Road Trip Essentials: Audiobooks for Your Next Epic Drive

Editor on July 02, 2018

Audible editor Tricia Ford has curated a list of listener-tested audiobooks for your next long car ride in mixed company:

While it may be easy to just give your passengers headphones and screens and let everybody do their own thing, I challenge you to make your next road trip a truly shared experience. After all, this is a big part of what makes memories, right? And what better way to create a unique, fun, and enriching atmosphere than setting your in-cabin entertainment to one of the eight picks below.

I’ve personally listened to each of these in “mixed company,” which includes a trip with kids in the car, with audiobook skeptics, and a multi-generational group that would NEVER agree on a radio station or genre of music. With the right listen, I’ve avoided uncomfortable conversation (and silence), bickering, and boredom. I’ve also turned more than one of those audiobook skeptics into outright advocates. Enjoy the ride! —Tricia, Audible Editor

Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Narrated by: Trevor Noah
Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
Audible customer rating: 5 out of 5 stars, 80,219 ratings

So Much More than a Celebrity Memoir: I didn’t pick this book only because of the unforgettable moment when Trevor recounts the time his mother physically threw him from a moving car (for his own good, you’ll discover) but that did factor into things. Simply put, this is one of the best books I’ve ever listened to. It’s Trevor’s very personal story of growing up during the final years of apartheid-era South Africa and its aftermath. His coming-of-age journey is unique (and funny), touching (and funny), heartbreaking (and funny). Hearing it told in his own voice is something special. You may know him as a comedian, but you’ve just got to discover Trevor Noah, the storyteller!

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Narrated by: Finty Williams
Length: 13 hrs and 4 mins
Audible customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 31,202 ratings

Zombies Made My Sister an Audiobook Evangelist: Thank you, M. R. Carey and Finty Williams for turning my skeptic of a sister into an audiobook fan! It was the summer of 2014. We were taking our annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (hence forth to be referenced as OBX). After enduring the greatest hits of the ‘80s for about an hour, I calmly suggested putting on an audiobook. I got a not-so-enthusiastic “okay,” and turned on The Girl with All the Gifts. Within five minutes my sister was hooked! And by the time we got to Highway 12 (the scenic byway of OBX) we didn’t even mind the slow-going Saturday traffic. We had to find out what was going to happen to child zombie Melanie, anyway. So we drove, and listened, and listened some more.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Narrated by: Nancy Linari
Length: 2 hrs and 33 mins
Audible customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 211 ratings

Meant to Be Shared: Katherine Applegate is a rock star children’s book author! Wishtree is one of her latest, but I highly recommend EVERYTHING she writes (especially Crenshaw and The One and Only Ivan). Wishtree first caught my attention not only because it’s an Applegate book, but because of the title. My people are nickname people, and two names I’ve been known to answer to are, “Wishie,” and “Tree.” (I’ll spare you the full origin stories of these endearments.) On top of this, Wishtree was chosen for a “One District, One Book” program in my town. All students read it at the same time, or had it read to them. Every parent and every child loved this book! To go along with its lessons of compassion and friendship, each school planted their own Wishtree to serve as a reminder of this shared experience. Listening as a family will give you that same sense of togetherness.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Narrated by: David Sedaris
Length: 6 hrs and 38 mins
Audible customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 2,514 ratings

Mostly for Adults: I’ve conquered many a road trip listening to David Sedaris. In my experience, he’s the author (and narrator, and performer) who has single-handedly converted the most audiobook skeptics into fans. Listening to David is like having an extra sibling (or that crazy uncle) in the car. This is why his latest romp, Calypso, is what my sister and I will be listening to on our road trip to OBX this year! With no kids in the car we won’t have to worry about answering any uncomfortable questions and can sit back, laugh out loud, and relate. As so humorously explored in the book, the Sedaris clan has their intentionally inappropriate yet ever so beachily-named house "Sea Section" to congregate in. In a similar spirit, my clan will be gathering at "Perfect Peace" where naps will be taken, waves ridden, and resentments both fostered and forgotten.

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary 'Jacky' Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack Adventures) by L. A. Meyer

Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren
Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
Audible customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 2,769 ratings

The Whole Crew Will Be Talking Like Pirates: Batten down the hatches! If you’ve never listened to a book performed by Katherine Kellgren, get ready for a tour de force. Not only does she capture the spirit of our orphan-girl-turned-ship’s-boy protagonist, Jackie Faber, but she fully embodies every wildly outrageous character that appears in this eighteenth century high seas adventure. Remember, we’re dealing with some unsavory individuals here: it gets pretty sketchy. But the kids will love the bedlam and the adults will be equally entertained.

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West Cork by Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde

Narrated by: Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde
Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
Audible customer rating: 4 out of 5 stars, 19,458 ratings

Will Spark Conversation: If what you’re looking for is something that will set a distinct atmosphere and please the true crime fans in your life, I highly recommend West Cork. From the moment I hit play I was transported to the remote seaside town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland. The seagulls, the ocean soundscape, the unsolved murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Your carload of listeners will be transfixed, and everyone will have an opinion on whodunit.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
Length: 11 hrs and 40 mins
Audible customer rating: 5 out of 5 stars, 16,633 ratings

A Voice to Be Heard: Sometimes it takes getting to know someone personally to truly understand what they are going through. This is the power of The Hate U Give. Once you get to know the story’s central character, Starr Carter, you’ll never be the same. Audible’s Best Audiobook of 2017 is simply exceptional. It will change you and it will serve as a bridge to a world that is 100% true-to-life. The audio performance of Bahni Turpin is as remarkable as the story itself. She makes Starr, and all of the people in her life, absolutely “touchable.” So real you will love them, sometimes hate them—laugh with them and cry with them. Listening to this book is something everyone should have the benefit of experiencing.

Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton

Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 15 hrs and 9 mins
Audible customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 14,737 ratings

Safety in Numbers: This is one I regretfully listened to alone the first time. I had seen the original movie, and even experienced Jurassic Park—The Ride (with 84-foot plunge and all), having been left entertained and invigorated, but not particularly scared or traumatized. So I approached the book expecting much the same. Over time, listening to Scott Brick’s cool and unnerving narration of this sci-fi classic started to get into my head and even percolate into my dreams. Yes, I, a grown-up who had not had a nightmare in who knows how long, was shocked awake by being chased by dinosaurs—heart pounding and near tears. No other book has had that effect on me, and I now have an irrational fear of long-extinct creatures I had once regarded with charmed fascination. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) it’s still one I recommend for any road trip. It’s a stunner, in the best was possible.

Many thanks to Tricia Ford from Audible for this marvelous audiobook list. This list was originally published here on on June 29, 2018.

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