • Shaina August 24, 2015, 6:08 pm

        I was dropping by to recommend Prismacolor! I have a friend who draws her own cartoons, and she loves those pencils.

        I’ve still yet to try an audio book out, but I have been enjoying coloring while watching/listening to TV!