Do you feel like you never have enough time to read? You’d like to read more, but it can be hard to find the time between work, school, and all the other things you have to do.
This is why audiobooks are awesome. With audiobooks, you can read during times when you’d never be able to look at a print book. You can listen at the gym, walking to class, during your commute, or even while doing work that doesn’t require a lot of focus.
However, the world of audiobooks is vast, and your time is limited. How are you supposed to decide what to read?
Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve put together a list of the best audiobooks across a variety of genres. Whether you like history, fantasy, classic literature, or anything in between, there’s a pick for you on this list.
Before we get to the list, I want to let you know that you can get two audiobooks for free when you sign up for a free trial of Audible.
Audible is our favorite place to get high-quality, professionally produced audiobooks. Plus, it’s super easy to use and will let you listen to audiobooks across all of your devices. Even if you decide to cancel your Audible subscription before your trial ends, you’ll still have lifetime access to the two audiobooks you choose.
But which audiobooks should you choose? The list below will help you decide.
Reality is cool and all, but sometimes you need to escape into a world with dragons, wizards, giants, and direwolves. These books will provide all of that and more.
A Song of Ice and Fire (aka the Game of Thrones books)
Author: George R. R. Martin
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Now that the HBO series has come to an end, why not check out the books that inspired the TV show? This is a massive (still unfinished) series, so there’s plenty here to keep you entertained on a long road trip:
Author: Susanna Clarke
Narrator: Simon Prebble
If you like magic and history, then this will be right up your alley. The book tells the story of two magicians in early 19th century England, both of whom have vastly different views on how to use their powers (and the conflict that results).
According to Thomas, “Just listen to the preview. The narrator’s voice is delightful.”
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Narrator: Nick Podehl
Even if you’re not a big fan of fantasy, you should read this book; it transcends the genre. The Name of the Wind tells the riveting tale of Kvothe, an orphan who works his way into the most prestigious magical university in the world. The story is one of the most engaging I’ve heard in quite a while.
His Dark Materials Trilogy
Author: Philip Pullman
Narrator: Philip Pullman + a full cast
I loved this series as a kid. It tells an epic coming of age story set across parallel universes with sentient animals, witches, and angels. It’s a modern fantasy classic for a reason, and these recordings by a full cast are excellent:
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Narrator: Rob Inglis
You’ve probably seen the movies, but have you read the books that started it all? The full trilogy is far more complex and epic than the movies could ever capture; do yourself a favor and give it a listen, then re-watch the movies with a new appreciation:
We’re all a bunch of geeks here at CIG, so we had to include our favorite sci-fi picks. Some of these are old classics we loved as kids, while others are part of the newest generation of sci-fi. All of them will keep you entertained for hours.
Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: R. C. Bray
If you thought the movie was crazy, then buckle up. The Martian tells the (surprisingly scientifically accurate) story of a man’s solitary survival on Mars (and the team that sets out to rescue him).
I listened to this on the drive from Memphis to New Orleans, and I wanted the drive to be longer so I could finish the book.
Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: Rosario Dawson
A heist story set on the moon? What could possibly go wrong? This is the story that Andy Weir tells in Artemis, which imagines what life is like in the first city on the moon.
And the performance? Here’s how Thomas put it: “This is one where I contend that the audiobook version is the ESSENTIAL version. Rosario Dawson just nails it.”
Author: Douglas Adams
Narrator: Stephen Fry
This classic from Douglas Adams tells the hilarious story of two friends’ journey through space and the absurd characters they meet on the way. And with Stephen Fry as a narrator, you know it’s going to be a fun listen.
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Narrator: Mel Hudson
The Earth is dying, and the few humans left alive have journeyed to the stars in search of a new home. They find a terraformed planet that seems perfect for human life, but they soon learn they’re not alone.
Who will survive to claim this new Earth? You’ll just have to give the book a listen and find out.
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Jonathan Davis
Hiro Protagonist may be a pizza delivery guy by day, but when he steps into the VR Metaverse, he’s a warrior prince. Now, he must hunt down and eradicate the computer virus that threatens to destroy the online world.
While the portrayal of virtual reality in Snow Crash seem less like sci-fi today than when the novel was first published in 1992, the story is still sure to thrill you.
Author: Ernest Cline
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
For our final sci-fi pick, we have another novel that examines futuristic virtual reality (do you see a theme here?). In a dystopian future, people escape from the real world inside the OASIS, a gigantic virtual world that lets you be anyone you want.
Come along as Wade Watts searches the OASIS for fame and fortune beyond imagine (even as sinister forces conspire to beat him to it).
Ah, business, business, business. It may not sound exciting, but the books below will show you just how wild it can be. Whether you’re looking to start a business or just learn more about some of the world’s most remarkable companies, there’s a book for you below.
Author: John Carreyrou
Narrator: Will Damron
What if you had a technology that could revolutionize medicine and change the world? And let’s say you convinced a bunch of people to invest in this technology, to the point that people saw you as the next Steve Jobs? Sounds great, right?
The only problem is, your technology doesn’t work, and your company is the biggest fraud since Enron. This book examines the remarkable story of just such a company, and the chaos that ensued during its downfall.
Author: Gary Vaynerchuck
Narrators: Gary Vaynerchuck, Rich Roll, Amy Schmittauer
Love him or hate him, Gary Vaynerchuck (popularly known as “Gary Vee”) is a major force in the world of online business.
In Crushing It!, he shows how anyone can use social media to build a powerful personal brand. Gary is a dynamic speaker, making the audiobook the best way to get the full experience. He even adds extra tidbits and asides that you won’t find in the print book.
Author: Tony Hsieh
Narrator: Tony Hsieh
Part-memoir, part-business book, Delivering Happiness tells the story of how Tony Hsieh founded Zappos, the online shoe store that changed the way people shop for clothes.
Starting from the company’s origins during Tony’s time in college and culminating in Amazon’s purchase of Zappos, this book shows just how powerful great customer service can be (no matter what you sell).
Author: Timothy Ferriss
Narrator: Ray Porter
This book changed my life. I read it during my sophomore year of college, and it inspired me to follow an entirely different career (I originally wanted to be a college English professor).
The 4-Hour Workweek challenges all of your assumptions about work. Author Tim Ferriss describes how he started a business that allowed him to live and work anywhere in the world (and how you can do the same).
Don’t expect this book to turn you into a millionaire, but do expect to come away with loads of inspiration and lots of unconventional ideas.
Author: Josh Kaufman
Narrator: Josh Kaufman
Almost everyone is going to work in (or maybe even run) a business, so it’s a good idea to understand the basics of how business works. In The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman provides a concise, high-level view of essential concepts such as sales, marketing, negotiation, and entrepreneurship.
Whether you want to start your own business or just impress your boss by being able to speak the “business lingo,” you should read this book.
If you’ve only learned about science through classes in school, you’ve no idea how cool it can be once you start to explore it on your own.
Whether you’re curious about how to improve your memory or the (disturbing) origins of the polio vaccine and gene mapping, there’s a book here for you.
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Narrators: Cassandra Campbell, Bahni Turpin
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of how scientists took a woman’s cells without her knowledge or consent, froze them, and kept them alive for decades.
Researchers from around the world have used these cells to create new biotechnology and pioneer advances in medicine. Yet they never compensated her family for the use of her cells.
The book tells the amazing, disturbing story behind all of this, as well as the troubling history of scientific experimentation on African Americans and the birth of bioethics.
Author: James Gleick
Narrator: Rob Shapiro
“Information theory” sounds like a recipe for death by boredom, but it’s actually quite fascinating. With more information in the world than ever, this book by James Gleick is an essential read.
In it, you’ll learn about the people who created the technology that laid the groundwork for the modern digital world, as well as some pretty mind-bending concepts from computer science and, yes, information theory.
Author: Ed Yong
Narrator: Charlie Anson
The world is a lot bigger than you think, and not in the way you’d imagine. I Contain Multitudes takes you on a journey through the world of microbes and bacteria.
As you’ll learn, these microscopic organisms do a lot more than cause illness; in fact, many of them are essential for life as we know it. You’ll come away with a new appreciation for the vastness of the life around and within you.
Author: Michio Kaku
Narrator: Feodor Chin
In the year 2ooo, the idea of having a miniature computer/music player/phone/taxi-summoning machine in your pocket would have sounded like sci-fi. Yet today, we take such technology for granted. If technology has already changed that much in the past 20 or so years, what will it look like in another 80?
This is the question that Michio Kaku seeks to answer in Physics of the Future. The book is based on interviews with over 300 of the world’s top scientists, all of whom are creating the future even as we speak.
Some of the technologies in the book sound impossible (floating cars and antimatter rockets?), but Kaku makes a compelling, science-backed argument for how much of this seeming sci-fi could be commonplace in the not-so-distant future.
Author: Joshua Foer
Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
With smartphones, digital calendars, and productivity software, we don’t have to rely on our memories as much as we used to. While this can help free up our minds for other tasks, having a great memory is still a huge asset (or at least a fun way to impress your friends).
In Moonwalking with Einstein, journalist Joshua Foer recounts his journey from forgetful regular guy to U.S. Memory Champion. He interviews some of the world’s greatest memorizers, describing techniques that anyone can use to remember more of what matters.
History is way more than just a bunch of dates and names. In fact, it’s a crucial tool for learning about the events and people that led to the world in which we currently live. It’s also an opportunity to learn from the wisdom (and mistakes) of the past.
Here are a few of our favorite (non-boring) audiobooks for learning about history.
Author: Bill Bryson
Narrator: Richard Matthews
I could easily have put this book in the “Science” section, as much of this book concerns natural history. It’s an ambitious attempt to summarize (in around 18 hours) the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the rise of human civilization.
It will show you just how little we actually know about the past, as well of some of the striking things that we do know.
Author: Robert Garland, The Great Courses
Narrator: Robert Garland
This book is a bit different, as it’s not even a “book” per se. Rather, it’s an audio version of 48 lectures that explore what life was like in the ancient world for the average person, the undramatic people whose names never made the history books.
After all, most people in the ancient world were not great generals like Julius Caesar or great philosophers like Socrates. They were just regular folks, and these lectures bring their story to life.
Author: Erik Larson
Narrator: Scott Brick
The Devil in the White City tells a gripping parallel tale of two men.
On the one hand, there’s the story of architect Daniel H. Burnham and his quest to build The White City, a massive recreational area for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
On the other hand, there’s the story of Dr. Henry H. Holmes, a psychotic serial killer who constructed a massive torture chamber and crematorium for his victims.
How do these two stories intersect? You’ll just have to give the book a listen to find out.
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Narrator: Derek Perkins
As far as we know, humans are the only organisms in the universe that are currently studying themselves. Yet despite all this study, so much of the past remains a mystery. Where did we come from, and how did that shape who we are today?
These are the sorts of questions that Harari explores in Sapiens. The book blends history, evolutionary biology, and even a bit of philosophy to attempt to make sense of how humans went from just another organism to the dominant force on Earth.
Author: Stephen E. Ambrose
Narrator: Barrett Whitener
The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of those things that you learned a bit about in history class but probably don’t know much about beyond the basics. But let me tell you, this expedition was crazy!
As Ambrose illustrates in his book, setting off into the uncharted West in the early 1800s would be equivalent to exploring another planet today (but without tools like satellites and computers). It’s a real-life adventure story that you don’t want to miss.
Odds are, you had to read one (or more) of the books below when you were in middle or high school. And I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that these books are boring or irrelevant to your life.
However, I invite you to listen to any of these excellent audio versions and reconsider your opinion. You might just find that these books are more exciting than you remember.
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Narrator: Stephen Fry
You may have seen Sherlock, or the 2009 movie with Robert Downey, Jr., or perhaps even the classic 80’s TV series with Jeremy Brett. But even if you’ve watched all of those adaptations, nothing beats the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.
If you want to explore the books that more or less invented the detective story, you need to give these a listen. And this recording from Stephen Fry offers an amazing deal. You get all (~63 hours) of Sherlock Holmes for just one Audible credit.
Author: Toni Morrison
Narrator: Toni Morrison
I read this book twice — first during my senior of high school, and again during my senior year of college. It’s the remarkable, complex story of Sethe, a freed slave who escapes to Ohio only to find herself haunted by the (very literal) ghosts of her past.
Morrison is one of the giants of contemporary literature, and Beloved is a staple of AP and college literature courses for a reason. Listening to Morrison herself read it is also quite the experience.
Author: Mark Twain
Narrator: Nick Offerman
This is one of those “classic” books that you probably read in high school but may not have cared for. I get it — Tom Sawyer’s world is a far cry from our own.
Or wait, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s actually a timeless story of American adventure and childhood fun.
All I know is that Nick Offerman’s reading brings this book to life in a way I never experienced when I read it in school. He captures the humor and mischief of Twain’s story like no one else. Prepare to laugh.
Authors: Homer, Rober Fitzgerald (translator)
Narrator: Dan Stevens
The Odyssey is a very ancient, very influential story of a great journey. Countless works of literature are based on it, and it’s quite a bit more exciting than you might imagine (some of the characters and scenes make most fantasy books seem tame).
I recommend this version in particular because Robert Fitzgerald is a master translator of ancient Greek and Roman literature. Plus, you get to hear Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) read it.
Author: Mary Shelley
Narrator: Dan Stevens
It inspired far too many movies to count, but the original story of Frankenstein is far more profound than most film adaptations show.
It’s a tale of existential dread and an exploration of the ethics of creating life in a laboratory. And Dan Stevens brings a drama to it that’s just perfect.
Here at College Info Geek, one of our main focuses is to help you become the best possible version of yourself. So you better believe we have some thoughts when it comes to books on self-improvement.
Below are some of our favorite books for making yourself an even more awesome person.
Author: Thomas Frank
Narrator: Thomas Frank
Let’s start with some good old-fashioned, shameless self-promotion. 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades will teach you how to dominate your classes and get, well, awesome grades.
Author: Greg McKeown
Narrator: Greg McKeown
What if the key to accomplishing more is actually doing less? This is the central idea of Essentialism, a book that will help you determine what really matters and eliminate everything that does not.
Whereas most productivity books focus on how to do more in less time, Essentialism will challenge you to do less (of the things that aren’t essential).
Author: Ray Dalio
Narrators: Ray Dalio, Jeremy Bobb
Ray Dalio is a billionaire entrepreneur and hedge fund manager. But this isn’t a book about investing. Instead, it’s an overview of the principles that have guided Ray Dalio’s life and allowed him to forge an unconventional path to success.
In the book, you’ll learn tools that you can use to make better decisions, deal with challenges, and work more effectively in teams. It’s worth a read whether you’re still in college or have decades of management experience.
Author: Cal Newport
Narrator: Jeff Bottoms
Do you ever find yourself with 18 bajillion tabs open, plus iMessage, plus Spotify, plus that paper you’re supposed to be writing? The increased connectivity of the internet was supposed to make people (and organizations) more productive. But as Cal Newport argues in Deep Work, the internet has actually been detrimental to productivity.
Instead, Newport argues, we need to disconnect and spend long periods of uninterrupted time doing “deep work.” This is the work that requires significant focus and mental effort, and it’s also the work that drives innovation and creates massive value.
Deep Work has been very influential for much of our work here at College Info Geek, and we highly recommend you give it a listen. If you want an overview of some of the book’s key ideas, check out Thomas’s interview with Cal Newport.
Author: Charles Duhigg
Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
Did you know that between 40% to 45% of the things we do each day are habits? These automatic behaviors govern more of your life than you probably imagine, so understanding how habits work is crucial if you want to improve yourself.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores how habits work, as well as how to change bad habits and form good ones. This should basically be required reading for anyone with a brain.
While reading history books is a great way to get a broader view of a particular time period or place, biographies and memoirs offer a way to get a more specific, personal experience.
Whether you’re wondering what life is like in a professional kitchen or what it was like to co-found Apple, the books below will offer you a look.
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Narrator: Anthony Bourdain
You probably know Anthony Bourdain from shows like Parts Unknown and No Reservations. But before he was a TV star, Bourdain was a chef and writer. Kitchen Confidential tells the story of Bourdain’s many adventures in the kitchen and around the world.
Plus, Bourdain’s narration is exceptional, so much so that Thomas called this “my favorite audiobook.”
Author: Oliver Sacks
Narrator: Dan Woren
I devoured this book on a trip to Minneapolis, and it remains one of my current favorites. Oliver Sacks was a neuropsychologist, best-known for his case histories of patients with unusual mental illnesses and disorders.
But before any of that, Sacks lived a fascinating life. His memoir tells the story of growing up in England during WWII, traveling to the United States for medical school, his struggles with amphetamine addiction, and how he came to terms with his sexuality. The writing is brilliant, funny, and poignant.
Author: Ron Chernow
Narrator: Scott Brick
You’ve sung along to Hamilton! every morning in the shower, but do you know the true story that inspired the Broadway musical?
Ron Chernow’s biography not only explores who Hamilton was as a person and politician, but also what life was like in early, turbulent America. Come for the drama; stay for the fascinating historical info.
Author: Walter Isaacson
Narrator: Dylan Baker
You may think you know the story of Steve Jobs, but this book will show you how much you don’t know. It’s a rigorous, detailed biography based on both extensive interviews with Steve Jobs and the people who knew him.
Isaacson covers everything from Jobs’ relentless innovation to his troubled personal life, pulling no punches. The result is a complex, nuanced portrait of the man who helped create the digital world as we know it.
Author: Kari Byron
Narrator: Kari Byron
Crash Test Girl is the memoir of Kari Byron (one of the original hosts of MythBusters). But she wasn’t always a successful television personality and science educator. She started as a broke artist working three jobs, in fact.
So come along with Kari as she shares behind-the-scenes stories from her MythBusters days, as well as how you can use the scientific method to solve the everyday issues in your life.
Author: Richard Feynman
Narrator: Raymond Todd
Richard Feynman is the physics teacher everyone wishes they had. But he was also a Nobel prize winner, avid bongo player, and all-around whacky character.
In his memoir, Feynman describes the fascinating life he lived, as well as his thoughts on science and science education. I laughed all the way through it, while also coming away with a better understanding of what it’s like to be a physicist.
I hope you found a few audiobooks on the list above to take on your next commute, road trip, or visit to the gym.
And don’t forget, you can get two audiobooks for free when you sign up for an Audible trial.
Image Credits: headphones