If you’re thinking of getting into audiobooks, you already know that they’re not cheap. An Audible subscription costs $14.95 per month, and you only get one free book every 30 days. Thankfully, if you’re still not sure if audiobooks are right for you, you can sign up for a 30-day Audible trial — and get two free audiobooks to try before you buy.
You can pick your two free audiobooks from Audible’s list of bestsellers or the New York Times bestsellers list. Or you can heed our recommendations of 10 popular books on Audible, all of which are available to listen to for free during your Audible trial.
1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Narrated by the late Carrie Fisher herself, The Princess Diarist is a fascinating and intimate look behind-the-scenes on the set of Star Wars. Even if you have a preference for reading the written word, hearing Fisher narrate her memoir adds an added level of intimacy and honesty to the book.
Based on the diaries she kept while filming Star Wars in 1977, it offers a raw look into what it’s like to be a woman in a boy’s club. Billie Lourd steps in as a narrator, reading the passages that are in the voice of a young Carrie Fisher.
If you’re interested in more about and by Carrie Fisher, you should also listen to her autobiography, Wishful Drinking. Listen to learn what it was like to grow up the daughter of a Hollywood icon — Debbie Reynolds — and her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. You could also opt for an abridged version in her stage production of her autobiography of the same title. It’s currently available to watch on HBO.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
If you’re in the mood for a classic, there are several versions of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre available on Audible. We’d recommend the one narrated by Thandi Newton. Her voice lends itself to this coming of age story. And she brings to life the voices of a young and older Jane. Newton narrates Jane’s life from childhood as an orphan to the complexities of a relationship with her employer, Mr. Rochester. Jane Eyre is the ultimate story of pushing against the restrictive confines of what it means to be a woman in 19th century England.
The story itself needs no introduction, but Newton’s performance brings each of the characters to life in a striking way. Each character’s tone and cadence is unique, and the narration is a pleasure to listen to. This version of Jane Eyre is a must-listen for literary buffs and those just beginning to learn about the classics.
Listen to chapter one below:
This brief Audible interview also sees Newton giving some insight on the pleasures of being read to:
3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling needs no introduction. This is a companion book to the Harry Potter series — one that any true Potter fan will want to own. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is pegged as a textbook that Harry Potter himself read while at Hogwarts. Now all Potterheads can find out all there is to know about the magical creatures of Harry Potter’s world.
This book lends itself to the printed format with handwritten notes in the margins and illustrations. That said, if you want to take Fantastic Beasts along with you on your commute, this is a great place to start.
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
For a bit of self-improvement magic, Marie Kondo’s bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a great listen. After about five hours, you will have all of Kondo’s advice on how to declutter your home for a more zen living environment.
Kondo’s advice (which isn’t for everyone) comes down to working through your house by type of possession rather than room, and finding the items you no longer need. Some people might find the method a little odd: hold the item to sense if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, get rid of it — give it away or throw it out.
The book is narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, whose body of work runs the gamut from Disney’s Inside Out to Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. Zeller has been praised for capturing Kondo’s voice “so perfectly that it’s as if the Japanese de-cluttering guru is speaking in person.”
5. It by Stephen King
Stephen King’s It is available on Audible in English and French. With two English copies to choose from, both narrated by Steven Weber, you should choose the Hodder & Stoughton version if you can, as reviews show complaints about the editing of the Simon & Schuster version.
King’s masterpiece is just as scary today as it was when it was released 30 years ago, as the eponymous monster takes on the form of a clown to terrorize the children of the novel. The book is definitely not for the faint of heart. Weber’s narration has earned itself high praise for perfect line delivery throughout.
6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
For another classic, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina also makes for a great listen. The recommended version, released in 2016, is narrated by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal as she brings over 800 pages to life in 35 hours.
With subtle changes in tone of voice, the actress is able to distinguish between the various characters, in a narration that does Tolstoy justice. If you found yourself unable to read the book, intimidated by its length, the audiobook may be the perfect alternative.
Speaking about the experience of narrating the novel, Gyllenhaal says “Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books. But when I agreed to read it for Audible, I had no idea how much work it would be, how intense it would be, and how deeply I would fall in love with it.”
7. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
If you’re going to listen to the stories of Sherlock Holmes written by Arthur Conan Doyle, there’s only one way you’re going to want to hear them: narrated by British author Stephen Fry.
A childhood fan of Holmes himself, Fry not only brings the stories to life beautifully, he has also recorded a series of exclusive personal introductions for each title in the collection. Stories included in the collection are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear, and His Last Bow.
8. Elon Musk: Tesla, Space X and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
If you’re in the mood for something biographical, Ashlee Vance’s authorized biography gives a great deal of insight into the entrepreneur behind PayPal, but now better known for his futuristic car company, Tesla.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is a biography, but Vance inserts himself in the story in a way that gives insight into Musk’s personality through their interactions.
The biography reveals a childhood where Musk was the target of bullying in his hometown of Pretoria, South Africa, gives insight into his education at the University of Pennsylvania (and the innovative ways he found to pay his tuition). It goes on to his journey founding PayPal (which he later sold for $1.5 billion), and of course, the founding of Tesla.
9. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Last but not least, the audiobook of Jodi Picoult’s popular novel Small Great Things is a great place to start if you’re not sure about audiobooks. The story is told from the perspective of three different characters, and the audiobook is narrated by three different actors.
Ruth is an African-American delivery nurse who finds herself told she can’t treat a baby born to a white supremacist family. When the baby goes into cardiac arrest, she treats it, going against the wishes of the family, but tragically, the baby dies. Turk is the white supremacist father who accuses Ruth of murder and she is subsequently charged. Kennedy is the white public defender who takes on Ruth’s case.
In her author’s note, Picoult also gives some fascinating insight into the challenge of being a white author writing about racism. And details how the story was inspired by the headlines of a story in Flint, Michigan.
10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
It’s hard to say which Neil Gaiman novel you should listen to as an audiobook. There are a lot to choose from on Audible and they’re all narrated by the author himself. One of the most recommended titles by Gaiman fans for newbies is his very first novel: Neverwhere.
Neverwhere is one of NPR’s top 100 science fiction and fantasy books of all time, and for good reason. It tells the story of Richard Mayhew who, after stopping on the streets of London to help a young woman who is bleeding, finds himself drawn into a fantastical world. His interaction with the woman leads to Richard becoming invisible, as he enters into a bizarre journey into the world of London Below to recover his life as he knew it.
If you enjoy listening to books on Audible narrated by their authors please check out our previous article on the subject.
More Tips and Tricks
Once you’ve downloaded your two free books, you can also use a few more tips and tricks to get discounted or free audiobooks. You can also follow Audible on Twitter for daily deals which see audiobooks discounted by up to 85 percent.
— Audible (@audible_com) May 22, 2017
There is also a selection of books available for free on Audible, but don’t expect to find any popular bestsellers on that list. And it’s not particularly easy to find free books. If you want to ditch Audible altogether, your local library may offer free audiobooks through OverDrive.
Do you prefer to listen to audiobooks or to read books? Do you find that audiobooks interfere with the imaginative world you create in your mind while reading? Which books would you add to this list? Please let us know in the comments below!