From laughs, to thrills, to true stories that are stranger than fiction, these audiobooks make a treat out of any trek.
You’re driving along some lonesome highway when the last radio station fizzles into static. What’s a bored road-tripper to do? Spotify? Good luck streaming your Discover Weekly playlist with the reception (or lack thereof) out here. CDs? That’d be great except the only one you have is a burned collection of Kazaa’s greatest hits circa 2003. Be left alone with your own thoughts? Not an option. Luckily, you thought ahead and downloaded an audiobook. These audiobooks are especially well-suited to keeping you engaged (but not so engaged that you can’t pay attention to the road) whether it’s through their particularly compelling subject matter, performances, or little touches that you wouldn’t get on the printed page.
INSIDER TIPIf you listen to podcasts you’ve no doubt heard an ad for Audible before. But you can also get audiobooks for free through your library. Check and see if your library offers audiobooks to download through apps like OverDrive/Libby or Hoopla.
'Kitchen Confidential' by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain narrates his blockbuster memoir about his time in the culinary trenches. It’s a funny and unflinching behind-the-scenes look at life in the restaurant industry that’s written with an electric bravura and sprinkled with some of the most dizzying similes you’re likely to ever encounter.
'We Are Never Meeting in Real Life' by Samantha Irby
If you’re familiar with Samantha Irby’s blog, bitches gotta eat, then it practically goes without saying that this essay collection (which she also narrates) is very funny. Whether she’s writing about why she should be the next Bachelorette contestant or the difficulties of her childhood her writing is always honest, unflinching, witty, and brilliant.
'The Grace of Kings' by Ken Liu
If you’re a fan (or a recovering fan) of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and looking for a new, sprawling fantasy with complex politics and intrigue, it’s time for you to check out The Grace of Kings, the first entry in Ken Liu’s The Dandelion Dynasty series. The first book follows two rebels as they seek to overthrow the Emperor—only to find themselves divided by their opposing ideas about how the world should be run.
'I’ll Be Gone in the Dark' by Michelle McNamara
With the HBO documentary series based on this book having recently premiered, now’s a great time to check in with true-crime journalist Michelle McNamara’s engrossing account of The Golden State Killer and how her own obsession with unveiling his identity intertwined with her own life. One of the things that sets McNamara’s work apart from many other entries in the true crime genre is the humanity McNamara brings to the subject.
'Bad Blood' by John Carreyrou
There’s a good chance you know about the rise and conspicuous fall of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes. But if an HBO documentary merely whetted your appetite, settle in with Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, the journalist who initially broke the story about the web of deception surrounding Theranos and its founder who was once revered as a young, female version of Steve Jobs. It’s an incredibly detailed account that shows how the story about this too-good-to-be-true start-up is stranger than anyone could have imagined.
'A Cosmology of Monsters' by Shaun Hamill
This horror novel, which tells the story of a family that is stalked by horrors of both the mundane and supernatural variety, is engrossing on its own. But the audiobook version has a few extra flourishes to really keep you locked into the story. Throughout the book, during a particularly creepy, action-oriented, or otherwise significant scene, the narration is scored by music that heightens the atmosphere.
'Company of Liars' by Karen Maitland
The audiobook version of Karen Maitland’s novel, which tells the story of nine disparate strangers as they search for a safe haven from the plague that’s been ravaging the 14th-century English countryside, is a fairly straightforward production. But Maitland’s prose is especially well-suited to the medium. Mud-caked roads and rural villages are evocatively described, every character is fully realized, and the mystery that builds throughout the novel makes it impossible to pull away from.
'World War Z: The Complete Edition' by Max Brooks
Even if you’re completely and totally burned out on zombie media, the audiobook version of Max Brooks’ juggernaut of a bestseller is still worth hitting the road with. The very premise of the book is that it’s an oral history, so the fact that each section is read by a different performer makes for an even more immersive experience. And when they describe this book as being a full cast, they mean it is a full cast, as the performers include Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Common, and Martin Scorsese to truly name a few.