20 Best Audiobooks For A Road Trip

Best Audiobooks

I don't know about you, but I love going on road trips.

A road trip feels like a true adventure — much more so than air travel, which involves so many tiresome steps before you even set foot on the plane. And then you're crammed in a suffocating tube with little to look at and too many noisy people.

There's something about having the car packed, getting up early, and heading out on the open road that makes me feel giddy with excitement, just like I felt when I was a kid.

Behind the wheel, you're in control of your destiny (and destination) in a way you can't enjoy with other forms of travel.

A road trip is a great bonding experience for you and your significant other or family members. You have time for long talks, lots of laughter, and shared discovery.

For me, the smaller, off-the-beaten-path highways are preferable (rather than the interstate) even if it takes a bit longer. I'm drawn to the changing landscapes, the small towns, the farms, and quaint roadside stores.

Sometimes, though, there's no escaping the interstate or long stretches on lonely highway. You're forced to take a route that offers little variety in scenery and nothing much to look at.

This is the time when you'll be grateful you brought along an audiobook or two.

I love reading books on road trips, but reading a book is a solitary experience. You can't share it with your fellow travelers. If you're the driver, or if reading makes you car sick, audiobooks can make those long stretches of highway much more interesting.

Do you have a road trip planned in the near future?

Here are 20 of the best audiobooks for road trips this summer:

Pandemic, by Scott Siglar

This is the third in a series by Scott Siglar (which includes Infected and Contagious), but you can listen to it without first reading the other two. Pandemic is a sit on the edge of your car seat, sci-fi thriller that will keep you riveted for miles. According to the book description, “The entire human race balances on the razor's edge of annihilation, beset by an enemy that turns our own bodies against us, that changes normal people into psychopaths or transforms them into nightmares.” I am in the middle of this book right now, and I'm riveted.

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Long Black Veil, by Jennifer Finney Boylan

If you love the books of Donna Tartt or Megan Abbott, you'll love Long Black Veil. It's the story of a woman whose entire identity and the love of her family are threatened by her past and the big secret she is keeping. The secret is wrapped up in her connection with her friends from her college days and the night they all snuck into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. They got much more than they bargained for with a terrifying night that returns to haunt them many years later.

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Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

This is such a cleverly crafted thriller with twists and turns you never see coming. After being kidnapped, Jason wakes up to a life that isn't the one he remembers. “His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable.” Is this new life real or is it a dream? To get back to the family and home he loves, Jason has to take a terrifying journey through multiple realities that could leave him stuck in a horrific alternate life forever. Loved this book!

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Tell No One, by Harlan Coben

Another great thriller with a completely unexpected twist. According to Amazon reviews: “David Beck has rebuilt his life since his wife's murder eight years ago, finishing medical school and establishing himself as a pediatrician, but he's never forgotten the woman he fell in love with in second grade. And when a mysterious e-mail arrives on the anniversary of their first kiss, with a message and an image that leads him to wonder whether Elizabeth might still be alive, Beck will stop at nothing to find the truth that's eluded him for so many years. A powerful billionaire is equally determined to make sure his role in her disappearance never comes to light, even if it means destroying an innocent man.” Says one review, “The ending of this book had me GOBSMACKED. It was amazing.”

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The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

This popular dystopian novel has seen a resurgence with the Hulu original series by the same name. The book explores relevant issues relating to power, gender and religious politics that spotlight modern day issues, though the book was written in 1985. It is the story of Offred, a Handmaid (a surrogate sexual slave used for procreation) serving the Commander and his bitter wife. After a terrorist attack of religious zealots kills the President and most of Congress, the government is taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead, where women have little power and freedom. Beautifully written, compelling, and downright scary.

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Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

Oh my, this is one of the most surprising, scary, and compelling books I've read in a long time. You'll want to keep driving so you can listen to it all in one sitting. It's a post-apocalyptic story dealing with a strange something “out there” that can't be seen. Those who see it commit horrible acts and ultimately kill themselves. The story follows a small group of survivors who hole up in a house with all the windows covered. They never venture outside unless blindfolded. To raise the tension, the novel weaves together two stories of the protagonist, Malorie, shifting between the past and the present. In the present, she's trying to escape with two four-year-olds (all blindfolded) on a river to a possible safe house. Her reflections on the past reveal how she survived the world going mad and killing itself.

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Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

A richly-layered family drama that spans five decades and explores the impact of one decision on the lives of four parents and six children. According to the book description, “One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.” The story follows Franny and her siblings and step-siblings through the pain, humor, and heartbreak of their lives together and the fallout of their parent's actions. If you love character driven books, this is the one for you, as you'll fall in love with each of these quirky and interesting people.

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The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck

This book gripped me from the very beginning. It's a great story to discuss during a long road trip. It's set at the end of World War II, in an old Bavarian castle where at one time German high society gathered for parties. After the war, three widows come to live in the castle, and their lives and fates become intertwined as they cope with the aftershocks of the war and the implications of their husbands' plot to murder Adolf Hilter. Marianne, the former resident of the castle whose husband was one of the resisters, tries to keep the promise she made to find and protect the wives of her husband's co-conspirators.

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Descent, by Tim Johnston

A heart-pounding psychological thriller that is both literary and horrifying, Descent is about a family vacation that turns tragic when 18-year-old Caitlan is kidnapped in the Rocky Mountains while cycling with her brother Sean. Sean returns badly injured, but the family and police can't find Caitlan. As the search goes on for months, the impact on Caitlan's family has devastating consequences on their psyches and their relationship. Says the Miami Herald, “What makes the novel unforgettable is its sense of character, its deliberate, unadorned prose and Johnston’s unflinching exploration of human endurance, physical and psychological.” A must-read (or listen) for your road trip.

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A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in a fascinating era of Russian history with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. In 1922, a Bolshevik tribunal deems him an unrepentant aristocrat and sentences him to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov is a man of erudition and wit,who has never worked a day in his life. Now he's required to live in an attic room, as decades of Russian history (1922 through 1954) are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. His new and unexpected circumstances provide him relationships and opportunities that open a doorway to a larger world of emotional discovery. Interesting and relevant in light of all of the current Russian intrigue. Amazing characters and beautifully written.

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What She Knew, by Gilly Macmillan

What would you do if you were walking through the woods one day with your young son, and you allow him to run ahead a short distance, only to discover he has completely vanished? What if you suddenly became the prime suspect? That's what happens to Rachel Jenner who experiences every parent's nightmare when she is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben. As days pass without any sign of Ben, Rachel begins to come undone as sympathy for her turns to suspicion, especially with her ex-husband. As she tries to put together the clues, she realizes that the danger may not be with a terrifying stranger but with the people familiar to her. Ultimately everyone surrounding Ben becomes suspect, and trust issues abound. A real nail-biter until the end.

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I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes

Could it be the perfect murder? A young woman is discovered in Manhattan hotel, face down in a bathtub of acid, teeth removed, fingerprints and face gone. There are no fingerprints or DNA at the murder scene. Ben Bradley, the homicide detective in charge, is a long time friend of a retired CIA operative called Pilgram who has written the definitive textbook on criminal investigations, and it appears the murderer has read the book. Pilgrim is drawn out of retirement by Bradley and is quickly in the middle of an international manhunt moving through the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. This is more than just a murder mystery; there is also a biological threat against the U.S., which ties into the murder.

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra

If you enjoyed The Kite Runner, you will love this book. It is about the plight of Chechnians under the brutal occupation of Russia, but don't allow this serious topic to throw you off. It's the story of eight-year-old Havaa who watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across from Havaa's house, their lifelong neighbor and friend Akhmed watchess too, afraid Havaa is dead when the soldiers set fire to her house. But he finds her hiding in the forest and makes a decision that will forever change their lives when he seeks refuge at the abandoned hospital where the last remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, takes them in. Their lives and unexpected fates reveal the transcendent power of love in wartime.

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Ink and Bone, by Lisa Unger

If you enjoy mysteries that involve the supernatural, don't miss this one. Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is visited by people others can't see and haunted by prophetic dreams. She's terrified by the things that happen to her, so she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York. Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation of a local missing girl. Working together, they uncover a terrible crime, and discover that The Hollows holds more terrifying secrets than they ever imagined. Says the Associated Press, “Strong characters and stellar writing make this a wonderful mix of small-town life with the supernatural.”

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance

The author, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, shares a deeply moving memoir about growing up in the Appalachia region of Kentucky and then in Ohio in an atmosphere of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma. Says one reviewer, it was a life that included “drugs, crime, jail time, abusive interactions without any knowledge of other forms of interaction, children growing up in a wild mix of stoned mother care, foster care, and care by temporary ‘boyfriends,' and in general, an image of life on the edge of survival where even the heroes are distinctly flawed for lack of knowledge and experience of any other way of living.” Vance writes directly and honestly drawing from his personal experiences about the problems with white, working class America and why it is a culture in crisis.

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A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Ove is an unpleasant curmudgeon, but don't let this stop you from listening to this heartwarming, humorous story of a man who hides a sad past behind his gruff exterior. When one morning a chatty couple with young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it leads to an unexpected friendship. You learn that Ove hides a warm and at times a courageous heart beneath his grumpiness. Says one reviewer, “A charming and heartwarming story filled with moments that'll make you laugh and moments that'll bring you nearly to tears.” If you want to hear a great story with funny, tender, and lovable characters, this is the audiobook to travel with you.

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Beneath A Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan

Based on a true story, Beneath A Scarlet Sky is the story of Pino Lello, a young Italian man and his courage and resilience during WWII. When his family's home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad to help Jews escape over the Alps, and he falls in love with a beautiful widow, Anna. Trying to protect Pino, his parents force him to enlist as a German soldier, thinking it will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler's left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers. He uses his new position as a chance to spy for the Allies, drawing on his love for Anna and his dream they will be together one day to bolster his courage.

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Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors, and this book is so good, HBO made a blockbuster TV series based on it. Set in an Australian suburb, Big Little Lies focuses on three women, who all have children at the same preschool. One is a great beauty married to a wealthy businessman; they have a “perfect” set of twins. One is the do-it-all mom who can organize anything but feels stung when her teenage daughter prefers to live with her divorced dad and cool stepmom. The third is a new-to-town, single mother who doesn’t quite fit in. From the very beginning, you learn that someone is going to end up dead. The question is who and how these women fit in the picture. You will love these all-too-real, funny, touching characters and the way their seemingly normal suburban life begins to unravel.

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Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult

This is one of the most important and powerful books Jodi Picoult has ever written, given the state of race relations in our country. It's based on the true story of a labor and delivery nurse who was prohibited from caring for a newborn because the father requested that no African-American nurses tend to his baby. In Picoult's story, Ruth, the African-American nurse in question, finds herself on trial for events related to the same request made by a white supremacist father. Using the narratives of Ruth, the baby’s father, and the female public defender who takes Ruth’s case, Picoult examines multiple facets of racism. You'll be discussing this powerhouse story for the entirety of your road trip.

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The Secret Wife, by Gill Paul

If you love historical fiction, you will get lost in this enthralling and beautiful story of a Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. It shifts between 1914 Russia when the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future and 2016 when the young journalist, Kitty, has just learned of her husband's infidelity, causing her to leave for a remote cabin which she inherited from a great-grandfather she barely heard of. This escape leads Kitty to unravel a mystery about the Romanovs and one of the daughters of Tsar Nicholas, Grand Duchess Tatiana, who served as a nurse and falls in love with one of the injured soldiers, Dimitri. Well-researched, compelling, and addictive.

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If you didn't find what you're looking for in my list, check out Amazon's Audible and get two free audiobooks

Whether you're hitting the road for a long car trip, or you just need something to listen to while working out or taking a walk, audiobooks can transport you on a mental road trip that ignites your imagination. Don't leave home without one!