I find the easiest way to make time pass when I’m doing something I don’t want to be doing is to pump up an audiobook. Big pile of dishes? Audiobook. Long walk in disgusting humidity? Audiobook. Boring wait for an overdue appointment? Audiobook. All the better if the audiobook is so good that I’m completely immersed in it, rather than what’s going on around me. Here are ten audiobooks that will make you forget what you’re doing.
Good Material by Dolly Alderton
Have you ever read or heard something that made you stop and think “wow, I thought I was the only one who was crazy like that”? That’s the feeling you’ll get all through Good Material. Jen and Andy have just broken up, and Andy can’t for the life of him figure out why. He’s heartbroken, he’s homeless, and he’s struggling to get his fledgling comedy career off the ground while everyone around him seems to have grown up overnight. This is another fantastic millennial novel from the pen of Dolly Alderton, which manages to capture the frustration and bewilderment of approaching mid-life. You’ll drop what you’re doing to listen to Andy and realise, hey, maybe you’re not alone.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
If true crime podcasts aren’t hitting the spot the way they used to, you need to check out Sadie. Courtney Summers’ break-out novel is styled (at least in part) on your NPR staples, depicting the story of a teenage girl who vanished from a small town trailer park while searching for the man who murdered her younger sister. Half the story plays out from Sadie’s own perspective, the other from that of podcaster West McCray. In addition to the hair-raising storyline of Sadie’s search, you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting for their two storylines to collide. Read my full review of Sadie here.
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin
Anyone who’s ever been in therapy knows the deal. It’s meant to be private. Like, seriously private. But what if a therapist is writing a book? What if he’s getting someone to transcribe audio recordings of someone’s sessions? And what if that transcriber were to… fall in love with the patient? That’s basically the premise of Big Swiss, and it’s definitely an audiobook that will make you forget what you’re doing. It’s weird, it’s traumatic (heads up!), and it’s got some of the most fucked-up characters ever put to the page – or to the earbud, as it were. Read my full review of Big Swiss here.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
You might download Such A Fun Age before your next holiday, thinking it looks like a delightful summer read. It won’t take you long to realise that behind the bright cover lurks a serious critique of race, class, and good intentions. A young (Black) woman is falsely accused of kidnapping her (white) baby-sitting charge by a supermarket security guard, and the whole incident goes viral online. She falls in love with the man who filmed the interaction, not realising that he and her boss share a past. This book ricochets from whip-sharp dialogue to penetrating insight so fast, you’ll be pumping up the volume to make sure you don’t miss a moment. Read my full review of Such A Fun Age here.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
In January 2015, Miller was a 22-year-old graduate living in Palo Alto. One night, on a whim she decided to attend a Stanford campus party with her sister and friends. Within hours, Brock Turner sexually assaulted her, and she became “unconscious intoxicated woman” – Emily Doe. In Know My Name, her 2019 memoir, Chanel Miller reclaims her name and shares her story. You’ve never read an account of sexual assault so detailed, so depressing, and so empowering. You’ll never again wonder why a woman might not come forward. This is an audiobook that will make you forget what you’re doing, in the best and worst possible way simultaneously. Read my full review of Know My Name here.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Epistolary novels always feel more personal and intimate, and the audiobook format takes it to another level. An American Marriage unfolds through letters between Roy and Celestial, a middle-class Black couple torn apart when Roy is falsely accused and convicted of sexual assault, and others in their orbit. Tayari Jones zooms right in on the issue of incarceration rates in the Black community, making it tangible in the dissolution of one relationship that ripples out through a family network. It’s so compelling, you won’t be able to bring yourself to switch the audiobook off. Read my full review of An American Marriage here.
Empire Of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Die-hard fiction fans will be skeptical when I say that non-fiction books can be every bit as gripping and compelling, but I’ll simply direct them to download Empire Of Pain. Patrick Radden Keefe’s extraordinary work of investigative journalism unpacks the history of the Sackler family. You might not have heard of them before you press play, but you’ve definitely heard of their product: OxyContin, the drug that triggered an epidemic of opioid abuse that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. You’ll be so flabbergasted and enraged by what you hear in this audiobook, you’ll forget what you’re doing for sure. Read my full review of Empire Of Pain here.
The Likeness by Tana French
You ever hear the premise of a book that’s just so outrageous, you drop everything else and download it immediately? That’s what will happen with The Likeness, a 2008 murder mystery by the reigning queen of Irish crime Tana French. Detective Cassie Maddox is trying to find her balance after a major trauma, when a murder victim who looks exactly like her is found. For very good(ish) reasons, the only way to find the murderer is for Cassie to take the dead girl’s place, and pretend she survived the attack that killed the dead girl. It’s a far-fetched doppelganger story, but damn if the audiobook won’t make you forget everything you’re doing with each twist and turn. Read my full review of The Likeness here.
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
Self-help audiobooks are rarely so gripping they make you forget what you’re doing, but Come As You Are is something special. It’s not even self-help so much as it is a historically- and scientifically-informed guide to sexuality and pleasure. Emily Nagoski is a sex educator and researcher, and in this incredible book, she shares everything she wishes everyone with a vagina already knew. There’s no cheesy nonsense, no ridiculous euphemisms, and no frustrating puritanism. It’s a completely frank, no-holds-barred book that will transform your life, in and out of the bedroom. Just make sure you don’t accidentally hit play at full volume in public.
Big Duke Energy by Emma Hart
Let’s end on a light note, with an audiobook that will make you forget what you’re doing but won’t make you cry or rage. Big Duke Energy is a thoroughly charming grumpy/sunshine romance novel, about a best-selling romance author and her muse. Ellie is suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block, and she’s hoping that a lakeside getaway will cure her. That’s where she finds Max, the enigmatic Duke of Windermere, who gives her just the inspiration she needs. Will she be able to avoid the fate of her heroine, or will she fall in love with the duke against her better judgement? Seriously, this audiobook is so much fun, you won’t be able to resist pressing play at every opportunity.