10 best audiobooks for your commute
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Listen Up1 of 11
By Shannan Rouss
Over the past year, I've listened to more books than I've read. The reason? A long commute—one involving freeways and back ways, wrong turns and traffic jams. The drive to work is just 13 miles, though it can easily take an hour. (This is Los Angeles, after all.) But to the researcher who says that long commutes can lead to obesity, stress, even divorce, I say you haven't discovered audiobooks. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride with these ten great reads, er, listens.
Anansi Boys2 of 11
Give this book ten minutes—it may take about that long to get a handle on its playful, yet mythical tone—and then you'll be hooked. The narrator, British actor Lenny Henry, moves easily among the voices of the protagonist, the diffident Fat Charlie; his conniving boss, Mr. Grahame Coats; the old Caribbean-born women of his childhood, and others. The book follows Fat Charlie as he reunites with his brother, the smooth-talking Spider, and discovers things about his family—and the magical world around him—that he never knew.
READ MORE: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Geek Love3 of 11
Don't be misled by the title: This is not a book about two techies finding love. It's about a family of circus performers, as told by Oly, an albino dwarf and the second youngest child of Al and "Crystal" Lil. Unlike her beautiful, piano-playing Siamese twin sisters or her charismatic "Aqua Boy" brother (with flippers for arms and legs), Oly has no act; instead she sells tickets and looks after the others. The book is dark, twisted and tragic in parts, but Oly's love for her family and the realness of these strange characters give the book its heart.
READ MORE: Geek Love by Katherine Dunne
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat4 of 11
In this book of "clinical tales," Oliver Sacks shares the very personal stories of his patients: people who have lost the ability to recognize loved ones, who can no longer sense their own bodies, whose memories fade in seconds. While Dr. Sacks is a neurologist, the most profound questions he asks aren't about science; they're about identity, connection and what it means to be human.
READ MORE: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Me Before You5 of 11
This book is warm, funny and heartbreaking, a bona fide tearjerker. Louisa Clark is a small-town waitress outside of London who finds herself working as a caretaker for Will, a paraplegic former playboy. Yes, a kind of romance ensues, but its progress is slow and not what you'd expect. Both Louisa and Will have secrets from one another, and with every step forward, they manage to take another two steps back. You'll keep listening, hoping they finally get their happily ever after ending.
READ MORE: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Stand6 of 11
Clocking in at just under 48 hours, this Stephen King thriller is by far the longest on the list. When you finish it, you'll realize that you've spent the equivalent of two full days driving, probably over the span of a few weeks. That's a lot of time, but this book makes for good company. It begins with a super-flu that wipes out roughly 98 percent of the population. The survivors converge and attempt to rebuild society, but first they must contend with the Dark Man, who haunts their dreams.
READ MORE: The Stand by Stephen King
The Emperor of All Maladies7 of 11
This is the sort of book you might feel obligated to read: because it won the Pulitzer, because it's been touted by critics and fans, because it may just neutralize all the mind-numbing reality TV you've watched. But a biography of cancer? Daunting—which is why it's an ideal book to listen to. The personal stories—of patients and researchers—are more compelling than any reality show.
READ MORE: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Dry8 of 11
This memoir could just as easily be titled Wry, as Augusten Burroughs muddles his way through rehab and sobriety, relying half-heartedly on A.A. meetings of questionable value and "one day at a time" wisdom. The audiobook is read by the author himself, who amiably recounts his own story—even in its most despairing moments—with wit, candor and a little bit of Southern charm.
READ MORE: Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Cloud Atlas9 of 11
The movie may have been meh, but the book is an imaginative, cerebral adventure that spans continents and generations, from the 19th century to a primitive post-apocalyptic world. The beginning may read like a traditional travel narrative, but stick with it. And when you get to that post-apocalyptic world, the pidgin English invented by author David Mitchell will continue to resound musically in your ears.
READ MORE: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
State of Wonder10 of 11
What if a woman could bear children well into her 40s, 50s, even 60s and beyond? What if the secret to doing so were located deep within the jungles of the Amazon? That's the premise of this book, a literary adventure read by actress Hope Davis. It's the kind of story that will seem at once far-fetched and romantic, yet somehow entirely plausible.
READ MORE: State of Wonder by Anne Patchett
Lolita11 of 11
The commute is a fine time to catch up on books you either read in school and since forgot or read the Cliff-Notes version of and since feel guilty. This audio version of Nabokov's literary classic features Jeremy Irons, whose voice easily captures the intellect, charm and desperation of Humbert Humbert.
READ MORE: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Have a favorite audiobook not on our list? Share it in comments below.