10 Amazing Audiobooks for People Who Hate Audiobooks

Dann Albright 28-08-2017

I have a love/hate relationship with audiobooks. Audio is a great format for storytelling The 11 Best Storytelling Podcasts With Addicting Stories You'll Love Here are the best storytelling podcasts with stories so addicting you'll never need to listen to radio dramas again. Read More , but it can still be difficult to get into audiobooks. Usually it has to do with the narrator. Sometimes they’re bad at differentiating characters with voices. Or they read too slow and the book drags on for more hours than is necessary.


Whatever the reason, audiobooks can be hit or miss. If you’re not usually a fan of audiobooks, but you really want to give the format a fair chance, there are some amazing audiobooks available. Here are 10 that will appeal to even the most fervent audiobook hater.

1. Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

stone mattress cover

Audiobooks often require a 10- or 15-hour commitment, and if you’re like me, that’s asking a lot. Which is why short stories are perfect. Atwood is most famous for her novels (and the new TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale), but she’s also published two short story collections.

Stone Mattress has her signature writing talent on display. The fantastical stories are darkly funny, endlessly strange, and very affecting. Each story is read by a different narrator, and the final, titular tale is read by Atwood herself.

2. The Iron Bridge by Anton Piatigorsky

the iron bridge cover


Another fascinating collection of short stories, this one is subtitled “Short Stories of 20th Century Dictators as Teenagers.” How can you resist that subtitle? Piatigorsky takes small, seemingly insignificant stories from the teen lives of Mao Tse-Tung, Idi Amin, and Adolf Hitler, and expands them into narrative formats.

It sounds strange, and it is, but it’s a unique group of stories that’ll get you thinking. Especially if you’re a history or politics enthusiast These 15 Fascinating History Sites Make the Past Come Alive History isn't just the subject we left behind in school. These 15 interactive (but educational) websites and tools prove that the re-telling of historical events can be entertaining and fun. Read More . And because they’re short (the entire book runs in less than seven hours), you don’t need to feel tied down by an epic tome of a recording.

3. World War Z by Max Brooks

world war z cover

This oral history of the zombie apocalypse is one of my favorite books. It would be hard to top the printed version. But the audiobook is also amazing. The mindblowing cast of narrators includes Mark Hamill, Nathan Fillion, Common, Alan Alda, John Turturro, Rob Reiner, Alfred Molina, Simon Pegg, Henry Rollins, Martin Scorsese, Brooks himself, and many more.


The superb voice acting talent meshes with Brook’s stellar storytelling abilities to create something that stands alone in the audiobook canon. And if you’re thinking “I’m not interested in a zombie book,” I beg you to reconsider. This isn’t like any other zombie story you’ve ever read.

4. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

bird box cover

An unseen terror that drives people to murderous rage at a single glance. A single mother trying to keep her children out of danger. A 20-mile blindfolded canoe trip down river surrounded by suddenly sinister sounds. Bird Box is a terrifying tale that you absolutely will not be able to stop listening to. With a plot this compelling, you’ll be happy to listen through all nine hours.

Again, if you think you’re not interested in horror, I urge you to think again. This book has been described as a literary thriller, with deep characters and masterful writing. Cassandra Campbell’s narration is spot-on and makes for a compellingly listenable audiobook. Even for those who have never listened to an audiobook before.


5. As You Wish by Cary Elwes

as you wish cover

There are a lot of thrillers on this list — they make for great listening — but Elwes’ retrospective on the making of The Princess Bride is compelling for another reason. The movie is a cult classic, and Elwes, who plays Westley in the film, shares funny, insightful, and entertaining stories from behind the scenes.

He’s not the only one, though. Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, and many others make appearances as well. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’re going to want to hear this one. And being just seven hours long, you don’t need to set aside the rest of the month to get through it.

6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

the graveyard book cover


This book won both the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. It’s pretty child-friendly, which makes it great for road trips (or if you’re hesitant about adult horror books). And it’s read by Gaiman himself, which lends it a gravitas that can’t be replicated by narrator-read books. There’s something really cool about hearing an author read his own work.

The main character, Bod, lives in a graveyard — and inhabits the worlds of both the living in the dead. He’ll have to navigate the mysteries and adventures of both to make it out alive. It’s on the edgier side of kid-friendly books How to Pick the Perfect Book for Children There is no better gift for children of any age than a book. But once you've exhausted your own childhood favourites, where do you turn to for other options? Read More but a great read for all ages.

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

the help cover

Mississippi in the 1960s was an unjust place, where African-Americans occupied a tenuous and conflicted place in society. This is where The Help brings readers. A smash hit when it was released, the big-screen adaptation of The Help was nominated for an Oscar. It’s a story about friendship, race, secrets, and crossing boundaries.

The audiobook is narrated by a full cast, so if you get thrown off by one person voicing different characters, this is a great choice. At 18 hours long, it’s on the longer side of things, but the depth of the story and high-quality cast narration makes it a great listen.

8. What If? by Randall Munroe

what if cover

This zany book about science, written by the creator of the XKCD web comic, answers all of the questions you never thought to ask. How fast can you drive over a speed bump and live? What would happen if you hit a baseball pitched near the speed of light? Munroe does an absolutely astonishing amount of research to answer these questions and many more.

Unfortunately, you don’t get the fascinating (and hilarious) diagrams, charts, and comics in the audiobook. But what you do get is Wil Wheaton, the perfect narrator for this type of book. It’s a tradeoff worth making if you’re looking for a short, informative, and hysterically funny audiobook.

9. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

the devil in the white city

There are a few books that I recommend to absolutely everybody, and The Devil in the White City is at the top of this list. Larson crafts a compelling story that’s completely true — he draws on journals, notes, recordings, and all manner of historical documents to ensure the veracity of everything that happens. But it’s presented as a novel, making it much more engaging.

The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was a fascinating event. An amazing variety of exhibits, from agriculture to electricity, were on display to wow turn-of-the-century Americans. The very first Ferris wheel was on display there too. And, unbeknownst to most people at the Fair, it was also the site of one of America’s first notable serial killers. The addictiveness of Larson’s storytelling, along with great narration from Scott Brick, make this an audiobook everyone should listen to at least once.

10. The Star Wars Radio Drama by Brian Daley

the star wars radio drama

Star Wars is an inherently visual story. Who could forget the imposing first glance of the Star Destroyer in the opening scene of A New Hope? Or the shocking destruction of Alderaan at the hands of Grand Moff Tarkin? But Brian Daley took the original script and turned it into a more audio-friendly format for broadcast on NPR in 1981. (NPR’s listenership jumped 40 percent when it aired.)

A stronger focus on character development and storytelling, paired with voice acting from Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels, as well as music and sound effects, set this apart from the other books on the list. It’s an experience any science fiction fan should have. And if you like it, Episodes V and VI are available as well!

What Are Your Favorite Audiobooks?

If you’re not yet a fan of audiobooks, but would like to be, these 10 picks should help you on your way. Not every book will appeal to every listener, but I hope I’ve listed something here that interests you. Historical fiction, short stories, full-cast narrations, addictive page-turners, and radio dramas cover quite a range.

How do you feel about audiobooks? If you’re a fan, what are your favorites? And why have those in particular appealed to you? If you’re not a fan, what is it about audiobooks that leaves you cold? Please let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: PointImages via Shutterstock.com

Related topics: Audiobooks, Book Reviews.

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  1. Marisa
    October 26, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Random audiobooks that turned out to be amazing listens (the narrator often makes or breaks a book).
    -Unspeakable by Kevin O’Brien, narrated by Todd Habercorn
    -The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, narrated by George Guidall
    -Any Book in the Kim Stone series by British author Angela Marsons, narrated by Jan Cramer
    - I agree with The Help
    -Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, narrated by Ann-Marie Lee
    -anything narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Elizabeth Knowleden, and Fiona Hardingham
    -You by Carolyn Kepnes, narrated by Santino Fontana

    Sorry, but Cassandra Campbell’s voice inflections and weird precious accents reallllly bug me. I have to stay away from her books although I would love to listen to Bird Box.

  2. Mike G
    September 1, 2017 at 1:15 am

    I listen to audiobooks daily during my commute. The key for me is to use an app that allows you to speed up the reading. 1.3x is a perfect speed for most books especially anything read by George Guidall who is a fantastic narrator.

    I recommend the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom.

  3. Starling
    August 30, 2017 at 6:50 am

    I love audio books and listen every evening in place of watching tv but I find them really difficult to get without subscribing to hard to get out of so called deals and the cds are very expensive to buy

    • Bobbi
      November 12, 2017 at 1:28 am

      I use audiobooks from my local library. Do a search for Overdrive Libraries. Almost all libraries have an online digital library and the selection is usual quite good. I've never bought an audiobook but I've listened to hundreds!

  4. Robert Twigg
    August 30, 2017 at 2:19 am

    Without Remorse

  5. Mandy Sing
    August 29, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Love audio books, was reluctant to the idea at first as loved reading, but quickly learned to listen & have now listened to over 100 books in a few years. I listen every day - whilst cleaning, cooking, gardening, commuting, falling asleep (with the sleep timer of course). I look for household chores to do so I can listen, as find it hard to listen if I'm just sitting. Love crime thrillers, classics, comedies. Amongst favourites are 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' & Amitav Ghosh's trilogy, & recently Thandie Newton's superb narration of 'Jane Eyre'. Love love love Audible.

  6. Ana Kerr
    August 29, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon and read by Alana Kerr Collins

  7. Ana Kerr
    August 29, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    The Bone Season series read by Alana Kerr Collins

  8. Neville Singer
    August 29, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Traders tales. All 6 books by nathan lowell

    • steve
      August 30, 2017 at 4:27 am

      this the best series ad I've got 1400+books

  9. Deb
    August 29, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Listening to the Cherub Series by Robert Muchamore read by Simon Scardifield series with my son on the way to school. We have finished 8 books. Great teen boy books. We actually don't mind the traffic. I also listened to Option B by Sheryl Sandberg after a friend lost her son. It was so good to get advice about dealing with grief as I was so busy helping support her that I would never have had time to read during the sad days.

  10. Darcy
    August 29, 2017 at 12:19 am

    Bird box, oh Bird Box. The most suspenseful book I've ever read. I can only imagine how good it would be in audio format. Glad to see it on this list!

  11. Carolyn
    August 28, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I love listening to good narrators. They can really bring life to a book. Two of my favorite narrators are Tim Gerard Reynolds and Cassandra Campbell. A great book can be ruined by a poor narrator.

    Although I'm a fantasy and sci-fi junkie, I enjoyed Pulitzer Prize winner "Team of Rivals," a 41.5 hour book, but never boring. (I tend toward the longer books.) On the shorter side, I like books with short stories or mysteries. You can get quite a few stories in 5-6 hours. Try "The Regatta Mystery and other Stories" by Agatha Christie. You get 9 short mysteries from various sleuths, including one you may not be familiar with as well as those you know well, all in 4.75 hours.

    My favorite sci-fi/fantasy writers on audiobook are Michael J. Sullivan and Brandon Sanderson. They tend to choose good readers and weave complex stories that you will enjoy listening to if you have time to settle in.

    • Dann Albright
      August 29, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      I have Team of Rivals sitting on my shelf, but I've been too intimidated to start it. :-) Maybe audiobook is the way to go! Thanks for the tip on narrators, too—I'll definitely make a point to check both Reynolds and Campbell out. Do you have a favorite by both of those two?

  12. Rick St Jean
    August 28, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    You missed 'the Martian' by far the best book I have listened to. Better than the book and movie.

  13. Gerry
    August 28, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I love audiobooks, so I might have a different perspective. I buy them by the pound: you get a lot more for your money with the gigantic books. I don't know why you would be put off by length, but if it's short stories you want, how about the collected stories of Arthur C. Clarke (51 hours) or Stephen Fry reading all of the original Sherlock Holmes stories (62 hours)? My personal favorites are "Cryptonomicon" and "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson and (43 and 32 hours) and "The Dervish House" by Ian McDonald (21 hours). All for the same price, where I get them, as the shorter ones mentioned in the article.

    • Dann Albright
      August 29, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      I think some people are intimidated by the idea of committing a full work week of time to a book, which is why I tried to go with shorter ones. Also, just from a personal perspective, I usually listen to audiobooks on road trips, and I haven't taken many 40-hour road trips! The collected works of Arthur C. Clarke sounds like a great options, though—I might have to check that out.

  14. SP
    August 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    I really enjoyed listening to Asif Mandvi's narration of Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. That has been my favorite so far.