Best Audiobooks for Long Drives

Books a Million: Good Audiobooks for Long Drives

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I read about one book a week throughout the year, but a lot of what has helped me get through my list this year was audiobooks. And what I’ve learned is that just because a book is a great read does not a great audiobook make (cough Iron Flame, cough The Idea of You).

So if you’re heading on the road for the holidays—or simply want something to listen to as you get through the slog of gift-wrapping and other holiday tasks—I’ve got a list of my favorite audiobooks. This list is solely based on the merit of the actual audiobook (and more so narrator). I consume most of my audiobooks via a LibroFM subscription, though I occasionally download via Libby (the library app) or Audible (Amazon’s audiobook platform) when not available via the first two.

Also, if you need a last-minute gift idea for the reader in your life, I highly recommend an audiobook bundle or subscription. Instead of paying $30+ a book, you (or your giftee) can use your credits on any book you like, no matter the cost. This is my preferred method of listening and has been for years! A reminder that I like LibroFM because they support independent bookstores, and my local bookseller Parnassus benefits from all my purchases.

Best Audiobooks for Long Drives

Best Fiction Audiobooks

I feel like making a novel into a great audiobook is tricky as it often requires a voice actor to be able to nail many different accents and dialects. These narrators do just that.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Without a doubt my favorite audiobook I’ve ever listened to, J.K. Simmons narrates this story about a solitary Swedish man who lost the love of his life and, as a result, is contemplating ending his own. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, your heart will swell three sizes as this grump befriends a local immigrant family who wind up altering the path of his life. Even if you’ve seen the movie, you need to listen to this book! I love the dual timeline nature where we learn about Ove’s upbringing and how he comes to meet Sonja.

Length: 9 hours, 13 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

This is one of the best books I’ve read in years, and the audiobook version is just as good. Marin Ireland narrates this story about a cleaner, Tova, at a zoo in the Pacific Northwest who strikes up an unlikely friendship with the resident octopus, Marcellus. With his help, the story also unravels what happens to Tova’s son, who died a mysterious death some decades before.

Length: 11 hours, 16 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

I needed a book that we could listen to in one round trip to Memphis and one that was Mom friendly (i.e. nothing steamy), and this checked both of those boxes. I knew nothing about it but I liked the cover enough, and the tale of a romance channel TV writer Nora whose house was used as a set for her first big screen script-to-movie was indulgent and fun as the main actor from the film decides to move in with her indefinitely.

Length: 6 hours, 57 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFMBuy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Meryl Streep narrates this coming-of-age tale about a former teen actress whose one formative summer in the theater scene at Tom Lake in Michigan dictated the future course of her life; she retells the story to her three daughters on their family cherry farm during the pandemic. For Ann Patchett fans, this is a must-read (or must-listen).

Length: 11 hours, 22 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFMBuy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Another celebrity narration, Tom Hanks tells Patchett’s story of a sprawling estate outside of Philadelphia that not only become the setting for a multi-decade novel about relationships and family, but a character itself.

Length: 9 hours, 53 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The first book in a three-part series narrated by Marin Ireland, Beartown is a familiar setting for anyone like me who grew up in a small town fueled by the success of youth sports teams. Only in this story, a crime committed by the star player rips the fabric of the town morale (trigger warning: rape). If you like Beartown, Ireland also narrates Us Against You (book 2) and The Winners (book 3).

Length: 13 hours, 11 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

The author of The Poisonwood Bible returns with a book, while extremely long, immediately propelled itself onto the list of classics and nabbed a Pulitzer Prize. The story of Demon, a child growing up in extreme poverty in Appalachia, this novel touched on everything from child labor to addiction as our main character emerges the hero of his own story. If you like Demon, you’ll like In the Wild Light just as much, if not more.

Length: 21 hours, 2 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

For science fiction fans, space junkies and those who love a good world-is-ending tale of turmoil, Project Hail Mary checks all those boxes. The author of The Martian weaves in his typical brand of humor as he sends eighth grade science teacher Ryland Grace to space to save mankind.

Length: 16 hours, 10 minutes

Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

This beautiful novel follows a small-town Tennessee woman down on her luck who goes to nanny for her childhood friend’s stepchildren, twins to a Senator who would like to hide their existence. Why? Because they spontaneously catch on fire, and Lillian must learn how to control their rage. It’s a wild, zany ride indeed. Again, narrated by Marin Ireland (sensing a trend here? she’s an excellent voice actor!).

Length: 6 hours, 40 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Other fiction audiobooks you may like:



Best Non-Fiction Audiobooks

Non-fiction audiobooks have all but replaced podcasts for me. What I love about consuming non-fiction via the spoken word is that more often than not it’s read by the author (or a close friend or professional actor).

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights is one of my favorite audiobooks ever and it’s not just because Matthew McConaughey both wrote it and narrated it. His life—both before and after becoming an actor—has been a truly wild ride, and he tells every bit of it with humor and poise, in particular his childhood stories in Texas and his trips abroad to Mali. Not recommended for young ears as there are plenty of adult words and stories in this one!

Length: 6 hours, 42 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe

If you love shows like the Gilded Age, you’ll want to hear more about how America’s greatest dynasty came to power, wealth and influence thanks to fortunes built on the railroad and shipping industries. The interesting part of this book for me was how Anderson Cooper never really wanted to delve into the Vanderbilt part of his past until he wrote this book, so the topic is one that is personal to him in addition to being incredibly well-researched and well-told.

Length: 8 hours, 50 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I would let Michelle Obama read me the phone book, and that’s exactly why I scrambled to download this book when it first came out a few years back. This memoir by the former First Lady tells the remarkable story of her life, as well as her husband’s, and is not shy about noting all the work this country has left to do. I loved the hopeful message behind it.

Length: 19 hours, 3 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

“Lip, dip, paint” was the motto of the women who worked for The Radium Dial Company, makers of the original watch dials and hands with self-luminous paint back during World War I. What they didn’t know? This toxic chemical would lead to the radium poisoning—and eventual death—of dozens of the factory workers. This is one of the biggest cover-ups of its time, and though I’d seen movies about the Radium Girls, this book cracked the case wide open.

Length: 15 hours, 52 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Maid by Stephanie Land

I watched the series starring Margaret Qualley before listening to this book, and there’s a lot that the TV show leaves out so it’s worth listening to, as well. This memoir follows Land from single motherhood to a career as a maid (and later an author) as she reveals how truly messed up our country is when it comes to providing resources for those homeless, abused and/or out of work.

Length: 8 hours, 34 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I’ll be honest and that I don’t read much about politics beyond the news, and presidential memoirs and biographies don’t typically make it to the top of my listening or reading list. But I think because President Obama led for my formative years of my 20s and 30s, I really wanted to listen to this—and it is incredibly lengthy but also incredibly fascinating if you are into topics like foreign policy. Not recommended for those with a short attention span as the audiobook is 29 hours.

Length: 29 hours, 10 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

Lovers of true crime and justice seekers will delight in the dismantling of Hollywood legend (and villain) Harvey Weinstein whose success has been driven by the patriarchy and plenty of culpable accomplices who allowed him to abuse female actors over the decades as he lured them in with promises of casting and success. Trigger warning: domestic abuse. Ronan Farrow, one of the investigative journalists who cracked this case wide open, does a great job at handling these sensitive topics with great care and compassion.

Length: 10 hours, 43 minutes

Buy the audiobook on LibroFM | Buy it on AmazonBuy it on Bookshop

Other non-fiction audiobooks you may like:

What are your favorite audiobooks? I’m listening to a particularly bad one right now—A Winter in New York; don’t buy it, it’s terrible—so could use a solid recommendation for my next listen!



Best Audiobooks for Long Drives

  • December 18, 2023

    I am adding SO. MANY. of these to my to-listen list, especially the non-fiction books. Have you listened to Stanley Tucci’s book Taste? He reads it, and I LOVED it.

    Remarkably Bright Creatures is a book I tell people they must listen to rather than read, for Michael Urie as Marcellas alone–he was perfection.

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