Until a couple of weeks ago, I'd only listened to children's audio books (in the car) or my own - sounds a bit self-centred, I know. Anyway, I was recently lent tapes of The Surgeon of Crowthorne. A tale of Murder, Madness and the OED, by Simon Winchester.
Here is a blurb: "The compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary was a monumental task. It took 50 years, even with the help of numerous contributors. Among the most prolific was William Chester Minor, who sent editor James Murray thousands of extracts. On many occasions, Murray invited this mysterious correspondent to Oxford, but the invitation was always declined. Finally stirred by curiosity, Murray himself went to visit Minor.
What he found was shocking; Minor lived in Broadmoor asylum. He was rich, an expert on the English language, and a qualified surgeon, but he was imprisoned as a lunatic for murder." Plenty of reviews on Amazon for this one.
The author reads well, bringing to life the somewhat dry and dusty story of dictionary compilation. Minor was a surgeon in the American Civil War who apparently was forced to brand a deserter on the face. This is held to be one of the reasons he gradually succumbed to insanity and murdered a man in London, after which he was sent to Broadmoor. Fortunately, Victorian editor James Murray was a less colourful character, and one learns a lot about the history of dictionaries. A nice soothing subject.
It's pleasant to be read to, and I often found I'd fallen asleep with the headphones in my ears. Only thing is, I was listening on an old-fashioned Walkman-type player, and if I went to sleep I found it hard to find my place next day. Much easier in a real book, but I can see the advantages of passive listening, not least because serious-minded audiobooks seem to be an aid to insomnia.