5 Audiobooks for Your Next Road Trip

Kendra Winchester

Contributing Editor

Kendra Winchester is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. Previously, Kendra co-founded and served as Executive Director for Reading Women, a podcast that gained an international following over its six-season run. In her off hours, you can find her writing on her Substack, Winchester Ave, and posting photos of her Corgis on Instagram and Twitter @kdwinchester.

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Is there anything like a summer road trip? Planning your route, discovering new places along the way, and charting out the distance to the next Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee have a time honored place in my memories. In just a few days, my spouse, our corgi, and I will be starting the nine-hour drive back up to my family’s home in northeastern Kentucky.

But without fail, we discuss what audiobook to choose more than any other aspect of our trip. This time, we knew we wanted fiction, something engaging, and nothing overly long. Surely we could find one audiobook we could agree on, right? Just in case, I came up with five different options to take with us.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho, Narrated by Catherine Ho

Fantasy gives travelers an engaging story that captures the imagination and distracts listeners from the miles of trees flying by outside their windows. I loved Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, so I couldn’t be more hyped for her latest book, Black Water Sister. Jessamyn Teoh finds herself moving back to Malaysia after being away since she was a small child. She’s closeted, out of funds, and not exactly thrilled to return to Malaysia in these circumstances. But when Jess begins to hear a voice in her head, she doesn’t know what to think. Before long, our protagonist finds herself entangled in a grudge match between a gang boss and a god, which introduces her to a new world of spirits and family secrets. Catherine Ho performs the story with the perfect amount of spunk, capturing Jessamyn’s character perfectly.

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Narrated by Darrell Dennis

What can keep listeners on the edge of their seats desperate to learn what happens next? If you answered “mystery or thriller,” that is correct! While other genres also do this well, there’s something special about the whole participation part of a mystery or thriller that asks the reader to participate and try to guess how the story is going to end. I’ve heard so many great reviews for Winter Counts, it definitely holds a strong place in my top five. Virgil Wounded Horse used his skill as a hired hand to track down the source of the heroin that’s been entering his reservation. Teaming up with his ex-girlfriend, he’s determined to find the culprit and make them pay for ruining so many lives. Darrell Dennis’s narration brilliantly embodies Virgil’s no nonsense sort of attitude.

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones, Narrated by Gary Tiedemann

Sometimes my spouse and I get distracted by music, the radio, or just talking about how much we love corgis that we don’t listen to much of our audiobook. I always like to have a novella on hand. Stephen Graham Jones is always a crowd pleaser in my house, so I have to include Night of the Mannequins on my list of options. In this novella, Jones’s talent shines as he tells a classic slasher story of a prank gone wrong. Gary Tiedemann performs the audiobook, giving us all a taste of the arrogance our protagonist displays.

Serena by Ron Rash, Narrated by Phil Gigante

Since our road trips always take us back up into Appalachia nine times out of ten, I like to include some Appalachian literature as an option. Ron Rash’s Serena has held a top spot on our TBR for awhile. Though it’s a modern classic in Appalachian circles, Serena is unfortunately known for its epic flop of a movie adaption. However, the novel version far outshines its film version. (I mean, isn’t the book ALWAYS better?) Sometimes I forget what it was like back in the day, but Phil Gigante’s voice reminds me of the audiobook I listened to in high school. There’s just something about the style of his narration and rhythm he uses throughout the story that takes me back. And good thing: this novel is set in 1929.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, Narrated by Kinsale Hueston

I must confess: I possess a strong weakness for books about folks who can talk to the dead. Sabriel, Gideon the Ninth, Ghost Squad — I’ll take them all. So it probably doesn’t surprise anyone to know that Elatsoe sits at the top of my list. Elatsoe inherited her ability to talk to ghosts from her Apache ancestors. When her cousin dies, she becomes determined to find out what happened and help her cousin find justice. Kinsale Hueston is a promising new talent, and I can’t wait to see what she narrates next.