Selecting the best audiobooks for road trips can be a challenge. There are lots of factors to consider — your mood, your company, the length of the trip; all can impact your audiobook enjoyment. Luckily, I am here to help take some of the guess work out of the process for you.
I adore audiobooks. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, I am always reading four books. Typically, I have one fiction and one nonfiction traditional paper book in my bag and/or on my nightstand. Additionally, I’ll have two audiobooks going simultaneously — one that I’m listening to independently and one I’m enjoying with my partner.
Just now, for example, I finished King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender on paper (excellent book, BTW). In the slow and steady way that I read nonfiction, I am plodding through Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby. As for my latest audiobook selections, you’ll have to read the rest of this post, because they definitely make my recommendation list. I know that it might sound a bit strange, but it works for me. Having choice and variety allows me to feel like I always have something to read, no matter my mood.
Consequently, I go through a lot of audiobooks and am thus equipped to recommend you the best audiobooks for a variety of road trip situations. Every book on this list is an award winner that I’ve actually listened to, so you can trust me. Whether you’re traveling solo or with your entire crew, you’re sure to find something you’ll love on this list.
The Best Audiobooks for Road Trips By Yourself
Are you riding solo? The books below will keep you awake, but might inspire reactions that you want no one else to see. (Try not to cry too hard, though. That’s unsafe for driving.)
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, Read by Marin Ireland
This audiobook earned the 2020 Audie Award for best female narration, and for good reason! Ireland brilliantly captures Wilson’s prose, including bringing a believable southern charm to the Tennessean characters. The story is funny, provoking, touching, and outrageous. I just finished it and I cannot stop thinking about it, so please listen to it so I can have more people to talk about it with.
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune, Read by Kirt Graves
Listening to this book gave me all of the feels. It is an absolutely beautiful exploration of death and love and life, with a great message and lovable characters. Graves gives each character a unique and fitting voice. This unique and beautiful story is perfect to keep you engaged on a long drive — plus you’ll want the solo time to reflect on the questions Klune’s tale poses throughout. As a bonus, if you haven’t read Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea, it is also great on audio.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Read by Carrie Mulligan
In this 2021 Audie finalist for fiction, protagonist Nora Seed takes us on a journey through her many possible lives. She is able to access these lives through books in a mysterious library that serves as the way station between life and death. I’m not sure if I’m really into books that deal with the complexity of life and death right now, but this one really stuck with me.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Read by the Author
Written and read by the phenomenal Elizabeth Acevedo, this book surprised me with all the feels. You can’t help but root for the protagonist Emoni, a teenaged mother fighting for her own dreams while navigating the responsibilities of parenthood. Of course, the book won a 2020 Audie Award for best narration by an author and also scored a YA nomination that same year.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, Read by Daveed Diggs
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Mikkaka, we all know you would listen to Daveed Diggs read the phone book.” While you’re not wrong, you must be an old like me, because what even is a phone book? But I digress. This is an amazing and genre-bending story of the underwater descendants of enslaved Africans who were thrown overboard. It is beautiful and lyrical and moving. My future husband, Daveed Diggs, won a 2021 Audie Award in science fiction for his narration. And probably for being gorgeous and unbelievably talented also.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, Read by Andrea Lang
Next, since we’re underwater, let’s talk about this gem. Black mermaids, sirens, and other magical beings live among us in this award-winning fantasy. Morrow seamlessly integrates these mythical beings into the modern world and pits them against racism and sexism in realistic ways. It’s an absolutely stunning read.
Darling by K. Ancrum, Read by Angel Pean
For some reason, this title doesn’t get as much love as Ancrum’s other books. It’s a different vibe, yes, but still an incredible story worthy of your time. When Wendy Darling moves into a new house, she’s soon visited by the mysterious and magnetic Peter. This twist on the classic tale is suspenseful and painfully, unexpectedly, real.
The Best Audiobooks for Long Road Trips
Whether you’re alone or with others, road trips over eight hours or so can be really tough. Check out these longer audiobooks that can keep you company the entire way.
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King, Read by George Guidall
Technically, book one is only seven hours, but this series is LONG. My husband and I have been working our way through this complex narrative for a few years now. It’s weird and otherworldly, connecting to several of King’s other works. The narrator is EXCELLENT. Unfortunately, he suffered a tragic accident and was unable to finish the entire series. Still, the second narrator is pretty good as well.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Read by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, and Robin Miles
Twelve hours will fly by when you’re listening to this 2018 Audie Award winner for multi-voiced performance. Classic Hollywood comes to life in all its complexity as we follow actress Evelyn Hugo through her decades of fame. Even while confronting sexism, racism, and homophobia, Evelyn is a powerhouse. She might be morally questionable at times, but you’re going to love her.
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan, Read by Nicole Lewis
I’m one of the few rare birds who didn’t enjoy Little Fires Everywhere, but this book was marketed as that story meeting Shirley Jackson’s suspenseful writing. It definitely delivered. A searing look at the nasty dark side of suburbia, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Trigger warnings for child abuse and sexual assault. (Also, I didn’t finish Little Fires Everywhere, so my opinion means nothing on that one.)
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This beloved classic is read by its legendary author. For the uninitiated, The Color Purple is the story of a poor, Black girl, surviving poverty and abuse in the Jim Crow south. Additionally, it’s been made into a movie and a musical. The musical is currently being adapted into another movie, so listen to the original story in preparation!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Read by Frankie Corzo
The creeping dread of this mystery is perfect for a long drive alone, especially if you’re like me and think it’s fun to be a little freaked out. Glamorous protagonist Noemí is a debutante in 1950s Mexico. However, she wants more. In exchange for permission to study her interests at university, Noemí agrees to discreetly attend to a family problem. When she visits her cousin after receiving a cryptic and concerning letter, she is not prepared for the challenges that lay ahead of her in the Mexican countryside. Her cousin’s husband and his family are sinister and secretive. Something dark hides in the walls and begins to permeate Noemí’s dreams. Soon she realizes she might not be able to save her cousin — or herself.
The Best Audiobooks for Road Trips With Your Partner(s)
Perhaps you and your significant other(s) share the same taste in books, or perhaps you need titles with a more universal appeal. The books below guarantee to offer something for everyone.
Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, Read by Ramón de Ocampo
I am unashamedly obsessed with the enemies-to-lovers trope, which McQuiston masterfully utilizes in this political romance. When the president’s son falls for the prince of England, things get tricky. Come for the romance and humor, stay for the surprisingly interesting political intrigue. You and your partner(s) will find something to love in this charming story.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, Read by Bahni Turpin
My husband and I are listening to this book right now, and it was perfect on a recent road trip. Sure, I’ve read it before, but it was still engaging. All you need to know about this one is that after the Civil War, the dead got back up. Our protagonists are badass Black girls who are trained to kill the undead. It’s an interesting take on historical events, but also just plain fun.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Read by Jim Dale
Award-winning narrator Jim Dale shines in this imaginative journey into a magical circus. The circus appears without warning and is full of impossible acts. At the center are a pair of young magicians who are pawns in a long game concocted by their mentors. The fate of the entire circus and everyone in it hangs in the balance as these star-crossed lovers try to beat an unwinnable game.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow, Read by Joy Sunday
This is another title I’ve gushed about previously, but I assure you that it’s worth the hype. There’s alien invasion, music, secret libraries, and a forbidden love that can save the world. The action and twists will keep everyone in the car hanging on every word. At 12 hours long, the story will carry you all the way to your destination — and stick with you long after.
The Institute by Stephen King, Read by Santino Fontana
I know, I know. It’s probably faux pas to put a second book by Stephen King on this list, but hear me out. This is one of his best books in a long time. When a boy wakes up in a room that looks like his own but isn’t, we accompany him on a perilous mission to figure out what’s going on at this so-called Institute. He meets other children like himself — children with gifts The Institute wants to use for its own sinister purposes. Can he save himself and his new friends?
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Read by Bahni Turpin, Raymond Lee, and Dominic Hoffman
If you haven’t read the book (which has been adapted into a movie), then listen to it ASAP. The reading is absolutely beautiful, which is fitting for such a gorgeous and compelling story. Although most of the book takes place over the course of a single day, a LOT happens. Different walks of life collide as Jamaican American Natasha and Korean American Daniel meet and quickly fall in love. Unfortunately, Natasha and her family are scheduled to be deported the following day. You’ll lose yourself in this lush prose and heart-wrenching story.
The Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips
If you’re looking in this category, let me first give you a virtual hug. While I enjoy an occasional journey with my husband, the thought of being a car with anyone else for more than an hour makes my skin crawl. Anyway, the picks below are family-friendly options that can appeal to a multigenerational minivan.
Shuri by Nic Stone, Read by Anika Noni Rose
After the global success of Marvel’s Black Panther movie, audiences were clamoring for more. Thus, acclaimed author Nic Stone gave us this fabulous middle grade romp through Wakanda. Genius scientist Princess Shuri, the Black Panther’s younger sister, is a superhero in her own right. With her martial arts skills, scientific advancements, and quick mind, she’s the only one who can save Wakanda when their vital Heart Shaped Herb stops growing.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, Read by Christopher Myers
I love this book. It’s very different and not for everyone, but the audiobook is absolutely the way to go. (Friends of mine who tried to read the physical book had difficulties that they tell me disappeared when they listened instead.) Myers captures the different accents and speech patterns of the characters beautifully. Emezi deals with tough topics like child abuse in a very age-appropriate way. It’ll spark important conversations with any kiddos in your car.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, Read by Nikki Massoud
I probably don’t have to keep telling you how much I love each book, but I loved this book! This feminist fairytale centers on the princess trapped in the tower. However, that’s where similarities to familiar fairytales end. Our princess is hidden away because she is poisonous to the touch. As her brother prepares for his marriage and the castle is busy and bustling, the princess grows tired of captivity. She faces impossible choices and learns the truth about freedom, family, and her true self.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Read by January LaVoy
Undoubtedly, this 2020 fantasy Audie Award winner is already on you TBR list. However, let me encourage you to save it for a family road trip. Full of fanciful doors to different worlds and led by a feisty and sympathetic heroine, this story has something for everyone. With a runtime of over 12 action-packed hours, this is one of the best audiobooks for road trips with your family.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, Read by Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Peter Francis James, Shayna Small, and Bahni Turpin
If you have teenage dependents, this would be a great story to listen to together. Woodson’s incomparable writing is vividly brought to life by the ensemble cast of readers. Ultimately, this coming-of-age tale is about family and community — perfect for a car trip with your relatives.
Best Audiobooks for Road Trips for Nonfiction Nerds
Okay, so this is not my wheelhouse. It’s not that I don’t like nonfiction, I just prefer to read such books on paper. This allows me to annotate and take notes to ensure my comprehension. That said, there are a few nonfiction audiobooks that I’ve enjoyed immensely. For more, check out 50 of the Best Nonfiction Audiobooks.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Alright, I know you’ve probably heard plenty about this book, but it is definitely worth a listen. The audiobook is actually narrated by Michelle Obama herself, making it all the more engaging. Unsurprisingly, it won an Audie Award in 2020 and was nominated for several others.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
If you’re not familiar with the hilarious and multitalented Issa Rae, this autobiographical audiobook written and read by the author is a perfect introduction. With her self-deprecating humor and unique perspective, you’ll be laughing alone in your car for sure. Fellow blerds, get ready to feel seen.
Stamped (For Kids) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, Adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Rachelle Baker, Read by Pe’Tehn Raighn-Kem Jackson
So, there are a lot of names associated with this book: let me explain. Kendi wrote the original Stamped from the Beginning for adults. Then the amazing Jason Reynolds remixed it for a middle grades/YA audience in Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. This latest iteration is adapted for young children, making it a perfect for a car ride with your kiddos.