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40 Of The Best Audiobooks For Your Road Trip And Beyond

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Rachel Smalter Hall

Staff Writer

Rachel Smalter Hall may be a professional Book Rioter, but she still hangs out in the public librarian clubhouse. Two of her top three loves include audiobooks and knitting, and her favorite song is Cold Hearted Snake as performed by Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese on season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She co-runs a boozy book club in Lawrence, Kansas, in her spare time. Twitter: @rach_smalls Website: Rachel Smalter Hall

We at Book Riot *heart* audiobooks just as much as we heart adventure. Here are 40 of the best audiobooks of all time that we’ve been listening to lately on long drives — from brand-new to backlist, romance to history. Enjoy them on your next road trip or wherever you get your listening fix.

40 Of The Best Audiobooks For Your Road Trip And Beyond |

Great Fiction Audiobooks

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee

What begins as a lighthearted satire about suburban Australian parenting gets very dark and very twisty, very fast. The pace is quick, the characters are compelling, and Caroline Lee gives a knockout performance. — Rachel Smalter Hall

36 Best Audiobooks for Your Road Trip and Beyond | BookRiot.comThe Good Lord Bird by James McBride, read by Michael Boatman

Historical fiction about the odd couple that is ten-year-old Little Onion — a cross-dressing freed slave from the Kansas Territory — and John Brown — the infamous abolitionist — just begs to be performed out loud. Michael Boatman brings this hysterical and heartbreaking winner of the National Book Award to life. — Rachel Smalter Hall

The Known World by Edward P. Jones, read by Kevin Free

This devastating book may not be ideal for a road trip situation. But still, I felt a palpable summer atmosphere in this story of a fictional Virginia district at the height of slavery, whose most remarkable slave-owner is a free black man. Listen to this when you’re by yourself on a summer night. — Kristel Autencio

Stone-Mattress-Margaret-Atwood-audioStone Mattress by Margaret Atwood, read by Rob Delaney et al.

Atwood’s recent short story collection flew a little under the radar. If you missed this in print, do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook. Comedian Rob Delaney is just one of the many outstanding performers to take on these dark little stories. They’re hilarious, biting, and wonderfully strange. — Rachel Smalter Hall

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Read By Nick Offerman

There’s no question that Mark Twain’s stories have shaped the course of American literature, and Nick Offerman completely embodies that all-American feeling. Just like Tom Sawyer, Nick Offerman is a wholesome boy from a small midwestern town who has a wicked mischievous streak. (He also happened to grow up into a mustachioed carpenter and comedian, which feels relevant somehow. I don’t know, just go with it.) – Rachel Smalter Hall

Best Mystery Audiobooks

Everything-I-Never-Told-You-Celeste-Ng-audioBird Box by Josh Malerman, read by Cassandra Campbell

If you need an audiobook that will help you drive all night without falling asleep, go with this. Bird Box is terrifying. The audio only magnifies this experience by keeping the pace moving slowly even though you want it to move more quickly. — Jessica Woodbury

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, read by Cassandra Campbell

A haunting, slow-build of a novel that I’ve been absolutely loving. The narration is also wonderfully done. It’s one of the best audiobooks for long, solo car rides. — Nikki VanRy

the-whites-richard-price-audioPleasantville by Attica Locke, read by J.D. Jackson

Locke is a great writer for fans of Grisham and Lehane, who like their plots with extra twists and full of thrills. Set in the thick of black politics in Houston, it’s full of intrigue, betrayals, shady backroom deals, and courtroom showdowns. — Jessica Woodbury

The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt, read by Ari Fliakos

Price is one of the best crime writers there is, and Ari Fliakos slips between the narration and the rhythms of blue collar cop talk seamlessly. The plot keeps moving, the character studies are riveting, and there’s not a single false step until the big climax. — Jessica Woodbury

Best Romance Audiobooks

Landline-Rainbow-Rowell-audioDestiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins, read by Thomas Penny

This fun listen is easy to follow even without the previous books in the series. Noah Yates is an Afro-Spanish merchant and shipowner from California who has a bit of a run in with a lady pirate in the Caribbean, who is also just a touch of a Cuban Revolutionary. The two butt heads (and swords) and have a heck of a good time. — Jessica Pryde

Landline by Rainbow Rowell, read by Rebecca Lowman

Georgie McCool has a deal to produce her dream TV show, but she’ll have to miss Christmas with her husband to meet her deadline. Her marriage is looking rocky when she discovers a time-traveling telephone that can dial the past. Bring on the 90s pop-culture references and a strong female lead who kicks ass and takes names. — Rachel Smalter Hall

A-Thousand-Pieces-Of-You-Claudia-GraySuddenly One Summer by Julie James, read by Karen White

James is an auto-buy, and I know I can count on her audiobooks, which are performed flawlessly by Karen White. A divorce lawyer agrees to take on her neighbor’s sister case. He’s a cocky journalist and she’s skeptical about love. They share James’ trademark mutually denied attraction and irritation with each other. It’s terrific. — Jessica Tripler

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, read by Tavia Gilbert

YA Dimensional Science Fiction at its most interesting. In a relatively quick pace, a girl jumps dimensions to find her father’s murderer… any maybe find true love. The prose is fantastic, but for me the audiobook narrator really makes this novel. — Jessica Pryde

Science Fiction Audiobooks

The Girl With All the Gifts AudiobookThe Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, read by Finty Williams

A zombie road adventure, a meditation on the meaning of personhood, a clash of scientific, military and humanistic worldviews brought to life by superbly drawn characters, especially a very unusual little girl trying to make sense of it all. Finty Williams has a lovely, smooth delivery that clearly distinguishes the characters. — Jessica Tripler

The Humans by Matt Haig, read by Mark Meadows

The narrator is an alien who has assumed human form. Listening to his observations about humanity would be enough, but then there’s a really good, funny, and heartwarming story in there, too. — Cassandra Neace

Lock-In-John-Scalzi-audioLock In by John Scalzi, read by Wil Wheaton or by Amber Benson

It’s a smart, futuristic, techno thriller that does very interesting things with gender, like ignoring it almost completely. The publisher produced two versions, one read by Wil Wheaton and the other by Amber Benson. — Cassandra Neace

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, read by Almarie Guerra

A near-future dystopia that takes place in the American Southwest where water is a scarce commodity. Doesn’t seem all that unreasonable, does it California? Against this too-close-for-comfort backdrop is a familiar detective / mystery novel with corruption and crime at the center. Almarie Guerra’s smooth delivery almost makes you forget this isn’t a real thing that’s happened…yet. — Rachel Manwill

Best Fantasy Audiobooks

The Harry Potter Series By J.K. Rowling, Read By Jim Dale Or Stephen Fry 

We love Harry Potter audiobooks obviously, but finding the best narrator for you is key when listening to this series. In an earlier post, we pitted the two leading Harry Potter narrators against each other to see which one is truly the best.

Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman audioThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by the author

Gaiman reads many of his own audiobooks and The Graveyard Book is among my favorite audiobooks of his. This one is especially good if your road trip includes children. — Chris Arnone

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, read by the author

The entire His Dark Materials trilogy is read by a full voice cast. Pullman reads the narration while actors read the parts. The production value is quite high and these are great reads. — Chris Arnone

Walls-Around-Us-Nova-Ren-Suma-audioThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, read by Phil Gigante

This rollicking adventure is about a group of magic users in a kingdom called Dhamsawaat who are called to save the city from an evil ghul. There are some genuinely scary parts, but I was mostly listening to this with a big grin on my face. — Kristel Autencio

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, read by Georgia King and Sandy Rustin

Told from dueling perspectives, the audiobook utilizes two narrators to emphasize the two protagonists. One a ballerina with a dark secret, the other a delinquent locked in a juvenile facility. It works incredibly well. The two narrators keep the story grounded in what’s actually happening, as the story quickly moves into the surreal. — Rachel Manwill

Memoir & Biography Audiobooks

As-You-Wish-Cary-Elwes-audioAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes, read by the author

Not only is listening to Cary Elwes like having your insides rubbed down by a velvet glove; this also features cameos from Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, and more. Everyone who made this cult film is clearly still in love with it. Their anecdotes are full of infectious warmth. This makes it one of the best audiobooks for a family car ride. — Rachel Weber

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming, read by the author

Actor Alan Cumming’s memoir about the strained relationship with his abusive father is the kind of story I’d be interested in, whether the author was famous or not. Rather than a “this is my whole life” memoir, Cumming takes a very specific moment in his adult life to examine his childhood. He does it so very powerfully. Plus, his spectacular Scottish accent is a delight to listen to, even as his experience is so excruciating. — Rachel Manwill

paris-letters-janice-macleod-audioParis Letters by Janice MacLeod, read by Tavia Gilbert

Janice MacLeod was on her way up the corporate ladder when she realized she wasn’t sure what she was climbing for. She saved up her money, quit her job, and moved to Europe. MacLeod shares just enough of the gritty details that you can imagine doing the same. — Jesse Doogan

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, read by Edward Herrmann

Louis Zamperin goes from running track in the Olympics, to surviving on a raft as sharks and Japanese bombers surround him, to being a prisoner of war, and then back to life in the U.S. Plus the audio is narrated by Edward Herrmann (Richard from Gilmore Girls in my mind), who is wonderful. — Valerie Michael

Funny Audiobooks

self-inflicted-wounds-aisha-tyler-audioCarsick by John Waters, read by the author

Because why not experience the most ridiculous road trip of all time while you’re on a road trip? John Waters splits his book into two: a fictional trip narrating the best possible outcome and the worst; and his actual trip, which is also fun but not nearly as insane. — Jessica Pryde

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, read by the author

The master of satire delivers short stories about his early life. — S. Zainab Williams

Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler, read by the author

HILARITY ensues. This woman is not afraid to bare all about her most embarrassing moments. — S. Zainab Williams

Yes-Please-Amy-Poehler-audioYes Please by Amy Poehler, read by the author

This book is so many different things along with being a celebrity memoir that I feel comfortable recommending it to just about anyone. It’s funny and heartfelt and just a joy. — Jessica Woodbury

Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, Read By The Author 

Noah’s narrative voice is crisp, clear, and there is very little in the way of mumbling or whispering. You may yet turn out to be a menace to society what with the bursts of laughter and tears, but once you pick the volume, you never have to change it again. Plus, it’s a brilliant memoir. – Yash Kesankurthy

Historical Audiobooks

games-without-rules-audioDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, read by Scott Brick

I knew absolutely nothing about the Lusitania other than that it was a passenger liner sunk by a German submarine in the early years of WWI. Erik Larson examines this fateful cruise with the precise research and engaging narrative that he brings to any of his subjects. The audio version is as good a choice for history buffs as it is for mystery lovers, because the tension builds like a good, old-fashioned thriller. — Rachel Manwill

Games Without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan by Tamim Ansary, read by the author

A comprehensive (and depressing) presentation of Afghan history and how superpowers both near and far have interfered in it for profit or power. — Rachel Cordasco

liar-temptress-soldier-spy-audioThe Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and How It Changed the American West by Jeff Guinn, read by Stephen Hoye

If you’re interested in Wyatt Earp and the history of the American frontier, this one’s for you. — Rachel Cordasco

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott, read by Karen White

A profile of four white women on the different sides of the Civil War and how their gender colored their participation. The narration moves at a steady clip, and Karen White’s narration adds a lot of verve to the story. — Kristel Autencio

Best Nonfiction Audiobooks

The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig, read by Gayle Hendrix

A captivating look at how and why the birth control pill was created and the cultural context in which it was born. So many fascinating insights into the characters behind it. And, there’s just the right amount of science to give the story appropriate depth. — Rachel Manwill

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, read by Stephen Hoye

This is one of my favorite nonfiction audiobooks of all time. It is meticulously researched, empathetic, fascinating, and just truly masterful. This audiobook is long but worthwhile. I have read it in print and listened to it and I am just constantly awed by its quality and depth. — Valerie Michael

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, read by the author

Comedian Aziz Ansari teams up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to tackle love and romance in the digital age. I love the mix of serious statistical research and Flo Rida analogies. Ansari gives the audiobook a little extra flavor with ad libs and asides you won’t find in the print. — Rachel Smalter Hall

what-if-randall-munroe-audioWhat If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe, read by Wil Wheaton

A fun romp with short, self-contained chapters to dip in and out of. Munroe answers such questions as “If a bullet with the density of a neutron star were fired from a handgun (ignoring the how) at the Earth’s surface, would the Earth be destroyed?” This is one of the best audiobooks for the science geeks in your life. — Nikki VanRy

The Daily Show: An Oral History by Chris Smith, Read By A Full Cast

Still sobbing about Jon Stewart’s departure? Want to peek behind the scenes of this political news show? Chris Smith’s all-encompassing history is one of the best audiobooks. It brings in interviews from the show’s correspondents, staff, and writers.

Want more of the best audiobooks?

Want to listen to even more of the best audiobooks? We got you. Learn how to listen to audiobooks on your phone here. Find free audiobooks or a list of our favorite full-cast audiobooks. Book Riot also covers new audiobook releases every week in our audiobooks newsletter. Curated lists of the best audiobooks from this month’s releases, straight to your inbox.

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