My first experience with an audiobook was as a young girl, about ten years old, driving down to Florida for vacation with my dad. The drive from northern New Jersey to southern Florida takes twenty plus hours, so my dad had the brilliant idea to stop and buy an audiobook to entertain us for a good portion of the trip.
We decided on Inca Gold, the twelfth book in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series. Compiled of 17 CDs, it came in at about 20 hours long, which was the perfect length. I was decidedly too young for some of the scenes and felt extremely awkward listening to them with a parent, and we glossed past those parts. (Lesson learned!) But the action and adventure elements of the story kept my attention for the entire car ride. And so began my love of audiobooks!
To your brain, listening to a book is pretty much the same as reading it. That being said, they are different experiences. And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – the narration can really make or break an audiobook. Great narration helps pull the listener into the story, making it more immersive and sometimes even just a little better than reading the print version of the book.
The audiobooks I’m sharing today are those that I literally did not want to put down. I’d sit in my car for a few extra minutes, spend extra time cleaning, or find other busy work to do to listen just a little longer. Are you ready to see them?
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Warcross is a young adult science fiction about teenage hacker Emika. While the story itself was somewhat predictable, listening to Nancy Wu narrate this really took it up a notch. Every time I put my earphones on I felt like I was jumping into this world and living in it right along with the characters.
Station Eleven follows a wide cast of characters along their journeys both before and after a pandemic that has wiped out the majority of humanity and civilization. Oftentimes, books with multiple perspectives and time shifts struggle in audio format, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this easy to follow. This is narrated by Kirsten Potter, who has a friendly style and a prolific amount of books under her belt.
In Everless, time is currency. This young adult fantasy follows Jules, who is trying to earn more time to save her dying father. Not only did I find the premise, world building, and plot to be original, but Eileen Stevens narrated this wonderfully, and I listened to this compulsively.
Behind Her Eyes is a thriller with a supernatural twist. Told through multiple points of view, the main characters are not particularly likable, but each had personality quirks and flaws that made them feel realistic. And they were each narrated by different people whose voices conveyed their characters perfectly with voice acting that was spot on.
Parable of the Sower follows Lauren on the journey of her life in the future America of the 2020’s. This dystopian is more character focused with a slower plot but for once, I didn’t mind. Lynne Thigpen’s narration was truly excellent, breathing life into the words she read. I truly believe that if I’d picked up a physical copy, I may not have finished this book.
The Power speculates on what might happen if women were to posses a new power that had the ability to reshape society. This presented ideas and questions that I found to be incredibly compelling, and Adjoa Andoh’s narration took it to the next level. I have seen some reviewers who thought the voice acting was over the top, but it really worked for me.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is about Eleanor, a quirky character who struggles with social skills. It is full of charm and wit while also dealing with some tough subjects and themes, including loneliness, trauma, and mental health. Narrated by Cathleen McCarron, whose accent was on point, she pulled me immediately into the setting and gave each character their own unique voice that only added to the story.
Beartown is a town that is slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness, but hockey provides its residents hope for the future. The contents of this book are harsh and heavy, but the delivery is such that it is compulsively readable. Marin Ireland’s narration was extremely well done with a serious but light tone that helps balance out the bleakness.
Dark Matter is a science fiction thriller based in actual scientific theory of quantum mechanics. It takes an intriguing idea and turns it into a wildly entertaining and thought provoking story. Going into the book, I had some concerns that given the story’s scientific nature, it wouldn’t translate well to audio, but Jon Lindstrom managed to read detailed sections in such a way that they were perfectly clear.
Oh, Harry Potter. I can’t not mention these books in this list.
I was first introduced to these audiobooks by a friend during my final semester in college when she shoved earphones at me and demanded I listen. And as an architecture major doing my thesis project, which involved using my hands nonstop for diagrams, drawings, and models, I needed entertainment. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I’ve since listened to this series in full at least seven times.
The Harry Potter audiobooks are narrated by two different actors: Jim Dale for the US release; and Stephen Fry for the UK. People have strong opinions on whose narration is better, but my personal preference is for Jim Dale as I enjoy his whimsical style. That being said, both are excellent. Depending on where you get your audiobooks from, you may be able to sample and choose the narrator you prefer.
There you have my picks for 10 awesome audiobooks you won’t want to put down! Have you read or listened to any of these? What did you think? What’s your favorite audiobook? Let me know in the comments – I’m always looking for new recommendations!