Audiobooks under eight hours fall on the long end of short audiobooks. Finding audiobooks in the 10–15 hour range is easy—lots of novels and memoirs fall into this category. And if you’re looking for very short audiobooks, you have a wide range of choices among the kinds of books that are short already—poetry, novellas, and children’s books. But if you’re looking for an audiobook that’s short but not too short, it can be hard to know where to start looking. There are a ton of choices!
If you’re someone who takes length into account when picking out your next audiobook, and you’re looking for a short(ish) listen, here are some of the best audiobooks under eight hours I’ve listened to recently.
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala, read by Prentice Onayemi and Julia Whelan (6 hours, 21 minutes)
This is an incredibly grim book, so if that’s not your thing, it’s probably not for you. But if it is your thing, the audiobook is well worth the listen. The novel follows two characters: Niru, a closeted Nigerian American teenager, and Meredith, his white best friend. Prentice Onayemi and Julia Whelan (two of my favorite narrators) are both on fire in their voicing of these two characters. The book is painful and emotional, the prose sharp and precise, and the perfect narration heightens the stakes in the best way possible.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, read by Janet Song (6 hours, 42 minutes)
Nicole Chung was adopted by a white family as a baby and grew up in a small and very white Oregon town, mostly cut off from her Korean heritage. In this beautiful, thoughtful memoir, she delves into all the messy realities of transracial adoption—the simple, happy adoption story she was told by her white parents, her experiences of racism and alienation as a child, and her search for and complicated relationship with her birth family as an adult. Janet Song’s narration is beautiful and poignant. I usually prefer memoirs narrated by the author, but this is an exception: Song’s voice embodies all of the quiet insight that make this memoir so memorable.
Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel M. Ortberg, read by Daniel M. Ortberg (6 hours, 48 minutes)
I did not know what I was getting into when I picked this book up—it was my first encounter with Ortberg’s work. It’s definitely strange, and not for everyone, but I found that going into it without any knowledge of his style heightened my enjoyment of it–I could just sit back and go with it. These essays mostly track Ortberg’s thoughts surrounding his transition, but he also spins off on all sorts of bizarre tangents, exploring the ideas of transition and transformation through pop culture, literature, mythology, and religion. It’s equal parts vulnerable personal essays and trans retellings of various fictional narratives. It’s funny and heartbreaking and very smart. Ortberg’s narration is breathtaking. One minute he’s cracking jokes and the next his voice is choked with emotion. It’s definitely an intimate way to experience the book.
Real Queer America by Samantha Allen, read by Samantha Allen (7 hours, 26 minutes)
In this memoir/journalism combo, reporter Samantha Allen sets out on a road trip to visit queer and trans people living outside of liberal enclaves, in places like Salt Lake City, the Rio Grande Valley, and Indiana. The book is a beautiful kaleidoscope of the lives and work of the people she visits with, as well as a poignant memoir of her own coming out as trans, and how living in places like Atlanta and Utah have shaped her experiences as a queer trans woman. There is a ton of queer joy in this book, which is a welcome counterpoint to the dominant narrative that queer and trans folk can only be happy in big liberal cities. Allen’s narration is lovely; the joy she takes in the people she meets and the places she visits is apparent in every word.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, read by Elizabeth Acevedo (7 hours, 27 minutes)
Elizabeth Acevedo is as brilliant a narrator as she is a writer. I hope she narrates every book she writes from here to eternity; her books are must-listens for me. In this YA novel, high school senior Emoni is trying to balance taking care of her baby daughter and helping support her grandmother with her love of cooking. Acevedo’s narration is so warm and alive, it’s like you can taste and smell the delicious meal Emoni cooks.
Here For It by R. Eric Thomas, read by R. Eric Thomas (7 hours, 35 minutes)
This is one of those books that shines on audio. Thomas’s humor really comes across when spoken aloud—the book is full of little giggles and asides and moments when he directly addresses the listener, sometimes sarcastically, sometimes tenderly. In his warm, inviting, friendly voice, these essays come alive. The essays themselves are also fantastic, of course. There’s a lot to chew on here about the internet, coming of age as a writer, faith, and the intersections of race and sexuality.
Marriage of A Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu, read by Emily Woo Zeller (7 hours, 45 minutes)
There is a feeling of claustrophobia in this novel that narrator Emily Woo Zeller captures perfectly. Lucky is a gay Sri Lankan American woman who’s married to her gay friend Kris; both of them use the marriage to hide their sexualities from their families. But when Lucky reconnects with her first love, all the careful illusions of safety she’s built begin to topple. This is a quiet book, driven by Lucky’s emotions rather than external plot. Zeller’s narration moves the story forward while also drawing you deep inside Lucky’s interior world.
There There by Tommy Orange, read by Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Alma Ceurvo, and Kyla Garcia (8 hours)
In a series of interconnected sections, Tommy Orange explores the varied lives of 12 Native Americans living in and around Oakland. The prose is startling, as is the sheer depth of characterization. In only eight hours, you feel as if you know every one of these people intimately. The ensemble of narrators adds to the kaleidoscopic feeling of the book. Their voices are as different as the characters themselves. This is a book that merits more than one reading; I found rereading it on audio to be especially gratifying.