Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

What Are The Best Audiobooks For A Road Trip?

Summer is on its way (let's ignore this dreary spring)—and for many of us that means climbing into a car and driving for a long, long time to reach wherever our vacation is taking us to (the beach! college reunions! Chicago!). And what better distraction from an endless straight shot of highway than an audiobook? But, as anyone who has ever been stuck in a car for 13 hours with only a CD read in deadly monotone for company, not all audiobooks are created equal. To find out the best ones, we asked an assortment of folks for their favorites. Some had specific recommendations (as well as titles to stay away from), while others had picks for entirely different entertainment options for your drive.

Maria Bustillos

I love them, I love them. Mostly I listen while I cook. My favorite voice in all the world (aside from that of my husband who has read, alas, no audiobooks) is Alan Rickman's, and he has read just one: The Return of the Native. This I suspect is the best audiobook ever recorded. A little bit of it is excerpted on YouTube, where Mr. Rickman sings in French. Ah, me.

There is a gigantor unabridged full-cast audiobook of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I'm a huge fan of those books and was therefore giving the very idea of an audio version the ferocious side-eye but man, it is awesome. Pullman reads the narrative parts himself, and all the actors of the dialogue are superb, even the guys who voice Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison. So good, so absorbing you could easily crash the car into a pole if you don't watch it. By contrast, the "adapted" full-cast Lord of the Rings audiobook is mainly ghastly.

Steve Buscemi reading Motherless Brooklyn is better than the book, I thought.

The audiobook of Geoff Emerick's Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles is read by Marvin Jarvis; the story requires about a zillion British accents and they are all amazing, perfect. Plus, it's a ripping yarn. If you hate The Beatles, maybe you could buy this for your parents sometime.

If nobody has mentioned it yet, please include the very best podcast I know, "The Tobolowsky Files," in which the gifted actor Stephen Tobolowsky tells very, very compelling stories about his life.

Ben Choi

I get my audiobooks for free from These works are all drawn from the public domain and read by volunteers. It’s a crowd-sourcing approach to providing digital content straight from the Guilded Age. The majority of works will be from before 1923, so be prepared for archaic style, diction and idiom. And be warned that items with broader appeal, like sci-fi and mystery short stories, are likely to be read in fake British accents by teenagers with retainers.

Remember when your English teacher told you that ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ is the secret to good writing? This is not always true for audiobooks. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are the quintessential listen-anywhere stories precisely because they provide so much juicy exposition. With audiobooks, you can get lost in a complex narrative, so it’s actually a blessing when Sherlock condescends to break it down for Watson and Lestrade. I recommend this particular version (version 3) because it is read by Mark Smith of Simpsonville South Carolina, who is like the Ralph Richardson of Librivox. He reads in a pleasant, Rod Serling baritone, but is not too dignified to act out the parts in silly falsettos and such.

It’s strange, but listening to books rather than reading them awakens in me an appreciation of the baroque and ornate, of bombast. When I read, I’m fond of minimalist, hygienic prose, but when I’m going through life with my earbuds in, I don’t like to have to hang on every word. If I’m installing a toilet or stuck in traffic I go straight for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series. Listening to A Princess of Mars is like watching a science fiction rock opera by Queen. It’s all about narrative excess and unlimited imagination spurred on by a hidebound anglophile’s sense of language, and an awareness that one is being paid by the word. This is version 2, read by Mark Nelson. His voice is perfect for this because it has that resonant, old-world newscaster gravitas. It’s like having Walter Cronkite give us an evening news report on swordfighting aliens in bejewelled codpieces.

Mike Dang

I remember one 10-hour road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco where my friends and I decided it was time for us to start reading the Harry Potter books so we could join the zeitgeist, so we bought the first couple of books and read them out loud to each other on the drive up, complete with fake British accents and voices for each of the characters. So, it was sort of a live audio book in a way. Otherwise, I once downloaded the free iPhone app, "Audiobooks," which I intended to use so I could listen to free readings of classic novels, but that never happened. Podcasts like "This American Life," "Radiolab" and "The Nerdist" take up much of my audio-listening time.

A. N. Devers

I hate to admit it, but I forget about the existence of audiobooks. It's too bad, actually, because I'm a seasoned road tripper and the few times I've listened to audiobooks I've usually enjoyed listening to yarns in the car. (I lean heavily on "This American Life" and "Radiolab" for my story fix.) About a decade ago, just as the massiveness of the Harry Potter phenomenon was emerging, I picked up the British audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone performed by Stephen Fry, and it's just wonderful. Stephen Fry is a genius. I'm convinced he could somehow make Eat, Pray, Love an enjoyable listen. Around the same time, I bought Don DeLillo's Mao II at a yard sale, and it was terrible. I hate to posit that DeLillo doesn't translate to audiobook, but alas! I'm a huge David Mitchell fan and came across the The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet audiobook, which I'd already read, but it was a heady adventure to hear out loud.

A great audiobook for touring around is the eminently listenable Sarah Vowell and her Assassination Vacation to the strange tourist sites related to assassinated presidents. I got my husband all of David Sedaris's audiobooks one year for a present—Me Talk Pretty One Day is my favorite. Sedaris seems essential for any Audiobook Canon. My husband likes to listen to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn when he runs. That sounds pretty perfect to me. I drove around Britain recently visiting writers' houses, and I couldn't get over that the BBC still produces Radio Dramas. I was hooked. They're full of drama and adventure. I think that's my recipe for the best listening. Go for the popcorn stories. Look for serious adventure or serious humor—the swashbuckling and tall tales. These are stories you can dive in and out of. Or if you're driving out West, get Annie Proulx's Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Consider the landscape and the destination.

Carrie Frye

I love audiobooks—although for a while I had an unerring ability to pick only ones that would be excruciating when played in a crowded car. Like thrillers that would have, out of nowhere, a bonkers sex scene (looking at you, J. Kellerman) while the stepkids were in the backseat frantically trying not to hear over their earbuds, etc. My favorite, by far, is the gorgeous production of The Golden Compass trilogy, which is amazing even (or especially) if you already love the books. Another great one is this reading of Josephine Tey's The Daughter Of Time, where her detective Alan Grant attempts to figure out from his hospital bed whether Richard III was really responsible for the Tower deaths of his nephews. It's one of my favorite mysteries, and for some reason it's especially good when read aloud. (Also, when I'm listening, I can almost keep the Plantagenets straight.) Currently, I have Donna Tartt's reading of Charles Portis' True Grit out from the library. I've been meaning to listen to it since learning about it here.

Gavin Grant and Kelly Link

We used to get audiobooks (on cassette! as well as CD) from the library. I figured it was a great way to catch up with classics. I don't know that we roadtripped with many, it was more for commuting up to the BookSense/American Bookselling Association office in Tarrytown from Brooklyn.

The one I remember best isn't the Dickens or the Margaret Atwood (or the really annoying Ishiguro) but rather the Jeeves and Wooster, which were sidesplitting and read by just the right reader—whose name, he said, with a weak and rather wet apology, I have forgotten.

Evan Hughes

I am not in the habit of listening to audiobooks. I just find that my mind wanders and I lose the thread and then I give up on rewinding to figure out what's going on. I tried and failed with Anna Karenina years ago—on tape, borrowed from the Brooklyn Public Library—when I was driving for hours every day for a job. That might have been a bad place to start. My wife, a writer and voracious reader of fiction, is a big believer in audiobooks and has been trying to sell me on them. We did listen to Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, an 1868 detective novel of sorts, while driving across the country together. This was intermittently enjoyable, but I began to suspect that Dickens was paying Wilkie by the word when he serialized the novel in his magazine. My wife did convince me to try listening to an audiobook as a way of curing insomnia. The drug was Stendhal's The Red and the Black. This proved too interesting to put me to sleep, and yet still too difficult for the restless mind to adequately absorb in audio form.

Victoria Johnson

I don't listen to many audiobooks—I find them hard to pay attention to and often forget they're there—so I need the reader to have a distinctive voice and conversational style (lecture-style makes me zone out). Tina Fey's Bossypants really nailed this for me.

The library down the street from my apartment has a surprisingly well-curated audiobook shelf!

I tend to listen to audiobooks while I'm at the working out, actually. Having an audiobook in my headphones tends to make that slog on the treadmill a lot less awful. I hate going to the gym, but I love a good story.

Bennett Madison

I don't often listen to audiobooks because they make me fall asleep and then when I wake up I have no idea what's going on. For this reason, the only audiobooks I ever really partake in are the Harry Potter ones because they make me fall asleep fastest, plus I already know what's going on so it makes no difference whether I'm paying attention or not. FYI I prefer the Stephen Fry to the Jim Dale version, or actually maybe I like Jim Dale better—who even knows when you're asleep? I think it's Jim Dale who does this really annoying voice for Hermione, but then again, Hermione is pretty annoying so it works.

When I was growing up my family used to listen to audiobooks on long car trips and that was pretty fun, but I don't really remember any of them. I remember being really creeped out by Daphne Du Marier's Rebecca, obviously. There was scary organ music I think.

Maile Meloy

Life in Los Angeles is one long road trip, and I've been obsessed with audiobooks since I moved here. Mostly I get them from Audible. I plug my iPod into the car, and then I take it with me to the gym or on a walk, or I listen while I do anything remotely boring: dishes or folding laundry. I listen to books I probably wouldn't get to otherwise, including a lot of nonfiction. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is completely fascinating, and it doesn't matter if you space out and miss stuff while you look for your exit or think about something besides supercolliders. Stephen Greenblatt's Swerve is great in the car, too. Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Cormac McCarthy's novels are particularly good on audio because the readers have done the work of figuring out who's talking, which is sometimes real work, and they give you different voices. Blood Meridian is its own horrific road trip, and parts of Orange County will always remind me of the late, amazing Frank Muller reading All the Pretty Horses. The reader matters! Frank Muller, Nadia May, Simon Vance: I want them in the car with me. I'll listen to anything they read.

Laura Miller

I just looked at my Audible library and was told I own over 400 audiobooks with them alone.

Actually, my go-to books for long road trips are Trollope novels. They're really long, involving and funny, with a ton of great characters, and a good actor can do a LOT with them. I love 19C novels, though, so your mileage may vary.

With kids, it would be hard to go wrong with the Tim Curry readings of the Lemony Snicket books. He's one of the few actors who can pull them off, and they tend to be as amusing for kids as they are for adults.

Maud Newton

I don't listen to audiobooks, but I did recently discover Words That Burn, a iPad app collection of poems read by actors. Dominic West reads Shelley and Lowell, Ralph Fiennes reads Auden, Juliet Stevenson reads Dickinson, Harriet Walter reads Plath, Harold Pinter reads Larkin, and so on. I like to listen when my mind won't slow down.

Just today my friend Laura Miller sent word of a The End of the Affair audiobook read by Colin Firth. "Could this convert Maud to audiobooks???????" she writes. Maybe.

Logan Sachon

I actually have never listened to an audiobook—at least, not on purpose, since I was a kid held hostage in the back of my parents' minivan. The last road trip I took was spent listening to mixes my friend had made in middle school; the one before that, listening to the entirety of Doug Benson's I Love Movies podcast. Both great, but not books.

Abe Sauer

This is embarrassing and wholly fitting my image I suppose, but the only audiobooks I've ever listened to are by Garrison Keillor. Specifically, his Lake Wobegon books and his Book of Guys. The latter of which, I'll admit, I still listen to occasionally. I especially like The God of Canton.

While I enjoy the stories it's really more about Keillor's voice. I grew up with that voice and, as I traveled, when young and old, having it to listen to always calms me down and reminds me of home His voice is an anchor to a place I grew up.

Eric Spiegelman

Honestly, the last time I listened to an entire audiobook it was short stories of Mark Twain, played on cassette, while driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with my grandfather in the passenger seat. I may have tried to listen to a Gore Vidal novel on audiobook bought on iTunes once but I'm pretty sure I gave up ten minutes into it. So I might not be the best person to ask.

Adelle Waldman

I listen to audiobooks when I go running—at the park or on the treadmill. I wouldn't run otherwise; it would be too unpleasant. I also listen to them when I cook and clean. The greatest thing is that I actually can't listen sitting down. No matter how into the book I am, my attention will wander or I will fall asleep. For me, audiobooks are the ultimate reward system for productive behavior.

I recommend listening to books that you have read already but that are good enough to justify the extra consideration. As much as I love listening to books, I don't think it's a substitute for reading a book the regular way—personally, I like to read with a pen and to be able to easily stop and think. But hearing a good book read aloud by a skillful narrator—especially when you've read the book and therefore aren't entirely held captive by the plot—will reveal new aspects of it. I loved listening to The Corrections, The Emperor's Children and The Namesake. I was struck by how densely packed they were with good things—one smart, witty observation after another, a crackling intelligence, the consistent grace of the sentences. On the other hand, some books are revealed to be thinner, belaboring scant ideas or themes. When you read—I mean, read-read—you instinctively speed through sections that are less good. Listening to a book means that every word will be given equal weight. Padding will be seen for what it is. Also, authorial self-indulgence. (Take the last few pages of Jane Eyre—they are just embarrassing when read aloud. I love the book, but when I read it in text form, I must have always skimmed the end, where Brontë is going on and on like a juvenile romantic fantasy about how Jane and Rochester share a single soul.)

I used to go to the Brooklyn Public Library and borrow them on CDs and then rip them and put them on my iPhone but it was so cumbersome a task and the selection was limited. I finally gave up and joined Audible. I am looking for an alternative solution.

Nadia Chaudhury needs to listen to the audiobook where Michael Fassbender reads Dracula as soon as possible.

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61 Comments / Post A Comment

Bobby Womack (#4,074)

I have a question for those who listen to audiobooks while they drive – don't you find yourself getting distracted from the road?

I can listen to music 'till the cows come home and it only distracts me a small amount, but if I put on a podcast where I want to really listen to what the guests are saying, I become a one man Death Race 2000. Don't audiobooks do the same, or are people not really listening to them?

Plus we all know audiobooks are cheating, etc.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@Bobby Womack The distraction is the primary attraction of listening to audiobooks while driving. Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic or cruising a lonely 12-hour stretch of interstate are things I want desperately to be distracted from, and audiobooks fit the bill perfectly.

I do not advocate paying attention to audiobooks while, say, weaving down Lake Shore Drive at high speeds just before rush hour. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

Also, John Hodgman's audiobooks are amazing and I highly recommend them.

bgprincipessa (#11,104)

@Bobby Womack I absolutely second petejayhawk – they're for the BORING parts of traffic, like not moving or nobody else around.

themegnapkin (#201,538)

The entire Bloody Jack series, written by L.A. Myer (Meyer?) and narrated by Katherine Kellgren. They're fun, adventure books, about an orphan girl in the early 19th century who cuts her hair, dresses up like a boy to join the British navy. Oh, they're such wonderful books and Katherine Kellgren, the narrator, is a genius. Cannot recommend these audiobooks highly enough.

CheeseLouise (#2,074)

@themegnapkin I was going to recommend the same thing. They are just fantastic. (Meyer.)

Maybe not the best summer road trip book, but last fall, I listened to Alfred Lansing's Endurance. It checks in around 11 hours, and was the perfect compliment to driving from Boston to Plattsburgh, NY, and back.

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You know, I'm actually slightly curious what audiobooks the Armor All corporation would recommend. Can you ask them?

Oh, no! Abe is a Prairie Home person? Say it ain't so!

melis (#1,854)

@ReginalTSquirge Let us pretend he died. It will be less painful.


Maureen (#1,839)

Mom and I did the first four HP (Jim Dale version) on a X-country road trip in 2001. If you can, Lonesome Dove. Seriously. "Dove Audio presents…" Read by Lee Horsely. I have an office job and this got me through spring, 2011. At first I was dubious – but then I got used to the voice (cowboy twang) and got into it. Also, Michael Jayston reads the George Smiley spy novels (he also reads some PD James), and Jennifer Ehle reads Madeleine L'engle. AND Jon Krakauer reads Into Thin Air.

chevyvan (#201,691)

@Maureen We are audiobook twinsies! I also heartily endorse HP, Lonesome Dove, and Into Thin Air.

jhjhjhj (#7,025)

Yes, Rebecca!!! That was by far the highlight of our many summers "Let's go to Madison, Wisconsin and pick up audio books at Cracker Barrels along the way." (I am not from Wisconsin, my family just adored it there for some reason. It was our Provincetown.) We missed our hotel check-in several times because we were driving around farmland, gripping our seats anxiously as Mrs. Danvers wrecks Mrs. de Winter's poor head.

Bittersweet (#765)

All these are great recommendations…for actual books. For some reason I need to see the words on the paper – even my husband reading to me makes me a total crankypants. Listening to Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman could be enjoyable, though.

Years ago on a 2-week trans-Canadian trek, I pulled a Mike Dang and read the entire Narnia series to my husband. It took a long time, though, because I could only read for 15-20 min before feeling car sick. I guess audio books could have been helpful there.

J.W.B.@twitter (#233,304)

No mention of The Kid Stays in the Picture? Essential listening/reading/viewing

bgprincipessa (#11,104)

I rent audiobooks from the library all the time, and my #1 piece of advise is go for the funny stuff! I try not to listen to anything too serious, because it's hard to pay attention, and nothing with a lot of details, because you can't exactly go back and review.

So with that being said, as already mentioned I HIGHLY recommend Bossypants – narrated by Tina Fey herself, it is just hilarious. (And yes, I am that person you see laughing alone in her car.) Also along those lines, I've enjoyed Bill Bryson books, which he also reads himself, and Chelsea Handler (same).

What is also good is silly-frivolous type things… they might be a little embarrassing, but again, if you miss a few details here and there, you won't be upset. Young adult books or Stephanie Plum mysteries are good for this.

Lastly, I do not at all consider audiobooks "cheating" … who says that?? Read, in any way possible! I constantly have one physical book, one digital book, and one audio book going at a time.

@bgprincipessa I always go funny or trashy. David Sedaris audiobooks are awesome, and so is any similar comedy-memoir type thing. But also, for some reason I'd never read Jodi Picoult on dead trees but I'm completely happy to listen to her stuff in audiobook format while cleaning the house or whatever.

My boyfriend lived 2.5 hours away for a year and I was the only one with a driver's license so I listened to a LOT of podcasts and audiobooks that year.

redheadedandcrazy (#207,191)

the fact that mike dang and his friends read harry potter in the car just makes me love him even more because this was a family road trip tradition for me until book 6.

we had to stop at book 7 because all the (my) crying interfered with the reading.

purefog (#999)

The only audiobook I ever listened to was "WLT: A Radio Romance" by Garrison Keillor (of which I kind of serendipitously had a copy at a time I had to drive from the Bay Area to Austin). I sometimes really like Keillor, and he does have a wonderfully sonorous voice, and this book was particularly apt for audio-izing because, after all, much of it is about a broadcasting radio station, and thus peculiarly suitable to be heard aloud. YMMV.

catalu64@twitter (#233,305)

Bill Bryson has the BEST audiobooks-A Walk in the Woods, In A Sunburned Country, Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Very very funny. Bossypants was great too!

Grace (#233,306)

Not an audio book, but you can download all 4 episodes of Wireless Nights with Jarvis Cocker from the bbc4 site:… So good.

That dreadful Lord of the Rings audiobook was one of my dad's favorite things when I was a kid, and he played it on EVERY car trip over 60 minutes for many years.

Coincidentally, I also get severely motion sick, especially in the back of my dad's cars, which were inevitably low to the ground two-door deals where you had zero visibility from the back seat, so I spent basically all car trips of over 20 minutes severely nauseated.

And that, my friends, is why the Lord of the Rings makes me feel ill to this day.

girlwearingglasses (#16,056)

i lo v e d MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN read by steve buscemi.
based on the comments of many people who read the book, turrets was hard to understand while reading, but it was never and issue for me to listen to.

also, DAVID SEDARIS is a holiday audiobook tradition of mine, and THIS AMERICAN LIFE. anyone who rides down i-95 will tell you it definitely gets you in the spirit.

caddie (#189,150)

"Jeeves and Wodehouse?" Really?

Carrie Frye (#9,863)

@caddie Argh! Fixed now.

crisp (#233,308)

I love audiobooks and podcasts. I need them to be pretty stupid, though, or else I get lost (both geographically, if I try to focus on the book, and plot-wise). I tried an Abe Lincoln biography once and had to return it within two discs. Somehow I got to adulthood without having read To Kill A Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so I got them for my commute. Both were GREAT to listen to. To Kill A Mockingbird is narrated by Sissy Spacek (!) and she does an amazing job. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson– a British mystery writer– was also awesome.

The best thing about audiobooks is being read to. I had forgotten how much I love being read to. You get really used to someone's voice after spending 10+ hours alone with it in the car. I can still hear the narrator of Case Histories saying "Brody" (the protagonist's name).

Joey Camire (#6,325)

I listen to audiobooks most days when I ride my bike to and from work, and have consumed quite a number of them, but audible's version of Enders Game (and the ensuing series) is extremely well done. Also everything by Klosterman as read by Klosterman adds new dimension to his writing.

mlle.gateau (#233,309)

I made an account just to share this! As someone who fairly regularly goes on 10+ hour drives, I am a hardcore believer in audiobooks. I generally prefer nonfiction because I find it's easier to handle when driving- you're not glued to the plot, so if you stop listening to pay attention to the road, it's okay.

Audiobooks that I cannot recommend highly enough:

Neil Gaiman – Stardust (Gaiman reads it himself, and it is delightful)
Isabella Allende – Zorro
Rebecca Skloot – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Tina Fey – Bossy Pants (Seconded!)

Audiobooks that are also solid choices:

John M. Barry – The Great Influenza
Simon Winchester – The Professor and the Madman

Ledrew (#654)

So happy to see this; audiobooks is my day job. That, and reading The Awl. I'm gonna guess that the voice of PG Wodehouse referenced above was Jonathan Cecil. The Brits do the audiobook thing — whether full-cast dramas or single-voice readings — very very well. They have audiobooks on the radio there! The John LeCarre radio dramas BBC Radio 4 produced a little while ago are very entertaining.

Alex Balk (#4)

@Ledrew I have not had a car for nearly twenty years now, but when I lived in Texas and did a considerable amount of driving I LOVE LOVE LOVED the Jeeves series read by Alexander Spencer.

Liquid (#546)

I love audiobooks: it means a) I can walk and read at the same time without running into things, and b) I can read late at night without keeping anyone up by having the light on.

A couple of notables — I'm big into whodunnits, so mine follow that:
– Agatha Christie: 'The Clocks' read by Robin Bailey — the reader sounded almost bored, and at first I was really annoyed. Then, as I warmed, I realized that he's brilliant, and his reading is in truth fantastic. Also, anything read by David Suchet… OK, so his Poirot is right on, having played the role with great success, but his interpretation of other characters is divine.
– I'm currently really liking Ian Carmichael's readings of Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. I'm also a sucker for clever English intellectuals sometimes, so bear that in mind.
– All but one of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series are available at Project Gutenberg, read John Telfer, they are really good, and so is he.

I totally agree with you, Ms Bustillos — I got into listening to audio stuff when I started baking and learning to cook. It's a good combination. However, I tend to listen to audio theatre when I do that — they're often separated into smaller chunks — I can get through a few over a loaf of bread.
May I suggest Decoder Ring Theatre: they do half-hour shows that, in the normal (not summer) season, are separated into 'The Adventures of the Red Panda', a 1930s super-hero with expensive gadgets, hypnotism, and a sidekick named the Flying Squirrel; and 'Black Jack Justice', a 40s hard-boiled detective and his partner, Trixie Dixon Girl Detective, who have lots of clever banter and a penchant for interesting cases.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Liquid Ha! interesting. Duly noted.

theharpoon (#10,705)

What I don't understand is, why ask so many people who say that they don't listen to audiobooks? Perhaps a better strategy would have been to just ask everyone who's ever written for the Awl if they actually know anyone who listens to audiobooks.

@theharpoon Seconded!

When I was fifteen I went on a road trip with my Grandma and her pal from Minnesota down to Graceland and all we listened is to trashy detective audiobooks. It was actually pretty fantastic.

ladyfriend@twitter (#226,974)

Anything read by Campbell Scott. That man has a magic voice.

cupcakecore@twitter (#233,315)

Obviously this isn't recommended for traveling with an all ages group, and not everyone will be down with it regardless but the unabridged Lolita as read by Jeremy Irons.

Neil Gaiman audiobooks are pretty excellent too, I have an mp3 of him reading "A Study in Emerald" and it's really rather delightful.

If you're into YA and/or steampunk, at the very least, the first 2 books in the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld have been published as audiobooks. The 2 main characters are a Scottish girl passing as a boy and an Austrian prince, plus a whole who of other characters and the whole thing is brilliantly narrated by Alan Cumming. YEAH. It's pretty much the best.

oscarina (#45,226)

Yes, yes, yes, to Donna Tartt's reading of True Grit! It's wonderful!

hieropants (#233,316)

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's written like a cross between Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman, and it's 32 hours long, so it should get you wherever you're going.

Richelle (#233,321)

The Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket are so wonderful as audiobooks. The author reads them in the absolute best voices. They entertained my mom and I on hours and hours of roadtrips when I was a kid.

scojo (#17,876)

alan rickman! Just last week I looked up what audiobooks he had done and it was just one, the one you recommended! But I did not buy it because I don't know, it sounded a little…thick. I'm there! French! now I will read the rest of the article. also, my friend says the audio version of The Passage Justin Cronin is great – I liked the print version quite a bit.

Pixiewolf (#233,326)

Ah, the only balm that soothes a hideous full-time data entry job is a sweet, succulent audiobook. I read over 70 in a year and a half (yeah, that job was a reeeeal slog) and I still remember my faves:

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – This is AWESOME on audio, the reader is great (but you have to ignore the unfortunate "sucking" noises she makes every once in a while). First person narrative gets an extra boost from a female reader. The whole effect is extra-haunting.

Blindness by Jose Saramago – Can't get through the regular version because of the lack of punctuation? Like a previous commenter said, they take all of the work out of figuring out who's talking (like in Cormac McCarthy books) and give each character a voice. It'll go down MUCH easier. And it's a great book.

Also really, really loved the reader for McCarthy's The Road.

reader0311 (#248,758)

@Pixiewolf Know where i could get the audiobook? online?
know the book, would love to give it a listen.

astrangerinthealps (#178,808)

I highly recommend Andre Dubus's memoir Townie. He's the author of House of Sand and Fog, and his story of growing up in a decaying mill town in Massachusetts is pretty compelling. It's read by the author himself, so no need to worry about my pet peeve, fake accents (I'm looking at you, Jim Dale). 

I've listened to Moby-Dick twice on audio. The first time it took me a year, but I can't think of anything I'd like better for a cross-country trip. 

Nonfiction can be good. I liked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin, is a little obscure but maybe you can get it from your library. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is hilarious, also read by the author. And Jonathan Franzen's book of essays How To Be Alone is good if you like crankypants intellectuals telling you to get off their lawn. 

For kids, you really can't go wrong with Eric Idle reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

kec (#233,339)

Simon Vance does a fantastic job at narrating Patrick O'Brian's entire Aubrey/Maturin series (Master & Commander, etc.). His characterizations are just perfect, and he captures O'Brian's bone dry humor very well. Also, these books are great for driving because O'Brian's narrative style is so odd and episodic it doesn't really matter if you get distracted for a few minutes. When you come back, you just fall into the narrative pool again and it's all okay. And you learn how to pronounce all those tricky nautical terms. And (and!) since there's something like 19 books total you could drive around the world and not run out of story.

@kec Vance is also great with the Steig Larsson books. He has considerable range in the voices and accents that make you forget one guy is carrying the whole thing.

TheobaldLeadbett (#233,120)

Harry Potter has got to be a good choice. The trouble is that most kids will know the stories to death by now. I also listen to a few audio books when driving… I find it distracts me less as I'm not dancing about like when listening to music lol!

See also SCAT by Carl Hiaasen. Ed Asner's narration will have you in stitches. STITCHES!

UncleStu (#232,509)

@Katherine Harrison@twitter
Hiaasen Rules!

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

I listened to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver on my last long road trip. It was pretty great, and the reader was talented enough so that you could differentiate between the characters just from her voice.

• Lush Life by Richard Price, read by the actor Bobby Canavalle. In some ways a straightforward cop drama, but so dang good and Canavalle is double awesome.
• Train Dreams, a novella by Denis Johnson, is lovely and short.
• The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon is read by the actor Peter Riegert and he is perfect, as is the book.
• I've enjoyed the Saul Bellow books I listened to: Ravelstein, The Adventures of Augie March, and Henderson the Rain King (esp. the last one)
• Plainsong and Eventide by Kent Haruf are really beautiful and probably awesome for driving through the Plains states
• Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson is contemplative but not boring or slow
• That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx was funny and awesome.

carrie (#233,429)

Yay audiobooks! I'm more of a podcast girl, but spoken word is awesome in all forms. I've listened to two great audiobooks lately, both with fantastic reading voices:

- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimen read by Lenny Henry – when Charlie tries to contact his estranged father, he discovers he has a brother and is drawn into a world of gods and stories.

- Beauty Queens written and read by Libba Bray – sort of Lord of the Flies with teen pagent contestants – lots of fun and great female characters

Carrie Fisher reading her own stuff is great.
Will Patton did a great job with Denis Johnson's "Train Dreams".
Patti Smith reading "Just Kids"
Jim Dale made "The Night Circus" far more charming than it would have been on the page.

tumblingwall (#8,185)

Miles Klee sitting in the way back reading Ivyland is the best audiobook.

UncleStu (#232,509)

Everything that Carl Hiaasen writes is great fun, on paper or audiobook. He entertains while exposing Florida's eccentricities. His Miami Herald articles are way good also, and won him a Pulitzer.
Anything read by George Guidall or Frank Muller – readers matter a lot.
Stephen King's Dark Tower series – read it in order or you'll be sorry.
Harlan Cobans's Myron Bolitar stories. Mysteries with humor.

I can't recommend Terry Pratchett's books highly enough (on paper or plastic). The audiobooks are read mainly by two readers, Nigel Planer and Stephen Briggs. Both are great in their own way (although I slightly prefer Planer partly because he played Neil Pye on The Young Ones). Pratchett's books, if you like fantasy, are transporting, and there are a LOT of them (and yet still not enough). My husband and I commuted into NYC from Jersey together for a year or so and it was some of the loveliest time in recent memory for me, listening to Pratchett and howling with laughter.

Lolita read by Jeremy Irons
Slaughterhouse 5 read by Ethan Hawke
Life by Keith Richards read by Johnny Depp, some actor guy pretending to be Keith Richards, Keith Richards and others
The World According to Garp
Breakfast of Champions read by Stanley Tucci
A Clockwork Orange read by Tom Hollander

I agree With most of this title you can find them here for 20 bucks one time fee download or listen online

jme (#244,994)

Little, Big read by the author John Crowley is fantastic. It is smart, slyly funny and a fabulous story.

apple (#245,606)

Wonderful blog, I'd really love to be a part of group where I can get people that share the same interest. Good job
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