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15 of the Best Audiobooks for Road Trips

By Shannon Reed

Jun 21, 2019

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Long drives don’t have to feel so long if you’re listening to a good book. 

Cover images courtesy of the publishers

Long drives don’t have to feel so long if you’re listening to a good book. 

Laugh-out-loud memoirs, poignant novels, even a Pulitzer Prize–winning play are among the picks for our favorite audiobooks to listen to on your next long drive.

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Blasting that mix you made in high school is always a great kickoff to a road trip, but what do you do after “Life Is a Highway” plays for the fourth time? Here are our 15 picks of books old and new, expertly read by the authors or professional actors, all of which will make you want to plan a road trip and drive all night long.

Engrossing Fiction Audiobooks for Adults

Dive into other worlds and compelling characters with these page-turners. 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Audio, 2017)

Buy Now: amazon.com

This blockbuster best seller about two bumbling loners who inch toward love has been optioned for Hollywood by Reese Witherspoon. It won the Audie in Fiction for reader Cathleen McCarron in 2018, and her performance wonderfully captures Honeyman’s warm and clear style.

Children of Bone and Blood
by Tomi Adeyemi (Macmillan Audio, 2019)

Buy Now: amazon.com

This gripping work of fantasy won Audiobook of the Year for 2019, read by Bahni Turpin, who has built a loyal following as the reader for several well-known novels by African American authors. Author Adeyemi draws on West African themes and culture, creating a world in which in her young protagonist, Zélie Adebola, must work with a rogue princess to strike down the monarchy that killed her mother and to learn to control her own magical powers.

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones (Recorded Books, HighBridge 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

In 2018, this title was long-listed for the National Book Awards, won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in fiction, and was selected by Oprah for her eponymous book club. Veteran audiobook readers Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis take on the parts of Roy and Celestial, newlyweds whose lives are destroyed when Roy is arrested and imprisoned for a crime Celestial knows he did not commit. You won’t want to hit stop as you’re learning what happens to them.

Obsessive Nonfiction Audiobooks

The real-life twists and turns of these three books will keep you listening mile after mile.

The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in 10 Songs
by Greil Marcus (Audible Studios, 2014)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Legendary music journalist Marcus, who made his reputation at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, cleverly teaches the history of rock music by focusing on 10 songs, all lesser-known but oft-recorded standards. Musician Henry Rollins is the reader of this book, which shares Marcus’s thoughts and research on recordings by Joy Division, Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse, and many more. You’ll come away newly aware of rock’s many branches, as well as with an updated playlist.

by Sarah Smarsh (Simon & Schuster Audio, 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

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Read by the author, Smarsh’s book has a subtitle that sums it up: “A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.” She recounts her upbringing as a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer, and her perspective—from a hardscrabble life in rural middle America—is too rarely encountered in mainstream media. Heartland is eye-opening, as well as beautifully written and read, sure to keep your attention while driving.

Furious Hours
by Casey Cep (Random House Audio, 2019)

Buy Now: amazon.com

The newest book on our list is also the buzziest, since it manages to combine true crime and To Kill a Mockingbird. Cep’s book digs deep into the history of Alabama serial killer Willie Maxwell, as well as Harper Lee’s intention to write about the trial of Maxwell’s murderer, perhaps an attempt to follow up Mockingbird with an In Cold Blood–style book of her own. Reader Hillary Huber unspools Cep’s tale so adeptly, you’ll be tempted to keep driving just to listen to it.

Audiobooks Read by a Big Cast

Sometimes a sweeping epic with a gigantic cast is exactly what you need to take your mind off, say, bumper-to-bumper gridlock on I-95.

Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders  (Random House Audio, 2017)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Saunders’s quirky novel about Abraham Lincoln, his dead son Willie, and a huge array of recently alive people they meet in a cemetery also won the 2018 Audie Audiobook of the Year. No surprise, considering that the cast of readers includes Nick Offerman, Lena Dunham, David Sedaris, Saunders himself, and many other famous voices. Those familiar with Saunders’s work—and the names on that cast list—will already know that the book is funny as well as profound.

Angels in America
by Tony Kushner (Random House Audio, 2019)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Kushner’s play won the Pulitzer Prize upon its premiere in 1992, but the audiobook is a recording of the great American classic’s 2018 stage revival, specially made for listeners at home. Kushner wrote additional stage directions in order to help clarify the action for listeners. They’re read by award-winning actors Bobby Cannavale and Edie Falco, who join the rest of the Broadway cast, including Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane, in a sweeping drama about the Rosenberg Trial, Roy Cohn, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and the AIDS crisis in America.

Audiobooks for the Family

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, read by actor Jim Dale in the American version, are widely considered the gold standard in family-friendly audiobooks. If you’ve already listened to all seven books in the series, these newer titles for middle grade and young adult readers will also keep your crew entertained.

Just Under the Clouds
by Melissa Sarno (Listening Library, 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

This lovely novel is intended for middle grade kids, but those older and younger will like it as well. Sarno writes movingly  about a girl struggling with homelessness along with her family in New York, and audiobook reader Monika Felice Smith evokes each character vividly. Tender and funny, as well as educational.

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See You in the Cosmos
by Jack Chen (Listening Library, 2017)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Reader Kivlighan de Montebello won an Audie—the American Publishers Association’s annual awards—for his narration of this middle grade–level novel. Author Chen crafts an enthralling story about an 11-year-old boy obsessed with Carl Sagan, space, and his iPod, as he journeys across the United States in hopes of finding a place he fits in.

What If It’s Us?
by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (HarperAudio, 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

A rom-com in best-selling book form, this YA novel is about two young men who meet at a post office in New York. Will they get together? What do you think? It’s a book as sweet and engaging as the Broadway musicals its characters love. With the two-voice narration shared by seasoned readers Noah Galvin and Froy Gutierrez, it’s sure to charm.

Great Personalities to Spend Time With

Solo road trippers in particularly might enjoy passing their time on the road with these three charming personalities, who read their own books.

by Tina Fey (Hachette Audio, 2011)

Buy Now: amazon.com

As it approaches 10 years in print, Fey’s mix of memoir and humor—which won Audie’s Audiobook of the Year in 2012 for her performance—is as fresh as ever. Whether telling tales about growing up as a drama nerd, recounting her years at Saturday Night Live, or ruminating on her hopes and fears as a parent, Fey’s book is a complete delight. You’ll laugh all the way to your exit!

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah (Audible Studios, 2016)

Buy Now: amazon.com

This is another Audie winner, taking the prize for Best Male Narrator in 2018, which isn’t surprising when you recollect Noah’s long career as a stand-up comedian before becoming host of The Daily Show. Here, he tells stories about growing up as a biracial kid in apartheid South Africa in an occasionally harrowing, but always entertaining, book.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
by Julie Andrews (Hyperion Audiobooks, 2008)

Buy Now: amazon.com

Dame Julie wrote one the loveliest memoirs around, introducing readers to her career as a child vaudeville star in war-torn England before her rise to global fame and fortune in My Fair Lady on Broadway. This volume stops just before the filming of Mary Poppins begins, but Andrews recently announced that her second memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, will be out in October.

by Michelle Obama (Random House Audio, 2018)

Buy Now: amazon.com

The former First Lady’s powerful memoir has become a runaway bestseller since it was published in the fall of last year. But did you know that Obama reads the audiobook herself? Listening to her tell the story of her journey from her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side to her years in the White House is inspirational and entertaining.

>>Next: The Best Summer Beach Reads of 2019

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