Road trips can be fantastic, especially when you have great music or an excellent book along with you. While there’s nothing better than the smell of musty pages or cracking the spine of a new book, audiobooks are certainly upping the ante. Audiobooks for a road trip, whether raunchy romance novels or family-friendly ones make for excellent companions. Firstly, they offer a hands-free reading experience. Secondly, and especially when you have kids around, they keep everyone occupied and not keep on fighting with each other. Finally, they’re an excellent alternative to when you’re bored of your playlist – if that happens. To that end, here are the 13 best audiobooks for road trips, both family-friendly and otherwise.
How To Choose The Best Audiobooks For Road Trip?
It’s not easy to make the switch from reading to listening, and even more so if you’re a voracious reader. What’s more, it’s easy to lose focus or get distracted when listening to audiobooks. Hence, it’s important to choose the right book, as it can make a world of difference on your road trip. So, how to choose the best audiobook for the next jaunt out on the road? Read on.
While you’re at it, also check out the Must-Have Accessories For The Ultimate Road Trip.
While genres do ultimately boil down to personal taste, there are some that do particularly great with audiobooks. These include memoirs and biographies, especially when it comes to celebrities since they narrate the books themselves. So, you have acting chops and starry-eyed visions thrown into the mix. Similarly, a good comedic memoir or essay is entertaining sans you having to intensely read every word. Thrillers and mysteries are all-time favorites since they are extremely engaging. Finally, Young Adult fiction is usually straightforward and is easily enjoyable. Meanwhile, you might also want to check out the Best Books To Read While Traveling.
Keep away from long-winded epics
You might be one hell of a reader, but a road trip is not the time and place to start reading the audiobook of War and Peace or Homer’s Odyssey. Putting in a week’s worth of time to read a book, and that too on a road trip just isn’t worth it. Moreover, if you’re only going to listen for 20 minutes here and there, then it would take months to finish – and you might even forget what you read! We’d recommend picking a book that’s 10 hours or less, or maybe going for a short story collection.
It might not occur immediately, but narration matters a lot. It’s important to pick a book with a narrator whose voice you’re going to enjoy. If it’s not, then it might come in the way of you enjoying the book, or even keeping up with it. Thus, we’d recommend listening to the full sample before starting off on your journey.
Above all, you need to go easy on yourself. There are tons of books out there, and while some are going to be a breeze, some will be extremely challenging. So, the best way to enjoy a road trip and your audiobook is by picking something that’s not notoriously difficult or overly out of your comfort zone. Also, more importantly, not all books are good! So, if you’re losing interest, then try reading something else before circling back to it. Worst come worst, simply leave it and move on to another book. After all, a road trip’s too short to read books you won’t enjoy, and forcing yourself to like something has never done anybody any good. So, you need to learn when to walk away.
Treasure Island, R.L. Stevenson
Swashbuckling pirates, buccaneers, and a treasure map – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson ticks all the right boxes and is one of the best family audiobooks for road trips. The audiobook has all the making of an adventure-packed classic. It’s the story of Jim Hawkins who sets out on a grand sea adventure with his older friends aboard the Hispaniola to find the elusive and legendary Treasure Island. Along the way, he faces mayhem, murder, and mutiny – and a man who was long thought to be dead!
What brings the story to life is the superb narration by a stellar cast which includes Owen Teale (Ser Alliser from Game of Thrones) and Catherine Tate (Nellie Bertram in The Office). An exciting tale told in an equally enthralling manner, Treasure Island should definitely be at the top of your list. At 6 hours and 42 minutes, it’s a cinch for your road trip.
Lincoln In The Bardo, George Saunders
The audiobook version of the fabulously written Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders is one of the best audiobooks for road trips. It even won the award for ‘Audiobook of the Year’ at the 2018 APA Audie Awards, and it’s easy to see why. The book is narrated by a massive cast of 166 people, which includes everyone from Oscar winners and comedians to the author’s elementary school teachers. So, you’ll find the voices of everyone from Don Cheadle and Ben Stiller to Lena Dunham and Julianne Moore.
So, what’s this historical novel all about? It tells the moving tale of the relationship between President Abraham Lincoln and his 11-year-old son, who passes away in 1862. Young Willie Lincoln becomes trapped in a purgatory called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo. The story, equal parts terrifying and hilarious, is about the struggle that Willie’s soul goes through. All this, as he navigates this strange transitional state where ghosts behave bizarrely, quarrel, gripe, and mingle. At 7 hours and 25 minutes, Lincoln In The Bardo is a treat for the ears – and the heart.
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
One of the best audiobooks on road trips you’ll ever read is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. It’s the story of two identical and inseparable twins who’re raised in a small, Southern Black community. At the age of 16 years, they run away and end up leading very different lives. While one returns to her hometown with her daughter, the other passes life as a white woman, hiding both her past and identity from everyone, even her husband. The intergenerational tale addresses the subject of race and ethnicity in a different way.
Narrated by famed actress and singer Shayna Small, the Vanishing Half is a pleasure to listen to. Plus, Small’s clever shift between tonal and inflection makes the story a delightful listen. In July 2020, HBO won the rights to adapt The Vanishing Half into a limited series. before that comes along, you’ll definitely want to listen to this book first. At 11 hours and 34 minutes, it’s one of the lengthiest listens on this list.
Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There can be no better family audiobook for a road trip than Sherlock Holmes by the celebrated author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Right from his first appearance in A Study In Scarlet, the hat-wearing detective caught the imagination of millions of fans. Accompanied by the inimitable Dr. John H Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s unabridged adventures are thrilling and the writing is classic literature at its best.
The book is voiced by audiobook legend, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry, who was actually inspired by the writing and storytelling of Sherlock Holmes as a boy. His rendition of Holmes is high-handed, crisp, and hysterical in equal measure. On the other hand, Watson sounds enthusiastic and plain bemused, which is a marvel. While this book is 62 hours and 52 minutes long, it’s a collection of engrossing stories that you’ll absolutely breeze through.
Daisy Jones and The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll take centerstage in Daisy Jones And the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which is an excellent read and an even better listen. The novel takes place in the 1970s and recounts the highs and lows of The Six, one of the biggest (fictitious) rock bands of the era. Helmed by brooding rock star Billy Dunne and the utterly self-destructive Daisy Jones, this oral history tells the tale of the band. It’s from the point of view of the label executives, friends, band members, besides Daisy and Billy themselves. It’s literally a tale of the band’s rise in fame – and how they eventually crashed and burned.
What makes the story so riveting is the ensemble cast that narrates the story. It includes the likes of Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer, and Jennifer Beals. It also features a PDF of song lyrics from the original book.
11/22/63, Stephen King
If you aren’t a big reader but want to start off somewhere on this road trip, then 11/22/63 should be your pick. One of the best audiobooks for road trips, 11/22/63, in true Stephen King-style, tells us about an alternate world where President Kennedy was not shot and killed in November 1963. Enthralled? So were we. How’d the world change if someone traveled back in time to save him? 11/22/63 takes you on a thrilling journey back in time with Jake Epping, as he strives to change history forever as we know it.
What makes the audiobook so gripping, besides the excellent story, is the immersive narration. Craig Wasson’s tone adds to the simmering dramatic tension to the slow-boiling alternative history tale. It’s safe to say that it’s one of the best audio productions on the list. At 30 hours and 40 minutes, it’s a long but bewitching read.
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah is something of an all-time favorite with audiobook enthusiasts. This award-winning Audible Studios production tells Noah’s rollercoaster coming-of-age tale during the early years of apartheid in South Africa. The poignant story, which is comically-told in parts, begins with Noah’s mother flinging him from a moving van to keep him from potentially fatal disputes with gangsters! From then on, it follows the budding comedian’s journey of self-discovery. Trust us, you’re going to be laughing hysterically in parts and nodding along pensively in others.
It’s Noah’s incredible embodiment of all his childhood characters, coupled with his ability to perform different dialects and accents effortlessly is what makes this book special. He speaks in every language from Zulu and Xhosa to English, garnering the book the 2018 Audie Award for ‘Best Male Narrator.’ To top that, it’s Noah’s rendition of his uncompromising and devoted mother that steals the show. The total listening time is 8 hours and 44 minutes.
Bossypants, Tina Fey
Are you looking for utterly hilarious audiobooks for road trips? Then get ready to have your ribs tickled by Bossypants. Written and narrated by the inimitably funny Tina Fey, the five-and-a-half hour-long laugh-fest is one of the best memoirs you’ll listen to. Fey was a young girl with a dream – that of being a comedian. She regales you with childhood memories of her father, Don Fey as well as her times with the Chicago Second City improv troupe.
She then moves on to her most notable gig; her time as head writer on Saturday Night Live, and, eventually, motherhood. What’s more, there are even solid snippets about how to be a fearless female leader, which we need in today’s times. The overarching theme of her narration is this – you haven’t arrived until you’re called ‘bossy’!
Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
There’s no doubt that one book that’ll make it to all best family audiobooks for road trip lists is Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Even if you and your kids have read (and re-read; and then re-re-read) this magical book, then do yourself a favor and listen to Stephen Fry’s amazing rendition. It’s the book that begins it all; it flags off the tale about a boy who learns he is a wizard in the most interesting of ways.
From the lanes of Privet Drive in Surrey to the ethereal castle of Hogwarts, Fry’s voice makes Harry Potter’s journey all the more magical. Besides Harry’s character, he brings to life his best friends Ron and Hermione, as well as the older characters like McGonagall and Dumbledore in a rich and unique voice. All-in-all, the 9 hours-and-33 minutes-long book has lots of material to keep your children captivated for a long, long road trip.
Bird Box, Josh Malerman
Are you a fan of dystopia? Then we’d highly recommend Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, which is narrated by Cassandra Campbell and is easily one of the best audiobooks for road trips. Not for the faint of heart, Bird Box is a suspenseful, horror-filled, and yet thrilling tale of what can only be described as a dystopian world gone mad. For there’s something terrible that’s out there; something so terrible that you shouldn’t see it, or you will go violently mad. It tells the tale of Malorie and her two children, who must make a perilous 20-mile downriver rowboat trip, blindfolded. They can rely on nothing but the children’s trained ears and Malorie’s wits to survive whatever’s out there, amidst frightening and familiar sounds of the world.
Josh Malerman’s writing is breathtaking and horrifying, but it’s Cassandra Campbells’ narration that brings in the creepy efficiency. She success in creating a innately haunting world where you have to stumble through relying on your senses and your gumption.
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
If your children love sci-fi, then Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of the best family audiobooks for road trips. Narrated by the magnificent Wil Wheaton, the fascinating story is a space quest and a love story in equal measure. It’s set in 2044 in the virtual realm of Oasis, where Wade spends his life protected from the harsh outside world. He comes upon a puzzle by Oasis’ creator that offers riches to the one who solves it first, he, naturally, gets caught up in a deadly game.
It’s no wonder that PBS’ Great American Read nominated this worldwide bestseller as one of America’s most beloved books. However, the audiobook is made all the more special by the narration of Wil Wheaton, who’s himself famous for another sci-fi masterpiece, Star Trek. Whether it’s nostalgia for you or you want to introduce your children to the exciting world of Oasis, the 15 hours and 40 minutes-long audiobook is a great listen.
The Sun Down Motel, Simone St. James
Do you love a good murder mystery, with some ghost stories thrown into the mix? Then The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is perfect for you. Narrated by Kirsten Potter and Brittany Pressley, the chilling novel tells the story of Candy Kirk in 2017 and her aunt Viv Delaney in 1982. The setting is the same – the Sun Down Motel in Fell in upstate New York. Viv takes up a job to help pay for her move to New York City in 1982 but disappears. 35 years later, her niece comes looking for her aunt’s story and realizes that events are repeating themselves.
The 11-hour-long book keeps you hooked from start to end, and the two narrators work their magic by bringing Carly and Viv to life. The audiobook makes it great to not just distinguish their voices, but their personalities too, thanks to the unique voices. And of course, the murder mystery itself is as chilling and hair-raising as it gets!
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
An action-adventure story? Themes of hope, justice, and vengeance? Triple check! That’s what makes the classic of The Count of Monte Cristo such an excellent read and listen to. If you have slightly older children, then this family audiobook for road trips is perfect.
Despite being 57-odd hours-long, this is one tale that they’ll never forget and will want to listen to. It tells the story of nautical hero Edmond Dantès, who’s wrongfully imprisoned in a sea prison off the coast of France. On the brink of being married and moving on to a better life, Dantes swears revenge. After 14 years in prison, he’s given access to a great treasure by a supposed mad priest. Consequently, Edmond Dantes returns as The Count of Monte Cristo, reborn only to make his perpetrators pay. Narrated by Alan Munro, he makes Edmond’s tale sound as it is – harrowing and gripping in equal measure.