Going on a road trip soon and looking for guaranteed entertainment? If you’re anything like me, the first thing you’ll reach for is an audiobook. Listening to music on the road is great, but sometimes you just want to dig into a really good story.
Especially if you’re on the road often, finding the time to read can be near impossible. Keeping up with your reading goals or your ever-growing TBR becomes much more accessible when you listen to the audiobook instead.
It can be easy to gravitate toward stories about road trips, but I admit that’s a bit too… meta for me. I have a history of listening to stories that are easy to binge and super engaging with top-tier narration — and you’ll find some of my favorites in this article.
No matter how long your drive, there’s a title here for you in these picks for the best audiobooks for road trips. There’s a mix of lengths, narration styles, and genres ready for you to enjoy.
- Audiobooks for Short Road Trips (1–5 hours)
- Audiobooks for Medium Road Trips (5–10 hours)
- Audiobooks for Long Road Trips (10+ hours)
- Tips for Listening to Audiobooks on Road Trips
Audiobooks for Short Road Trips (1–5 hours)
Sometimes, a short audiobook that packs a punch really hits the spot. When I used to commute to an office for a combined two hours a day, I would listen to shorter audiobooks to keep my mind active and my spirits up. Below are four of those standout titles.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Narrated by the author, 3 hours 30 minutes
I used to have a silly aversion to young adult novels, but The Poet X was a story that really changed my mind. Written in verse by a slam poet, the story of Xiomara Batista grabs your heartstrings at the beginning and refuses to let go until the end. Xiomara wants to attend her school’s poetry club and express her emotions and thoughts through her words, but her religious family attempts to hold her back.
The author, Elizabeth Acevedo, narrates her own story with power and unapologetic truth. This is one of those stories that begs to be listened to instead of read.
Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles
Narrated by the author, 3 hours 52 minutes
If a half-spoken, half-sung audiobook is appealing to you, I suggest grabbing Sara Bareilles’ memoir immediately. Made up of a series of essays and broken up with song interludes, Sounds Like Me: My Life So Far in Song chronicles Bareilles’ path to success from singing in front of her family as an energetic young girl to living life as a chart-topping singer, songwriter, and Broadway writer and actress.
This memoir gives you the same empowering, upbeat feeling that her songs do, even when discussing more difficult topics. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry — and you might even sing along.
An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten
Narrated by Ann Richardson, 4 hours 52 minutes
How can you not be intrigued with a title like that and a cover that looks like a cross-stitch pattern? Stories of elderly women straying from society’s expectations seem to be on the rise, and here the main character Maud is no different. I’ll let the last line of the book description sell it to you: “Luckily, Maud is no stranger to taking matters into her own hands… even if it means she has to get a little blood on them in the process.”
Hilarious storytelling, Audie-worthy narration, and bonus cookie recipes at the end make for an entertaining listen.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Narrated by Rainn Wilson, 4 hours 40 minutes
The Phantom Tollbooth is my favorite book of all time, so it was the first one I thought of listing here. My paperback edition is holding on by threads and I even have one of the book’s illustrations tattooed on my arm. It chronicles a boy named Milo’s story into a different universe of sorts and what he learns along the way. It’s an excellent choice for the entire family, and everyone will take something different away from it.
Norton Juster reads the book’s introduction, and actor Rainn Wilson takes the reins for the rest of Milo’s story. In my opinion, this choice is great when you need a little inspiration on a long, flat country road.
Audiobooks for Medium Road Trips (5–10 hours)
I have a few friends out of state, and they’re about a six-hour drive away. Every time I plan on visiting them, I listen to a really compelling, colorful fiction story — or an equally compelling memoir. Especially during nighttime drives, books with shock value and really engaging narratives save me from drinking too much caffeine to stay awake. Here are five to start with.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Narrated by Marin Ireland, 6 hours 40 minutes
Marin Ireland has to be one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever listened to, hands down. She takes some of the quirkiest stories and nails them every single time, so it’s no surprise that one of her works is on my list. Kevin Wilson is known for his offbeat characters and plot lines; Nothing to See Here is about twin children that catch fire when they throw a tantrum and the babysitter that helps them accept who they are.
From the children to the babysitter to the snobby stepdad, Marin provides a unique voice for every character that has you thinking, “Is there a cast narrating this thing?!”
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Narrated by the author, 6 hours 25 minutes
Disclaimer: If you’re looking for a light and breezy listen, this isn’t the right choice for you. But if you’re looking for a heartbreaking story about the realities of child acting, narcissistic mothers, and how to find humor in tough situations, I strongly encourage you to pick this one up.
I was growing up when Jennette McCurdy was in her prime at Nickelodeon, and reading about what she went through was tough. But despite everything, she delivers her story with poise and thoughtful reflection. If you’re up for an emotionally difficult story, this one’s for you.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Narrated by Scott Brick, 7 hours 2 minutes
You may have heard of author Gabrielle Zevin because of her most recent, breakout success, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow — but Gabrielle’s backlist is full of nothing but hits. My personal favorite of hers is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and the audiobook lends a quirky and clever tone to the main character, A.J. Fikry.
Admittedly, I’m always charmed by books about books and bookstores, so this audiobook was a no-brainer to add to the list. When I go on vacation, I try to shop at as many local indie bookstores as I can — and if A.J. Fikry’s bookstore was real, I would definitely make a special trip.
The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner
Narrated by the author, 9 hours 3 minutes
It’s impossible to deny the true crime genre is more popular than ever, and the consumer demand for these stories feels insatiable. I find that a lot of people turn to true crime podcasts for road trips, but memoirs are another excellent choice. Some of the most interesting stories come from those who have escaped cults — which is exactly where Ruth Wariner grew up. Her father had over forty (forty!!) children and the entire family grew up and lived in a polygamist cult in Mexico.
As you can imagine, the stories Ruth has to share are almost larger than life. The older she gets, the more she questions the only system she’s ever known — and much like with Jennette McCurdy’s story, hearing Ruth narrate her own story makes it that much more emotional. I fell in love with Ruth’s passion and strive for a better life.
Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis
Narrated by the author, 9 hours 15 minutes
The audiobook for Finding Me: A Memoir famously helped Viola Davis achieve EGOT status, winning the Grammy in 2023 for best audiobook, narration, and storytelling. That alone should be reason enough to pick this one up, but from the second you press play it’s clear why this audiobook is such a success.
Viola says of her own story: “My hope is that my story will inspire you to light up your own life with creative expression and rediscover who you were before the world put a label on you.” If you’re looking for some inspiration during your travels, this is the pick for you.
Audiobooks for Long Road Trips (10+ hours)
For those that love a long road trip, drive for work, or are moving cross-country, you could listen to a bunch of shorter audiobooks… or you could let yourself be totally immersed in one world for dozens of hours at a time. I’ll admit I’ve listened to less audiobooks at this length, but below are six standouts from the ones I have.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Narrated by Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, and Rich Keeble, 10 hours 22 minutes
When I listen to thrillers, I’m always surprised at how quickly I’ll blast through hours and hours of story because I’m so engrossed in the narration. The Guest List by Lucy Foley is the perfect example of this. With a full, engaging cast and Agatha Christie-like storytelling, The Guest List is guaranteed to knock you off your feet and have you wondering… could something like this happen to me?
If you find yourself on a road trip for some kind of event, like a family reunion, wedding, or another affair, The Guest List might be a good fit to pass the time.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Narrated by Julia Whelan, 10 hours 46 minutes
Emily Henry is known for her beachy reads, so if your road trip destination is sandy and warm, People We Meet on Vacation might be the perfect listen. Narrated by Julia Whelan (who wrote and narrated the next selection on this list), this book is the perfect moodsetter for your vacation.
Part-romance, part-comedy, this friends-to-lovers story will warm your heart and make you anxious for the feeling of sand between your toes. Who knows — you might even fall in love just like the main characters, Poppy and Alex.
Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan
Narrated by the author, 11 hours 15 minutes
I pre-ordered this one when it was announced because it’s pretty special — Julia Whelan is an experienced, award-winning narrator-turned-author. Thank You For Listening is about an audiobook narrator named Sewanee who’s down on her luck and losing inspiration. Sewanee’s story and sweeping romance with Brock McNight can warm even the iciest of hearts. Plus, it proves that audiobooks can change lives, but we all knew that already, right?
Julia effortlessly translates the charm and character depth she wrote on the page into an audiobook that will make a long road trip fly by.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Narrated by Cara Gee, Nicole Lewis, Kaipo Schwab, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett, 12 hours 46 minutes
If you’re on BookTok at all, you may have already heard of Rebecca Roanhorse. The first book in a trilogy, Black Sun is equal parts high fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction and is the recipient of both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for best novel. It’s hard to give a good summary without giving something away, but you can expect magic, politics, and celestial events.
With a full cast instead of a single narrator, the audiobook for Black Sun is like listening to a movie. It’s the perfect choice for a group of people with multiple, differing genre interests — there’s something for everyone here.
PS – the second book in the trilogy was published in 2022 and has an audiobook with the same cast, if you want to extend your listening from 13 hours to 26 hours.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, 19 hours 3 minutes
Maybe you’re not taking a road trip to the beach or another destination, but instead, you’re on an educational excursion. I know museum hopping may not be the first thing you think of when you think of road trips, but if you find yourself on the hunt for knowledge, may I humbly recommend some historical fiction audiobooks?
My top recommendation is anything by Kate Quinn — The Huntress in particular. Saskia Maarleveld has narrated most of Quinn’s newest works, and she has an uncanny ability to put unique heart and emotion into every character on the page. If you want to pass the time on the road with a World War II history lesson rolled up with some espionage and thriller themes, grab The Huntress.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Narrated by Kate Reading, Michael Kramer, 29 hours 56 minutes
The Wheel of Time series is one of the most prolific modern fantasy series on the market today. The first novel, The Eye of the World, is actually one of the shortest out of the 14 in the series. With a beautifully visual writing style and dynamic, Robert Jordan weaves the tale of Rand al’Thor and his friends Perrin, Mat, Egwene, and Nynaeve as they navigate their roles in the universe and the dangers that threaten them at every turn.
Kate Reading and Michael Kramer narrate every novel in the series and it’s clear they’re industry veterans. Narrating a 30-hour book is no easy feat, but they make it feel like only a couple of hours have passed. The Eye of the World is perfect for those cross-country trips solo or with a group.
PS – there is another, more recent version of The Eye of the World, narrated by Rosamund Pike, who plays one of the main characters in the Wheel of Time series on Amazon Prime. I’ve heard it’s excellent, as well!
Tips for Listening to Audiobooks on Road Trips
Here are a few of my top tips for listening to audiobooks when you’re on the road, from someone who’s found herself without the right one a few too many times:
- Choose a list of audiobooks you’re interested in ahead of time. That way you have much less to pick from when you’re heading out.
- Download those audiobooks ahead of time to avoid any data charges or availability issues. Especially if you’re driving through country roads, good service and Wi-Fi at any rest stops are not guaranteed, and the last thing you want is to be without that audiobook you were so excited to listen to. (Ask me how I know.)
- Pick a book that everyone in the car will enjoy. Most of the books on this list will appeal to the majority of people, but if someone in the car doesn’t like true crime or high fantasy, take that into account before selecting one.
- If you’re using an app like Scribd or Audible, place a bookmark at the right time stamp whenever you pull over for a pit stop. Sometimes the app you’re using will jump slightly backward or forward when you get back in the car and resume playing and you might miss an important detail.
- Bonus tip: you may want to match the audiobook’s genre and vibe to the trip you’re going on. Going to the mountains? There are a ton of stories set in the mountains across every genre, from sickly sweet to downright terrifying. Matching the genre to your destination can sometimes help hype you up for the trip!
What are your favorite books to listen to on a road trip? Please share in the comments below!