There’s nothing like hopping in the car for a summer road trip, knowing there’s 1,000 miles of open road ahead of you, and wondering how you’re going to fill the time. Sure, you might be able to sit shotgun and read the whole time, or you might end up throwing up from motion sickness. Audiobooks are the perfect solution to that dilemma! And the best news is that there are audiobooks of every length, so you can find the one that perfectly fits your roadtrip needs!
If you’re new to audiobooks, be sure to take a look at the free trial membership for Audible. You’ll get two free audiobook credits when you sign up, and then it’s just $14.95 or less per month thereafter (or cancel during your trial and keep your two free books!). Especially helpful for the MONSTER audiobooks at the end, which are, as may be expected, more expensive than the shorter novels.
Other great options: check your local library to see if they have either books on CD or a digital membership option (like: Overdrive, Hoopla, or CloudLibrary). Then, you can borrow audiobooks for free! Digital downloads also allow you to speed up the narration (one of my favorite tricks for getting in some additional reading time).I have personally listened to each of these stories on audiobook and am arranging them by road trip length, so it’s easy to find the one you need!
Now, onto the recommendations! I have personally listened to each of these stories on audiobook and am arranging them by road trip length, so it’s easy to find the one you need!
Short and Sweet – half a day (>6 hours)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 4 hours, 52 minutes
Get the Jake Gyllenhall narration, because his voice is just dreamy and perfect for this classic.
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho – 4 hours
Narrated by Jeremy Irons, this classic adventure tale is perfect for a road trip.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – 4 hours, 12 minutes
This book gets a lot of love. It is kind of like a character study or a collection of short stories about the main character and her mother. If you want big plot though, take a pass.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander – 2 hours, 16 minutes
This is a middle-grade verse novel and was my first introduction to the genre. Hearing a verse novel read aloud is absolutely the way to go, although the text is often beautifully arranged on the page as well. This story about a middle-grade boy who plays basketball will captivate all ages.
Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin – 4 hours, 3 minutes
Steve Martin reads his own memoir and plays banjo during the interludes. Although this isn’t quite as funny as you might be prepared to think (no risk of not being able to see because you are crying laughing), it will still bring you some great laughs!
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – 5 hours, 12 minutes
This classic story about Pony Boy and his brothers was written by a teenager! Once you get your head around that, you’ll listen to the story of two rival gangs, the Socs and the Greasers. It’s a classic for a reason, and you’ll find elements of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, and even Grease (the musical) in this tale.
Medium Length – a full day’s drive (6+ hours)
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan – 7 hours, 17 minutes
This collection of stories, read by the author, is so funny that I’ve listened to it twice and laughed even harder the second time. Jim Gaffigan is 99% kid-safe, so we listened to this one with the kids in the backseat and had them laughing right along with us.
Any Princess Bride fan will love this collection of stories about the making of one of the best films of all time (yep, I’ll stand by that until I die). It’s mostly narrated by Elwes, but he brings in so many friends from the cast to help, I put it at 96% odds that you’ll watch the movie again when you’re done.
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman – 9 hours 9 minutes
Backman’s first work is mostly about a grumpy old curmudgeon who misses his wife so much that he’s pretty sure he should follow her to the grave. But his needy neighbors continue to ask for his help, fouling up his plans. Later made into an equally endearing movie, this gem of a book is perfect on audio, at least partly so you don’t have to wonder how to pronounce the Swedish words.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – 6 hours, 39 minutes
A post-apocalyptic story about a man and a boy on the road is perfect for a road trip. Some rough content in this one, so probably steer away from listening with little ears around. This classic is so well done.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – 8 hours, 50 minutes
Trevor Noah is the host of the daily show, but his memoir will take you back to his childhood in South Africa and open your eyes, make you laugh, and horrify you. I firmly believe that audiobook is the only way to experience this book, as Noah (who narrates it) speaks so many languages and they just roll off his tongue!
At Home In The World by Tsh Oxenreider – 7 hours, 17 minutes
Whether you are setting out for adventure or you are on your way back home, Tsh’s book is the perfect companion for your family travels. I read this early this year and knew it would be one of my favorite books of the year. That still holds true about halfway in. You can read more about my reaction to this book here and you can check in on my interview with Tsh here.
The Long Haul – two or more days of driving (13+ hours)
11/22/63 by Stephen King – 30 hours, 44 minutes
This monster of a book is the longest on this list, but it will make the miles fly by. 11/22/63 is a departure from King’s regular writing, with very minimal “horror” type scenes. A man discovers a portal to the past, which brings him to 1959, too late to stop the Holocaust, but perhaps early enough to stop the assassination of JFK.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – 23 hours, 59 minutes
This sweeping novel spans generations and continents. It is written and narrated beautifully and really brings the country of Ethiopia to life for the reader. Twins, medicine, family, civil war, immigration. There is something wonderful about a writer who can address all of these subjects without his book coming off as an overblown windbag. Verghese does it.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – 15 hours, 46 minutes
Wil Wheaton narrates the audio for this, which might not seem like it’s up your alley but probably is. This futuristic sci-fi novel is a trip through all the fun of 80s nostalgia, intermingled with the technology takeover that we all know is in the future!
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – 17 hours, 30 minutes
Three different narrators tell the stories of Caroline, Kasia and Hetta, three women during WWII. Caroline is an American socialite. Kasia is a Polish teenager. And Hetta is a German doctor. This story will stick with you long after you finish listening.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – 16 hours, 15 minutes
The newest novel from Jodi Picoult is so timely. It centers on a hospital case, in which a white supremicist requests that a black nurse not be allowed to care for his newborn son. The court case that follows is heart-wrenching and timely.
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris – 13 hours, 52 minutes
I could listen to David Sedaris read the menu at McDonald’s and be happy. I’ve gotten to see him speak live three times already (going again in November). His dry delivery is always on point. This newest work is a collection of diary entries from his personal diaries between 1977 and 2002.