I love a good dove-tail! It turns out, I took a good long road trip right before the beginning of Audiobook Appreciation Month. So, naturally, I got to thinking about what makes for a good audiobook to play when the Spotify playlists are tired. You need a crowd-pleaser, of course, something that can satisfy everyone’s tastes, and the longer the playtime the better for extended journeys. So, here are the ones that make the cut: the best audiobooks for road trips.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
White House memoirs aren’t exactly in short supply, but it’s rare to find one as readable and widely praised as Becoming. It’s sold over 14 million copies worldwide, and a decent chunk of those are audiobook sales. Obama reads the audiobook herself, a performance for which she was awarded a Grammy in 2020 (Grammy Award For Best Spoken World Album). It’s not too heavy on the politics, focusing instead on Obama’s motivations and accomplishments, so it makes for an uplifting and inspiring read. You’ll feel like you’re getting to know a new friend on your road trip, before you even arrive anywhere. Read my full review of Becoming here.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you’ve got kids in the car with you, you can’t go past The Hobbit – surely one of the best kids fantasy books for road trips. It’s a little more cozy, and a lot shorter, than the full Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but it’s set in the same magical world of Middle Earth and it sets the stage for a much larger story once you’re all mature enough to take it on. Tolkien originally wrote this story for his own children, to tell them at bedtime, so if you’re lucky you might see those heads nodding off in the back-seat and get a break from “are we there yet?”.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
I’ll admit, I second-guessed myself including Me Talk Pretty One Day on this list. Is a book that will have you howling and crying with laughter really one of the best audiobooks for road trips? What if you’re doubled over so hard you lose focus and crash? So, please absolve me of all liability before you try this one. Maybe it would be best if you’re a passenger listening through earbuds… but you wouldn’t want the driver to miss out on one of the most hilarious memoir essay collections ever, would you? Whatever the case, stay safe and find some way to read this book. Read my full review of Me Talk Pretty One Day here.
Bonus: if six hours of David Sedaris isn’t going to be enough to get you to your destination, you’re in luck! He has a huge back catalogue of audiobooks, all as brilliant and funny as this one.
Daisy Jones And The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
If anyone in the car likes Behind The Music or biopics about musicians, Daisy Jones And The Six is the ultimate audiobook pick for your road trip. Taylor Jenkins Reid based her best-selling novel loosely on the drama and discography of Fleetwood Mac, and styled it as an oral history documentary about a 70s band’s meteoric rise and fall. This multi-cast recording of the audiobook really enhances the effect, and it’s spectacularly done. Just be sure to keep your eyes on the road, because this one will really sweep you away. Read my full review of Daisy Jones And The Six here.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove is one of the best audiobooks for road trips if you’re after something cozy and heartwarming, with a few laughs and lovable characters. The man at the center of it, old-before-his-time Ove, is a cranky curmudgeon brought out of his shell and into the world by his larger-than-life neighbours and an unkempt cat. It hardly sounds like the stuff of great comic novels – trigger warning for suicidality! – but trust me, everyone in the car will be charmed by Ove and his adventures. Read my full review of A Man Called Ove here.
Bonus: if you’re looking for more audiobooks for road trips that have these vibes, you should check out The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared. It’s got an old Scandinavian man, plenty of hijinks, and lots of lols. Read my full review here.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Okay, this is a weird one, but I maintain that Project Hail Mary is one of the best audiobooks for road trips – even if no one in the car is particularly into sci-fi. Andy Weir has a unique talent for writing powerful stories that can draw anyone in, that just so happen to be set in outer space. This one follows a scientist, stranded without his memories in a space craft, charged with executing a wild plan that might just save humanity from a greater threat than it has ever faced before. It’s full of “awwws”, literal lols, and ideas that will bend your brain for days.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
If you’re looking for fun and funky romance audiobooks for road trips, you can’t go past The Flatshare. You can probably guess where it’s going from the premise alone, but that’s half the fun! Tiffy, fresh off the heels of a big break-up, needs a cheap place to live and she needs it now. Leon is a shift worker whose apartment sits empty every night. They come to an arrangement where they’ll trade off: Tiffy has the apartment in the evenings, Leon gets it while she’s at work during the day. They never actually meet, but they do trade notes. Practical notes, then funny notes, then cute notes, then… Could their unusual arrangement really lead to love?
A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
If you just so happen to be undertaking a long drive with your trivia team, A Short History Of Nearly Everything is the best possible audiobook for your road trip. It has exactly what it says on the tin: a brief summary of just about everything. Physics, geology, geography, biology, astronomy, it’s all covered. Some of the information is slightly out of date – but given that the book was published back in 2004, and 99% of it is still spot on, I think we can forgive Bryson for saying that Pluto is a planet. Plus, with a playtime of over 18 hours, it’s sure to get you to your destination without a single skip. Read my full review of A Short History Of Nearly Everything here.
Stay Sexy And Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark got their start as podcasters, talking about their true crime obsessions for My Favorite Murder. So, it makes sense that they would narrate their own audiobook: Stay Sexy And Don’t Get Murdered. Audiobooks read by the author(s) tend to be particularly interesting and compelling, probably because even the best voice actors struggle to emulate the passion that comes with telling your own story. This audiobook also includes segments read in front of a live audience, so if you’re a car full of long-time Murderinos, it will feel just like being at one of their shows. Read my full review of Stay Sexy And Don’t Get Murdered here.
Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen
Hear me out! Even if you’re not into classics or you have post-English class Austen-related trauma, Pride And Prejudice is still worth trying. Remember that back in Austen’s era, stories were usually written with the intention of being read aloud – gathering after dinner to listen to one another read from a novel was like an old-timey version of Netflix. Having read both the paperback and the audio, I can tell you that Austen out loud is a completely different experience to Austen on the page. Her arch humour and sharp wit really comes to the fore in the audio format. Download this one when you want a smart, funny classic that you can talk over as you cruise. Read my full review of Pride & Prejudice here.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron wrote and produced over a dozen beloved feature films – so it’s hardly a surprise that the audiobook of her novel Heartburn is a crowd-pleaser, too. This is one of the best audiobooks for road trips on girls weekends, especially if one of you is getting over a break-up. The story is the perfect blend of adultery, revenge, and delicious food (seeing as the main character is a cookbook writer). Be prepared to make plenty of stops for snacks, because this one will get your tummy rumbling, as well as keeping you thoroughly entertained on the drive.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
For families who watch cooking shows together – and don’t mind, shall we say, edgy comedy and a bit of profanity – Kitchen Confidential is the no-brainer audiobook pick for your next family road trip. Anthony Bourdain’s account of his “adventures in the culinary underbelly” is “a deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade”. Your jaw will drop, your stomach will turn, and undoubtedly you’ll all feel a bit sad when its over.