Hitting the road? Spare yourself fights over the radio by queuing up these good audiobooks. Whether traveling solo, with friends, or with family, the hours (and miles) will fly by.

By Liz Loerke and Rebecca Renner
Updated July 11, 2019
Credit: Getty Images

When you’re on a road trip, sometimes the sights en route aren’t enough to keep you entertained. You could turn on the radio or listen to music you’ve downloaded, but unless you’ve created the perfect driving playlist, you might end up shuffling through songs to find one you like over and over again. Podcasts are great, but full of the same commercials. But if you pick the right audiobook, you and your passengers—and even your kids!—will be entertained for the whole ride without the hassle of flipping through songs or hearing another ad for Squarespace.

inding the best audiobooks for your summer road trip can be tricky. You have to please everyone in the car (if you’re on a solo roadtrip, lucky you!). What to look for in an audiobook depends on who’s with you. Any audiobook you choose needs to have a bright-voiced, captivating narrator, of course, so before you buy an audiobook or check it out from your library on Overdrive, make sure you listen to a snippet. If you don’t like the narrator, keep looking until you find one that clicks. Otherwise, you have plenty of stories to explore. From smart, engrossing fiction to audiobooks that are safe even for little ears in the back seat, the good audiobooks audiobooks for your summer road trip are almost endless.

Here are a few of our suggestions for the best audiobooks for your summer road trip.—R.R.

If You Want to Get Ahead on Your Book Club. . .

Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes is a more serious literary novel about how families and relationships change as we age. The main focus is on the families of Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, who were rookie cops together on the NYPD in 1973. The novel touches on violence, mental illness, love, and friendship, and it would be the perfect audiobook choice for a car full of more serious literary fiction fans.
To buy: $28, audible.com.

Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand
Summer of ’69 is a good audiobook if you have kids in the back seat entertaining themselves. The novel tells the story of the Levin family and the changes they go through in the summer of 1969. Every year, the family looks forward to coming together at their grandmother’s house in Nantucket for the summer, but that tumultuous year has thrown everything in their way, and just like the family, the nation is changing. This audiobook might also be a good option if you have young teenagers who are starting to learn about 20th Century American history. It’s a conversation starter, for sure.
To buy: $31, audible.com.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
We’ll admit it’s hard to drive while you’re crying, so we can only recommend On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous for those of us who can keep it together behind the wheel. Vuong brings us a novel about immigrating from Vietnam with poetic prose that tackles sexuality, race, class, and masculinity in America. With Vuong’s skilled, emotional narration, this audiobook will break your heart.
To buy: $25, audible.com.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
According to Ove, a curmudgeonly 59-year-old widower, rules are meant to be followed, signs are meant to be obeyed, and BMWs are simply not acceptable. When his new neighbors, a young couple with two kids and a third on the way, accidentally flatten his mailbox, Ove finds himself entwined in the lives of his neighbors and community in this feel-good debut novel.
To buy: $18, audible.com.

If You Want a Good Laugh. . .

I Miss You When I Blink, by Mary Laura Philpott
I Miss You When I Blink is a funny, sweet collection of essays. Philpott tackles the pressures of modern adulthood with humor and style. We all feel a little bit anxious and lost and like our to-do lists are never-ending, but at least with Philpott, we can laugh about it. What could make this audiobook better? Philpott reads it herself in an upbeat, personable voice you’ll fall in love with.
To buy: $18, audible.com.

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, by Jessica Pan
Pan got to a point in her life where she felt she wasn’t really living. So she decided to start saying yes to things. Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come chronicles Pan’s adventures and misadventures through a year of putting herself out there. She talks to strangers, hosts a dinner party, and even does stand-up comedy. Are you and your friends about to go on an adventure? Pick this funny memoir, and you’ll be ready to say yes and take some fun chances by the time you arrive.
To buy: $19, audible.com.

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Okay, so Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered probably isn’t the best audiobook option with kids in the car. But if you’re addicted to the My Favorite Murder podcast, you have to give this audiobook a listen. In it, you’ll find true crime stories as well as self-advocacy and personal safety lessons, all delivered with frankness and humor. Kilgariff and Hardstark are the creators and hosts of My Favorite Murder, so of course they narrate the audiobook, too. Even if you’ve never listened to their show, if you love true crime as much as you love comedy, this is a great option.
To buy: $21, audible.com.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Get ready to work your abs for five-and-a-half hours as you laugh along to Tina Fey’s reading of her hilarious memoir Bossypants. You will be regaled with childhood memories of her dad, the inimitable Don Fey, her life on the road with Chicago’s Second City improv troupe, her time as head writer on SNL, and motherhood. She even includes solid advice on how to be a fearless female leader.

To buy: $21, audible.com.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
As if reading David Sedaris wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny enough, hearing his wry delivery is even more enjoyable. Let the essayist entertain you with stories of his attempts to learn French, his brother’s proclivity for speaking in hip-hop slang, and his father’s penchant for eating molding produce.
To buy: $19, audible.com.

If You Want to Catch Up on Classics. . .

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a good audiobook can make a long drive (or laundry or a workout) more bearable. English actress Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) finds the subtleties of each character in her performance and manages to make even the social-climbing Mrs. Bennett a treat to listen to. You'll fall in love with this classic tale of overcoming first impressions all over again.
To buy: $25, audible.com.

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck’s tale of the elusive American Dream continues to resonate. Join migrant farm workers George and Lennie as they strive to earn enough money to one day buy land of their own. Gary Sinise, who played George in the 1992 film version, brings the characters so vividly to life that you’ll feel like you’re roaming the California countryside yourself.
To buy: $17, audible.com.

Keep Kids in Their Seats

The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
Even if you have read (and re-read) J.K.’s magical series about a boy who learns he is a wizard, do yourself a favor and listen to Jim Dale’s colorful performance. With the books running between 8.5 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and 21.5 hours (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), there’s plenty of material to captivate your children for a long family road trip.
To buy: Starting at $30, audible.com.

Matilda, by Roald Dahl
Kate Winslet doesn’t hold back (she even lets a big belch rip!) portraying each character in the Roald Dahl classic about a feisty girl standing up to the bullying Mrs. Trunchbull. Children (Ages 8 and up) and adults alike will enjoy this memorably magical tale.
To buy: $21.00, audible.com.

The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection, by Beverly Cleary and Tracy Dockray
All eight Ramona books are packaged in this 19-hour compilation. Follow rambunctious and imaginative Ramona Quimby from age 4 to 10 as she navigates the world, including braving the school bus alone, standing up to bullies, and supporting her dad when he loses his job. Beautifully narrated by actress Stockard Channing, your kids will find something to relate to.
To buy: $43, audible.com.

  • By Liz Loerke
  • By Rebecca Renner