Almost every summer, we get an email from Bart’s cousin and his wife. It says something along the lines of, “We’re off on our annual road trip! What should we listen to?”
And then Bart and I spend way too long reminiscing about all our favorite audiobooks and trying to remember which ones we’ve suggested in years gone by.
(I couldn’t think of any good answer (okay, I just finished this post and came back to answer this question -because it took a dang long time to put it together)).
I listen to a lot of audiobooks (3-4 a month, usually) and it’s hard to find really stellar ones because you need not only a good story and good writing, but ALSO good narration. As if finding a good PAPER book wasn’t hard enough.
But when an audiobook is good, well, there is almost nothing better. I’ll happily scrub grout (if I ever actually scrubbed grout, which, of course, I do not) if it means an excuse to listen to more.
So, here are some of my very favorites, broken up by category (the links go to my full reviews of the books):
Great for the Whole Family
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Only my favorite book of all-time is all. I worried the audio would ruin it for me, but it actually, unbelievably, IMPROVED what I already considered a perfect book.
- Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy. I started this one without Bart and then 10 minutes in, knew I couldn’t listen without him because it was SO funny. Who knew a skeleton detective and his human sidekick could be so hilarious? (There is a whole series of these books).
- Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Don’t let the word “princess” in the title fool you – this book is great for all ages, boys and girls alike, with as much adventure and intrigue as you could hope for. All of Shannon Hale’s YA and children’s books are done with a full-cast audio which is just really fun.
- The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. Narrated by a powerful and snarky djinni who finds himself summoned by an apprenticed majician bent on revenge, we picked this one off the shelf at the library on a whim. This was the luckiest whim ever. After this book, we looked for everything Simon Jones narrated. He’s that good.
- A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Short and really amazing, this story about an apprentice potter set in 12th century Korea won the Newbery.
- Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Another Newbery winner, this one is a road-trip story. Sal tells her grandparents a long story about her neighbor to pass the time on the road, but only as the story winds down do you realize why they are on this road trip to begin with.
Realistic Young Adult Fiction
- If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Foreman. Prepare for tears – even if your heart is a cold dead stone, you’ll probably cry. Just a warning.
- Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison. These are the silliest books of all time. I generally don’t enjoy goofiness, but I couldn’t get enough of this series.
- Split by Swati Avasthi. This is a pretty intense book about an abusive father. It is perfect on so many levels.
- Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I’m not a tech person, but this novel about fighting against the US-turned-police-state through the Internet? I couldn’t stop listening. I spent a lot of time parked in the driveway.
- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. This is in my top 5 favorite books. I’ve read it twice and listened to it once.
- Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. You wouldn’t guess that a book about a little brother with cancer would be so funny, but it is. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll go home happy. Narrated by Joel Johnstone (who narrated The Wednesday Wars), so you know it’ll be amazing.
YA Historical Fiction
- Bloody Jack Series by L.A. Meyer . This has some of the most amazing narration I’ve ever heard. Seriously on par with Jim Dale. Follows Jacky Faber who dresses as a boy and gets a job on a sailing ship as a ship’s boy to keep from starving in the streets of London. Hijinks of every imaginable sort ensue.
- Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. This is like Little House on the Prairie for young adults. Hattie inherits some land from a distant uncle and, since she’s an orphan, decides to go live on it and try to make a go of farming on her own.
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Set during WWII, this story of two girls, one a pilot and one a spy, will totally rip your heart out (it’s got a bit of a slow start, though. Power through).
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusack. This book about a foster child growing up in WWII Germany is narrated by Death and is unbelievablely good. I’ve read it in print and listened to it again last year for book club (this one’s being made into a movie).
- Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. Graceling is really good, about a girl gifted with the grace of fighting who meets a boy also graced with fighting, and their joint efforts to save their kingdoms. Fire, a prequel, is even better.
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. This is seriously some of the most breathtaking fantasy I’ve eve read. And I don’t even LIKE fantasy that much.
- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I know some people don’t like this series, but I laughed my head off at this book (I kept rewinding (what do you call it when you’re using a CD?) to relisten to funny lines). Bonus, the movie is coming out soon!
- Uglies by Scott Westerfield. I read these, and Bart listened to them. We both thoroughly enjoyed the first two in the series and thought the last one dropped off a bit.
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This heart-wrenching book about a woman suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s will make you paranoid you’re losing your memory too.
- I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. Okay, I haven’t actually listened to this one, but I loved the book, and I have several friends who RAVED about how good the narration was. I’m going to trust them on it and give it a thumbs-up. Just funny, fluffy chick-lit.
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This biography about a WWII pilot shot down in the Pacific Ocean who survives for a month in an inflatable boat before being captured by the Japanese is jaw-droppingly amazing. The narration, by the grandfather from Gilmore Girls, is spot-on.
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve liked all of Gladwell’s books (which he narrates himself), but this is my favorite.
- Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Fascinating research about raising children and child development.
Any favorite audiobooks of your own? I’m always always looking for more suggestions.