June is Audiobook Month and I wanted to share my favorite audiobooks that were an enjoyable learning experience. I’m late to audiobooks, only listening to my first one in April of 2017. I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to pay attention and my mind would wander while I was listening. But, after finding that I loved listening to podcasts, I decided that I should try audiobooks and now I am hooked.
I always have an audiobook going whether it is through our library’s Overdrive/Libby app or as an audiobook purchase on Audible or Chirp Books, which offers daily audio deals. Chirp Books has an app for easily audiobook listening as well as Audible. If you haven’t heard of Overdrive or Libby, be sure to ask your librarian how you can sign up for it and start getting audiobooks for free on your device.
Audiobooks have allowed me to read even more books every year and listening to one is part of my daily routine. I have a Bluetooth speaker in my bathroom and listen to a book while I get ready in the morning. Most days that is anywhere from 20-45 minutes of guaranteed book reading every day. I also listen to them while I’m driving and running errands, doing household chores, and while I’m walking. But, since I usually walk with a friend, that doesn’t happen as often.
If you are new to audiobooks, I might recommend starting with a book you’ve already read and loved just to get a feel for listening. You could also start with a non-fiction book. If you drift off for a moment or two during a non-fiction book you typically aren’t missing a critical piece to the story. All of the audiobooks I’m listing were ones that I hated to stop listening to either because the story was compelling, the narrator was enjoyable, or I was learning something and wanted to keep learning. I think any of the books I’m listing below would be a great first choice if you are a new listener.
So, without further adieu, here are my 20 Favorite Audiobooks including 11 non-fiction and 9 fiction, because I have to admit that non-fiction is my favorite on audio.
COLUMBINE is written by the well-known writer, Dave Cullen and narrated by Don Leslie. It took me a bit to get through this one because the material is tough to listen to, especially starting my day. Cullen takes you through the days leading up to the shooting, the day of, and then numerous mistakes made after. It was heartbreaking, but the research was meticulous and honest. He doesn’t hold back and it’s an important read for all of us.
THE BRIGHT HOUR: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs and narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne is another book I think everyone should read. If you’ve read and liked WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR or THE MIDDLE PLACE, add this one to your list. Nina Riggs is a poet and her writing of her cancer journey is full of prose worthy reading. I’m sure if I’d read a physical copy, I’d been highlighting many passages. Many of us have been touched by cancer or some type of terminal illness. Her strength, courage, and honesty during this final journey is one I won’t forget.
LAB GIRL is written and narrated by Hope Jahren. If you love nature and plants, then this is a must-listen. Hope shares her beginnings watching her father in his college lab to all the troubles and pitfalls and heartaches of her having her own lab. Even though her story is depressing at times, it makes it even more relatable because nothing in our lives every goes perfectly. Beyond the nature piece, this is a memoir of a young woman working hard to reach her goals and for that, it is an inspiring read.
AS YOU WISH: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride written and narrated by Cary Elwes and a cast of characters. If you loved the movie, The Princess Bride, then you MUST LISTEN to this memoir of the making of the movie. Cary Elwes brings together a number of cast members to share their personal stories while making the movie. Listening to this book is like you are sitting around a table with all the actors while they all chime in sharing memories and stories from making the movie. After listening, you’ll have to watch the movie all over again.
OPEN BOOK written and narrated by Jessica Simpson just came out this February. I love celebrity memoirs, especially if they are narrated by the celebrity themselves. Even though I’m older than Jessica Simpson, I remember watching her become a huge star and wanted to hear her story. Because Simpson reads this herself, you can often hear her emotions while listening. When she talks about her cousin’s sudden death, her own relationship problems, her alcoholism, and her parents divorce she doesn’t hold back on her emotions. It was an eye-opening memoir and the author even shares some of her own songs that meant a lot to her during her career at the end of the book.
TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between is written and narrated by Lauren Graham. You know her from Gilmore Girls (obviously) and Parenthood and a host of other shows and movies. She is hilarious and I loved her memoir. If you like behind-the-scenes stories and witty banter, check this one out!
WHERE THE LIGHT GETS IN: Losing My Mother, Only to Find Her Again is written and narrated by Kimberly Williams Paisley. This is one of those books that flies under the radar. I don’t think many people know about it and it’s one I recommend to people who are struggling with aging or ill parents. Paisley writes of her mom’s rare and crippling form of dementia that she kept secret while she was busy making movies and dating Brad Paisley. Paisley shares about her beautiful relationship with her mom, watching her deteriorate before her eyes, and letting go of the shame of being unable to do anything to stop it. There are funny stories sprinkled in, but it is mostly about her devotion to her mom and the honest feelings she had while going through her mom’s illness together.
ENDURANCE: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is written and narrated by astronaut Scott Kelly. His memoir gives readers a glimpse into his life growing up as well as his space journeys, including his year in the ISS. After hearing about his childhood and high school years, you would be shocked to believe he is a Navy pilot, astronaut, and a Commander of the ISS. But, both he and his identical twin brother are both astronauts and in fact, took part in a NASA twin study while Scott was on the ISS. I am not a space geek, but I found this book extremely fascinating. If you listen to this one (which you should) make sure you also check out the photos in the physical book.
EDUCATED is a memoir by Tara Westover and narrated by Julia Whelan, one of my favorite narrators. Most everyone knows of Westover’s story by now, but if you STILL haven’t read it yet, grab it on audio. Her life of poverty, no education, familial abuse, and eventually going to college all on her own is absolutely unbelievable. Her story proves that you are not defined by your past, your family, or your circumstances.
THE SOUND OF GRAVEL is written and narrated by Ruth Wariner. If you loved EDUCATED, then this is a must-listen. Wariner grew up in poverty, with minimal education and into a polygamist family. Wariner also suffered from major abuse and overcame numerous obstacles to leave her desperate situation. You know she makes it out because, she did write a book, but still, listening to the eye-opening family secrets she shares about polygamy and the devastating poverty they suffered through are quite amazing.
DREAM MORE: Celebrate the Dreamer in You is written and narrated by Dolly Parton. Let me tell you, starting your day listening to Dolly Parton is really about the best thing you can do to put yourself in a good mood. This is a short book, but an expanded version of a graduation speech she gave. She shares life lessons and personal experiences through guiding principles that any of us can follow. I also loved the part where she shares how she started her foundation, Imagination Library. This book, and Dolly, are a joy to listen to.
BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman is narrated by Marin Ireland. This riveting story of the fictional town of Beartown kept me doing all kinds of chores around the house so I could keep listening. The story is centered around several community members and their kids who play hockey in Beartown. But, this book is about so much more than hockey. Something terrible happens to one of the residents and leads to a teenager holding a gun to someone’s head, which is how the story begins. The whole town is affected by this one event and what leads up to it is quite the ride. There is a sequel, US AGAINST YOU, that is also quite good.
THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradly is the first in the Flavia de Luce mystery series. It is narrated by Jayne Entwistle. Even though this is a mystery and about a murder, it is just about the most fun mystery I’ve ever listened to. Flavia de Luce is eleven and spunky. Her character made me laugh out loud and just put me in the best of moods when I listened. The mystery centers around a highly valuable missing stamp and the dead man Flavia finds in her garden. I have yet to listen to more of the mysteries in the series, but they are on my list.
REFUGEE by Alan Gratz is narrated by three different narrators, assigned to each of the three main characters. This is a middle-grade novel, but one that adults will also enjoy. The book chronicles three different families. in three different eras, fleeing their homelands. The narrators make the story so personal because of their individual voices. It’s a quick listen but a compelling story.
WHEN WE WERE WORTHY by Marybeth Mahew Whalen is narrated by the well-known author Joshilyn Jackson. It is small-town southern fiction at it’s finest. I listened to this one during a seven-hour drive I was taking by myself and it held my attention every single minute. The book is set in the small town of Worthy, Georgia, where football is the only thing that matters. When a tragic accident claims the lives of three cheerleaders, the ripple effects on the whole town and school are wide and devastating. Jackson’s southern charm oozes through the speaker and makes it a great listen.
DAILY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid is narrated by a full cast of characters. Don’t worry if you think you won’t be able to keep them all straight because surprisingly, you can. They all have their own unique voices and instantly you can imagine each person. While listening, you have to remind yourself that it is a fictional novel because Taylor Jenkins Reid is so skilled at writing stories that you truly believe they are real. I was really sad when this book was done.
THE GOWN by Jennifer Robson and narrated by Marisa Calin is one of my favorite books. I loved it so much, I had to buy a physical copy so I could have it to read again. I’m not sure why I waited so long to read this one, but I am so glad I did. The audio was really well done and held my attention every moment. The setting, England 1947, the characters, and the making of the wedding dress for the future Queen of England on top of a present-day story connection made this one I was emotionally invested in from the beginning.
THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Sally Hepworth and narrated by Barrie Kreinik is a family drama and mystery that gives you that fly-on-the-wall perspective that everyone wishes they could have. When the mother-in-law is found dead, they assume suicide, but some things just aren’t adding up. The story is told from both the mother-in-law’s perspective and her daughter-in-law, Lucy. It had me hooked in the first chapter and shocked me with the big reveal. A good choice for a fast-paced mystery.
DEAR MRS. BIRD by AJ Pearce is delightfully British. The narrator, British actress Anna Popplewell, hits the narration just right and is a delight to listen to. This one is laugh-out-loud funny in spots and dreadfully sad in others. Even though it is set during WWII, that isn’t the main part of the story. The characters are written with pizzazz, heart, and gumption and I just loved this one.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maud Montgomery was my very first audiobook. I chose the version narrated by Rachel McAdams because I really like her as an actress. Even if you’ve read ANNE many times, this is still a worthy listen and will always be a favorite.
I truly hope that if you’ve never listened to an audiobook, I’ve peaked your interest enough to give it a try and maybe even with one of these books.
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Posted Under A.J. Pearce, Alan Bradley, Alan Gratz, Anna Popplewell, audiobook, Barrie Kreinik, Book Review, Cary Elwes, Cassandra Campbell, Dave Cullen, Dolly Parton, Don Leslie, Favorite Books, fiction, Fredrik Backman, historical fiction, Hope Jahren, Jayne Entwistle, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Simpson, Joshilyn Jackson, Julia Whelan, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Graham, Lists, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Marin Ireland, Marisa Calin, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, memoir, mystery, Nina Riggs, non-fiction, Rachel McAdams, Ruth Wariner, Sally Hepworth, Scott Kelly, Tara Westover, Taylor Jenkins Reid