So you guys already know that I obsessively listen to podcasts (and I’ve shared with you my favorites). But my other audio-addiction is audiobooks, which I love for similar reasons – namely, it’s good entertainment when you’re doing chores or running errands. But audiobooks are also an easy way to read more if you just don’t have time to sit down on the couch and flip pages for hours.
The route that I’ve gone with is an Audible subscription: for $22.95 a month I get two audiobooks (you could also do $14.95 for one book a month). I’ve done this for years and years, mostly binging on trashy fantasy novel after trashy fantasy novel. I won’t subject you to all those here, but I do want to share some of my favorite books I’ve listened to. Of course, if you’re not into audiobooks, these would also just be good books for reading. But I found these narrators to be especially talented and the books to work especially well in audio format (because to be honest, not all of them do).
1. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Shortly after the Zombie War came dangerously close to wiping out humanity, oral historian Max Brooks travels the world to interview survivors and record the testimonies of those who survived. Incredibly powerful, thought-provoking, and immersive, this audiobook is told by a full cast of voice actors who breathe full life into this novel.
2. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
This non-fiction exploration of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair focuses on the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Fans of true crime won’t be able to stop listening to this completely enrapturing audiobook.
3. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Can we all just agree that this is one of the best books of all time? Chef Anthony Bourdain tells the story of his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine from his years working in New York City kitchens. Bourdain himself narrates the audiobook, and he’s just as funny and entertaining as he is on television.
4. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Angel Crawford has nothing going for her with her alcoholic dad, a pill habit, and a criminal record, until one day she wakes up in the ER and slowly discovers she has a craving for brains. Incredibly funny, relatable, and charming, this quirky book is a totally addictive urban fantasy with plenty of gore, and its light and easy-to-follow story makes it easy to listen while multi-tasking. The narrator also kills it with her adorable southern accent.
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It’s 1939 in Nazi Germany and Liesel is sent to live with a foster family who also fosters both her love of books and a compassion for the Jewish fist-fighter who is hiding in their basement. Told from the perspective of Death, this heart-wrenching audiobook is both the story of a terrible time in history, but also the simple story of a young girl’s childhood.
6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
In 1945, former combat nurse Claire Randall is on vacation with her husband in the highlands of Scotland when she is magically transported back into 1743, caught between the tension of the local Scotsman and invading British, as well as her love for the young warrior James Fraser. This incredible romantic epic is famous for a reason, and the audiobook narrator does complete justice to the pace and the characters, including their strong Scottish accents.
7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
In the midst of a war against a hostile alien race, child genius Ender is drafted into battle school for rigorous military training, where his skills make him a leader even while he struggles with intense psychological battles. This was the first audiobook I ever fell in love with that has a full cast, and I promise it’s even better than reading it.
8. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Enzo is a special dog, profoundly philosophical and educated, who watches the life of his human Denny as he goes through struggles and joys, with the utter devotion and loyalty only a dog can possess. Prepare to cry your eyes out at this incredible story from the point of a view of a dog, utterly brought to life by the audio narration.
9. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
In this extremely long non-fiction tomb, Bill Bryson tackles the complete history of the world from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization and the evolution of man. Told in a way that makes sense even to those who are less scientifically minded, this non-fiction audiobook is far from a sluggish and boring read, and it keeps you completely engrossed.
10. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Nine year old Oskar is an explorer and inventor, and when his father is killed in the 9/11 attacks, he sets out to solve the mystery of the key he discovers in his father’s closet. Despite the somewhat heavy topic, this audiobook is deeply heartwarming and whimsical.
11. Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
Sookie is a cocktail waitress in a small Louisiana town whose ability to read minds gets her wrapped up in the affairs of the supernatural, including a very tall-dark-and-handsome vampire. This series was the origin of the True Blood HBO show, but in my opinion these audiobooks are far superior. Johanna Parker is, I kid you not, the best audiobook narrator of all time.
You can’t go wrong with a collection of David Sedaris stories. Whether it’s childhood tales of learning guitar from a midget to settling down at 50 years old in Paris with his partner, these essays will have you rolling on the floor laughing. Best of all, Sedaris reads all of his own stories for the audiobooks and does so in a way that makes them closer to stand-up comedy than a simple novel.
Have you ever listened to audiobooks, and if so, what are some of your favorites? Have you ever read any of these books?