Recommend a good audiobook for driving

We’re driving to visit family this weekend - roughly 20 hours each way (Google says 16 hours, but their directions assume unlimited fuel tanks and bladders). With 3 of us, we’ll try to make it in one day, though we’ll see. Then a week later we turn around and do it all over again, to come home.

In the past we’ve done a lot of humorous science fiction - some Scalzi (note: Wil Wheaton is one of the WORST audiobook narrators I’ve ever heard), some Yahtzee Croshaw, etc. That sort of thing seems to go over fairly well.

I’ve got two Audible credits and I’m not afraid to use 'em!

Two I have and recommend, although they’re more sci-fi with some comedic moments are The Martian (nearly 11 hours) and Snowcrash (17ish hours).

The writing style of The Martian, being mostly (not exclusively) an audiolog lends itself to the audiobook format, and Snowcrash is always a ton of fun.

Otherwise, my favorite audiobook for travelling is the extended version of the World War Z (12ish hours) - since it’s also based on ‘interviews’ and works well as an audiobook, and as a bonus has huge scifi actor cast, it is excellent. And since each piece is shorter, you have a lot of chances to pause easily if you need to stop the trip for food/bladder breaks.

Have a safe trip!

Oooh - good idea. We had (and listened to, years ago) the abridged version, and I actually got the full version a year or so back but have not used it yet.

I very much like some of the audiobook versions of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. If you’re not familiar with Pratchett, his books are humorous fantasy novels, with a bit of satire and social commentary mixed in.

There are a bunch of different sub-categories of stories within the Discworld novels – two of my favorites are the “City Watch” series (start with Guards! Guards!), and the “Witches” series (start with Wyrd Sisters). Both of those audiobooks are read by Nigel Planer, who appears on a lot of the Discworld audiobooks, and who I feel did a very good job with them.

If non-fiction history interests you, I’m currently listening to “The Other Side of History” a Great Courses title, about life as an ordinary person throughout history. Covers some Paleolithic and early civilizations, which is a little bit dry as the available information is scant, but is primarily about, and really comes alive, when they get to Greek/Roman/European everyday life, of which much more is known. 24.5 hours.

Any of the available Mary Roach titles on audible are good. Factual, but humorous takes on various scientific subjects. About 8-10 hours per title.

I recently had a many hour drive, and I enjoyed the “Renegades” podcasts with Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama. There are some pretty funny stories, but also they share some personal stuff which reveals the things they found they have in common.

For non-fiction, I listened to “The Lost City of the Monkey God” by Douglass Preston (the guy who did “The Hot Zone”) and was captivated. This is real-life Indiana Jones work (with the aid of modern technology), and filled with more dangers than Indy ever faced !

I would second the book of “The Martian”. I read the book after seeing the movie (which I love), and enjoyed the book immensely.

He’s gotten better over the years, but I agree that he’s not the best.

Some funny stuff off the top of my head:

I recently listened to Keegan-Michael Key’s History of Sketch Comedy podcast and it’s fantastic. A fair bit of salty language, but a really fun listen. Not only informative and funny, but the dude genuinely loves the material and that makes it even better. And it comes with your subscription! If you enjoyed Key and Peele, do not sleep on this podcast. If you haven’t ever seen Key and Peele, go watch some sketches on Youtube just because you’ve been missing out.

John Hodgeman’s three books - The Areas of My Expertise, More Information than you Require, and That is All - are all delightful if you appreciate a bit of absurdity in your humor. And Hodgeman himself is an excellent narrator.

Stephen Fry’s three books - Mythos, Heroes, and Troy - are brilliant tellings of Greek mythology. If you enjoy Fry’s dry humor and his mellifluous voice, you’ll enjoy these even if you’re already well-grounded in the subject area.

The Bobiverse books, narrated by the stellar Ray Porter, are clever and oftentimes funny. Not comedic, but funny. The first one in the series is especially good.

I recently finished the Mel Brooks audiobiography (All About Me!) and it may be one of the single best narrations I’ve ever listened to. It makes you feel like you’re sitting with him in the living room. It’s funny and sweet and informative.

I bounced off of the book when I tried to read it in eyeball format, but was absolutely captivated by the audiobook. Solid recommendation.

A friend of mine recently listened to this, and had the exact same reaction to it.

I beg to differ: I’ve enjoyed his narration of several Scalzi audiobooks and think he’s a good match for the material.

However, since you feel that way, you should know that The Martian (as recommended by @ParallelLines) was originally narrated by R.C. Bray, but that version is no longer available on Audible; instead they have a replacement read by Wil Wheaton.

(I’ve listened to and enjoyed Bray’s reading of The Martian; haven’t head Wheaton’s.)

It really does depend upon your choice in books – it’s like trying to recommend a book to read based on a few scraps of knowledge.

If you like humorous science fiction, you might like the humorous fantasy of Christopher Moore. The only one that I know is on audio is Fool, which is King Lear as told by his fool. It’s a hilarious read, but it’s also pretty racy. Don’t listen if you have kids you want to keep uncorrupted. If any of his other books are available, I recommend them, too. But a couple of them need to be read in order.


My issue with Wil Wheaton is that he makes absolutely ZERO distinction between character voices. “Oh no” she said. “Yeah, that stinks” he said - and no difference at all. Especially with Redshirts, where several characters had very similar names (Dahl and Duvall, I think), it made it very tough to follow. I made the mistake of also getting The Android’s Dream (also Scalzi) and it was no better - along with a much worse story.

Now, when he wanted to make a character sound drunk, or something like that, it was absolutely credible. We just couldn’t tell which one was drunk.

Speaking of The Martian: I’ve read the book (not the audiobook) and we just got Hail Mary on audio, and enjoyed it so much we would sometimes sit in the car for a couple minutes after we got to our destination. listening to it.

Not mentioned yet: Good Omens, which is one of the rare audiobooks we’ve listened to multiple times. I had it playing in the car once when I drove my daughter somewhere. She grumbled, because she wanted to play the radio. She was cracking up within 3 minutes. We played the whole thing on a long family trip.

Christopher Moore’s stuff is good. I might see if I can get an audiobook from the library though. I read Fool and didn’t much care for it; it’s been a few years but I seem to recall that the Fool was doing all sorts of mischief and murder and there was never a good reason for everything he was doing - like he had to do it just because that’s how Shakespeare wrote it. The Stupidest Angel, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, on the other hand, would be great (just not some of the prequels, like the other one in which that same angel appears).

A few more that we enjoyed, in case that jogs anyone’s memory: Gil’s All-Fright Diner, by A. Lee Martinez. A couple of good ol’ boys wander into, well, Gil’s, which is in the middle of the desert somewhere. Only one of them is a werewolf, the other is a vampire, and the diner is the center of Otherworldly Evil. Martinez’s other stuff is good but not as catchy. Space Opera (Catherynne Valente) is eminently missable; we actually quit listening to it on one trip. I later forced myself to finish it and regretted it. Think “Hitchhiker’s Guide” meets Encyclopedia Britannica, both in sore need of an editor. It might work better in print format but failed utterly as audio.

That’s an excellent point, and a big part of the reason why I’ve enjoyed the Discworld audiobooks that I’ve listened to – the readers (primarily the aforementioned Nigel Planer, and Celia Imrie) are skilled at giving each of the characters their own voices.

Second this recommendation.

Two others:

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. A fantasy classic. Simon Prebble does a great job as the reader.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. A novel about superheroes and supervillains. It uses two first person narrators and the audiobook alternates between two readers (Coleen Marlo and Paul Boehmer).

A note on the Discworld audiobooks:

Most of the earlier ones were recorded by Nigel Planer (whom some of you may know as Neil from the British comedy series The Young Ones), and the later ones by Stephen Briggs, both of whom do a very good job IMHO. (There also appear to be abridged versions of at least some of them, but I’d stick with the unabridged versions.) A while ago, many of the Discworld audiobooks mysteriously disappeared from Audible. I just now checked, and it appears a lot of them are back but with new cover art. Others show up with a future release date and available for pre-order. It appears that there is a project underway to re-record the Discworld books—I don’t know if the older versions will still remain available or not.

The Right Stuff, narrated by Dennis Quaid. 15hrs 42min

One of my all-time favorites. Quaid is the perfect narrator for this, and not just because he was in the movie. He captures the tone of the story and characters really well. I’d like to hear him do more audiobooks–he’d be perfect for westerns or maybe even a crime/detective novel.

Get the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy BBC Radiophonics Workshop version.

This pre-dated the books. It is not someone reading the books, it is numerous voice actors and audio special effects acting out the story.

It is superb. I had friends who listened to it on a drive from Chicago to St. Louis and when they arrived they sat in the car for another 20 minutes to finish the story.

It does not matter if you read the books before. It does not matter if you saw the movie. This is a real treat.

You can listen to them/download them here.

If you want something educational (non-fiction) Bill Bryson’s A short History of Nearly Everything is good as is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (despite being educational they are interesting to read/listen to).

Another personal favorite audiobook of mine is Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm.

I’ve gone ahead and nabbed Guards! Guards! and subscribed to the Keegan-Michael Key podcast. Those, plus other stuff we have on hand, ought to get us at least to our destination, and I can poll the family on what else they might want.

I’d listened to an audio drama version of Guards, Guards a few years back (via a podcast) but that doesn’t seem to be available any more, drat.

Interestingly, I seem to have already gotten “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, though I haven’t listened to it yet.

A family-friendly (mostly) series: the “Two Necromancers” series by L.G. Estrella. The occasional bad word, and a pyromanical elf tends to refer to people as “dickless”, but fun, if somewhat fluffy.

I will download those Hitchhiker’s Guide recordings to my phone - those should be fun.

Oh, I just heard about a Phil Dragash, who produced a full-audio-“soundscape” of the Lord of the Rings. One for each book, and The Hobbit, too.

I’m off to find that (he couldn’t get approval from Tolkein’s estate, so it might be hard to find). But LOTR fans love it…

We’re back!

The Keegan Michael Key podcast was a hit, as was Guards! Guards!. I found that dragged a little bit in places, probably due to my memory of the audio play which was only 3ish hours.

We started A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - which is the first in a series that won a Hugo for best series. Only got an hour or so into it because the playback kept halting - I think it was not (despite the Audible app) fully downloaded, and we were driving… We did a few chapters of Soon I Will Be Invincible (which I already owned) but honestly got bored after 6 chapters or so. I may give it another try later.

We finished up with a couple hours of one of Estrella’s necromancer books, which are really cute, if rather far from Great Literature. World War Z got vetoed, as the family wanted something a bit lighter. I’ve got one more credit to use in the next day or so, before I downgrade my membership to the “included with Audible” version.