I love reading, but listening to audiobooks had never really appealed to me until about ten years ago, when I had three kids and realized quite how much of the rest of my life I’d spend in the car. My husband and I decided that we wouldn’t allow screens of any sorts on car rides (unless we were on a seriously long road trip) because our kids already got plenty of screen time. But the boredom. And the poking each other! And the asking if we were there yet. And the poking each other. It’s enough to drive a parent absolutely bonkers. In an attempt to save our sanity, we started checking out audio books at the library to listen to in the car with our kids. And we were amazed by how much everyone (us included) enjoyed listening to stories together. Suddenly running errands was a little more enjoyable, and long car trips didn’t seem like such torture. Audiobooks for the win!
Today I’m giving you a list of 20 fantastic audiobooks for kids and adults, broken up by age group. But even the books I’ve listed for young kids are entertaining enough that you’ll enjoy them too. Happy listening!
Best Audiobooks for Preschool/Early Elementary Kids
1: The BFG by Roald Dahl
This book is purely delightful, for kids and adults alike. A young orphan named Sophie is snatched from her bed in London by a giant. Luckily for her, the giant who has snatched her is friendly and has no interest in eating her, but (unluckily) his companions do. The book is clever, funny, and exciting (without being too scary), and the narration is wonderfully done.
2: My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
When Elmer Elevator meets a cat who tells him about a poor baby dragon tied up on a faraway island, Elmer decides he’d better stow away on a boat and go rescue the dragon. And so begins a wonderful adventure. This is a great book for listening to with young kids: it’s easy enough for them to follow without feeling dumbed down and the story is both sweet and clever.
3: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
When young pig Wilbur realizes he’s destined for the farmer’s dinner table, Wilbur and all his farmyard friends devise a plan to keep him alive. I can still remember hearing Charlotte’s Web for the first time, and you probably can too. It’s one of those wonderful classics that’s begging to be listened to.
4: Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Nate the Great books are cute, funny, detective stories that will hold the attention of even preschoolers. The language is easy to understand, the stories are easy to follow, and kids will enjoy trying to figure out the mystery before Nate does. There are lots of books for hours of listening!
5: Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
Ivy and Bean may be neighbors, but they certainly didn’t plan on becoming friends. But when Bean gets in trouble, Ivy comes to her aid and a friendship is formed. Lots of mischief ensues in the series, which ensures kids will love to listen! Note: some of the characters do things you probably don’t want your kids doing, so be aware you may want to talk about the stories after listening to them.
Best Audiobooks for Upper Elementary Kids
6: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birsdall
This the the story of the four Penderwick sisters and their delightful summer on the grounds of a beautiful estate. The imaginative sisters explore the gardens and the attic and befriend Jeffrey, the son of the formidable estate owner. The story is enchanting and lighthearted, and may remind you of stories you read as a child.
7: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Children respond to an ad in the newspaper to take mind-bending tests; the few who pass are sent on a mysterious mission. There are plenty of riddles to solve and smart, resourceful kids you’ll fall in love with.
8: Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
This fast paced pirate adventure tells the story before the story of Peter Pan, filling in all the questions you never knew you had: where did pixie dust come from and how did Peter get to Neverland in the first place? Lots of swashbuckling action, humor, and a great story…and the narration is by Jim Dale, who narrates the Harry Potter audiobooks and arguably the best narrator ever. Seriously.
9: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
After Meg’s father disappears while doing secret work for the government, a mysterious stranger appears with information for Meg. She travels through space and time with the help of her little brother Charles Wallace and new friend Calvin to try to save her father.
10: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Sixteen people are called together for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, and each one of them is a possible heir to his huge fortune. They just have to figure out who the money is actually supposed to go to. This is a clever, suspenseful mystery that will have kids and adults guessing until the very end.
NOTE: I can’t not mention Harry Potter here, even though many of you will already have read or listened to them. The books themselves are fantastic, but the audiobook narrations by Jim Dale may be the single most entertaining thing you’ll ever listen to.
Best Audiobooks For Teens
11: Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
This is one of those books that many people only start because it’s required reading for a class, but that almost everyone loves when they finish. Set in the deep South in the midst of the depression, this book introduces today’s youth to the racism and social injustice that kids of today may not know existed. It also introduces them to Cassie, one of the most beloved book characters of all time, and her understanding of family, belonging, and a love for the land.
12: Stoneheart (trilogy) by Charlie Fletcher
When 12-year-old George breaks a stone dragon off the wall of London’s Natural History Museum, he enters another “layer” of London, where the statues and carvings come to life. And he also accidentally starts a war that he doesn’t know how to end. (This one is also narrated by Jim Dale.)
13: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In Katsa’s world, all of those who have a “grace” are unusual–they are born with some sort of unique gift or ability. But Katsa is even more unusual, because her grace is for killing. This means those in power seek to exploit her gift, while she seeks to find her place in life (and solve the mystery that may threaten her people). Content note: There is one extremely brief and mild sex scene, and some characters disagree with the idea of marriage.
14: Steelheart (The Reckoners Trilogy) by Brandon Sanderson
Ten years ago, the Epics began to appear: superhumans with powers so strong they easily dominate the rest of humanity. Now, no one even attempts to fight them. No one except the Reckoners, a group of ordinary humans who study the Epics in order to learn their weaknesses and take them down one by one. Note: I think the writing in this trilogy is a little weaker than the other books I’m recommending; that being said, it’s a fairly original story that’s fast paced and exciting, and most teens will love it.
15: A Great and Terrible Beauty (trilogy) by Libba Bray
Sixteen year old Gemma Doyle is sent to a boarding school in England after her mother’s tragic death. Gemma is different from the other girls at the school, and not just because she grew up in India–she also has a dark power she isn’t sure how to control. She has tragic visions that come true, and she also has the key to an alternate world called the Realms, where dreams and nightmares both become reality. Part fantasy, part Victorian gothic novel, this book is captivating. Content note: Alterate world is somewhat “dark.” Characters are very flawed (i.e. pretty realistic). Probably best for older teens.
Best Audiobooks For Adults
16: And Then There were None by Agatha Christie
Ten strangers are invited to an island mansion, but when they arrive their host is mysteriously absent. A recorded message tells them they each have a guilty secret, and by the end of the evening one of them is dead. A storm strands them on the island, and they begin to die, one by one. It’s an intense, fast paced mystery with a fantastic, unexpected ending.
17: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This is a story of women in the South in the 1960’s–white women and black women. Skeeter, a white woman who has just returned home after graduating from college, finds herself wanting to hear and record the stories of “the help”, the black women who clean the homes and raise the children of Skeeter’s friends. However, it’s extremely risky for the black women to share their stories. This incredible book is made even more enjoyable by a beautiful narration that makes you feel like you are right there in the South with them.
18: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
Set in a boys’ prep school in England, this story centers around Roy Straitley, a Latin professor who has been teaching for 33 years. Chapters are alternately told in his voice and the voice of an unnamed new professor who plans to “take down” the school. We know from the outset that this new professor is planning murder and mayhem, but we don’t know who he is or what he’s planning to do.
19: The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes
This story is told from the persective of a 14 year old boy with autism who loves trees. I mean he really, really loves trees, and he feels it’s his life’s purpose to climb the tallest tree around: the Eagle tree. Unfortunately, not only is the Eagle tree on private property, it’s also slated to be cut down any day. The story is interesting on it’s own, but the window it gives into life with autism is really fascinating.
20: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Long considered one of the best novels of all time, Anna Karenina is the perfect book for a road trip: long and sweeping, full of compelling characters and romance and tragedy. It’s one of those books that everyone should probably read, but the length and Russian names make it a little intimidating. But a really wonderful new narration by Golden Globe-winning actress Maggie Gyllenhaal makes it much more accessible.
Since becoming an audiobook convert, we’ve purchased many of the books on this list from Audible.com so we can listen to them again and again. We love Audible’s subscription service which allows you to choose a new audiobook every month for a great low price. In fact, you can get your first book free with a 30 day trial. Click here to start listening!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.