I like to always have a few short audiobooks sitting on my TBR for when I need a quick listen to break me out of a reading slump. Short audiobooks can be a lifesaver when you’re having trouble focusing on reading, or if you’re feeling stuck in a rut. You can listen to audiobooks under five hours in a day, even without devoting a lot of extra time to reading. Between taking the dog out, folding the laundry, putting away the groceries, making dinner, and cleaning the kitchen—or whatever other small daily chores you need to accomplish—you might be surprised by how much listening time is already built into your day.
Here are five audiobooks under five hours that you won’t want to stop listening to.
March Sisters by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jane Smiley, read by Cassandra Campbell (4 hours, 9 minutes)
Even if you don’t love Little Women, you’ll most likely be able to find something to relate to in these four essays, and if you are a Little Women fan, you’ll be utterly delighted. Four authors delve into their relationships with the book, each writer exploring one of the four March sisters from different a perspective. Cassandra Campbell’s narration is perfect: smooth and inviting, but never overpowering. She makes listening to each essay a delight.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom, read by Adri Almeida (4 hours, 13 minutes)
This beautiful coming-of-age novel tells the story of a young trans woman who flees her childhood home to make a life for herself in the city of Gloom. Thom combines great storytelling with elements of magic and fairytale to create a unique and heartbreaking story. Almeida’s narration is fantastic, capturing all of the protagonist’s conflicting emotions and all the nuances of Thom’s poetic prose. The book itself is dreamlike, in the best way possible, and Almeida’s voices brings that dream to life.
My Time Among the Whites by Jennine Capo Crucet, read by Jennine Capo Crucet (4 hours, 27 minutes)
In this collection of essays on race, belonging, and identity, Crucet explores her experiences as a Cuban American woman and the daughter of immigrants in a society intent on upholding whiteness. She’s especially insightful when writing about physical spaces, from Disneyland to her hometown of Miami to the campus of a small liberal arts college. She digs into how geography and context affect identity—our own and other people’s understanding of it. Her narration is straightforward and heartfelt, and like many essay collections read by their authors, adds an added layer of depth and insight to book.
Unfit to Print by KJ Charles, read by Vikas Adam (4 hours, 32 minutes)
I sometimes find myself frustrated by romance novellas I love, because I just want more time with the characters. Listening to them on audio allows me to immerse myself in the world and characters even more completely. In this queer historical, an upright lawyer and the owner of a less-than-reputable bookshop (read: Victorian porn) team up to track down a missing boy. Vikas Adam is one of my favorite narrators, and he brings the perfect mixture of tenderness and intrigue to this quiet romance.
Gods, Wasps and Stranglers by Mike Shanahan, read by James Cameron Stewart (4 hours, 42 minutes)
A whole audiobook about fig trees might sound like a bore, but I guarantee you that it isn’t. Shanahan uses a wide range of lenses to tell the story of this one remarkable plant—ecology, conservation, culture, history, religion, botany, mythology, and politics. Fig trees are fascinating and unique. They have flowers on the inside of their fruit (almost unheard of in nature); each fig species of fig has its own species of fig wasp; and fig trees have mythological and religious in importance in cultures all over the globe. Shanahan’s book is packed with facts, but his writing is never dry, and the whole experience is only improved by Stewart’s lively narration. I listened to this book in one day; between the utterly engrossing subject matter and the engaging narration, I couldn’t stop.
Audiobooks under one or two hours can be hard to find, but audiobooks under five hours are abundant. There are so many other wonderful books I wanted to include on this list! A few additional favorites include: The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason, read by Simon Vance (4 hours, 43 minutes), Little Weirds by Jenny Slate, read by Jenny Slate (4 hours, 19 minutes), Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan, read by Rosalyn Landor (4 hours, 11 minutes), and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, read by Meryl Streep and a full cast (4 hours, 2 minutes).
Looking for more short audiobooks? We’ve got you covered with audiobooks under three hours and audiobooks under four hours. We’ve also got must-read lists for audiobooks under 10 hours in fiction and nonfiction.