You are on an excruciatingly long trip and you are probably too tired to flip your tablet to watch a movie. Reading a book while traveling also strains your eyes. In this case, you might consider listening to an audiobook, which is basically the same as a typical hardbound one, except its contents are explored by vocal narration. Perhaps an advantage brought by audio books is the narrator, who can accentuate the emotions he intended to produce over a scene. He can also produce the same visual effects a typical book produces, by playing his intonations while emphasizing words. Sound effects also elevate your visual imagery when a story is being read. Lastly, add the storytelling techniques of the narrator and you will be taken on a trip with someone telling you interesting stories.
Most of the entries in this list are classics repackaged as audio books, with diversified themes, from romance to devastating autobiographies. Having an audiobook is now easy thanks to internet and this article is intended to guide a first time listener.
10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Perhaps the most mainstream book in this list, the Harry Potter series, is now also available in audio books format. For those who remain unfamiliar with the series, Harry Potter is a wizard whose parents were killed by Lord Voldemort, when he was an infant. The said villain also intended to kill him, but ended up unsuccessful, Harry remaining alive, only with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. When he reached 11, he learned that he was a wizard and enrolled the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He met Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger and together they started to unveil mysteries surrounding their school. The Goblet of Fire revolves around Harry Potter’s life as a fourth year student in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and his forced participation in the very mysterious Triwizard Tournament. While many of us have already read this book or seen the movie, it is really refreshing to hear the retelling of events that unfold in the competition and its subsequent tragic outcome. What also adds interest is that this particular installment is the only one from the Harry Potter series which got a Hugo Award for science fiction or fantasy. The narrator, Stephen Fry, also deserves recognition for lending his talent in storytelling and enchanting us for 20 hours and 55 minutes. This audiobook is currently available as a download for $29.29.
9. Me Before You
For romance aficionados, Me Before You starts quite a bit ordinary, mediocre even, until it shows off a twist that is romantic and heartbreaking at the same time. It was written by Jojo Moyes and was published in 2012 in the United Kingdom. It features two totally different characters, Will and Louisa, who met because of former’s need of someone to take care of his paralyzed state and latter’s desperate search for a job. The book portrayed Will at the limelight of his life, until he suffered an unfortunate accident which left him in a wheelchair. Louisa, on the other hand, is deemed an underachiever, because of her intellectually apt sister who always overshadows her. While readers normally expect that the two will be together, what happened in between, as well as the ending, will leave them both happy and devastated. Added as a silver lining is the presence of a male and a female narrator to retell the points of view of Will and Louisa. It is currently the best-selling audio book on Amazon and is also one of the best-selling books on the said site. Me Before You runs for 14 hours and 40 minutes and can be downloaded for $22.93.
8. Me Talk Pretty One Day
A wild departure from heavy hitting entries in this list, Me Talk Pretty One Day features the autobiography of American humorist David Sedaris. This audiobook is a collection of essays about his life, divided into two parts, namely One and Deux. The first part depicts his childhood and his apparent life in New York while he was performing odd jobs. On the other hand, the second part paints his efforts to live in France, despite not learning the French language and his exasperations while he tried to study it. Perhaps the highlight of this audiobook is the retelling of his life in Paris and the hilarious consequences of language barriers. Sedaris also narrated the essays, so expect Me Talk Pretty One Day to transport you through his colorful and funny descriptions of his life. His eloquent but crazy sense of humor will surely bring some good laughs. An abridged version of the audio book runs for about 5 hours and 51 minutes and is also available for download at $19.27.
7. The Ocean at The End of the Lane
A multi-awarded novel by Neil Gaiman, this book explores the unnamed protagonist’s search for self identity and the recollection of his lost childhood in his hometown. The story began when he returned from his hometown for a funeral and began recalling his rather bitter past as a child. Same as other Neil Gaiman works, it mixes science fiction and plain fantasy, which produces a whimsical reading experience. Some of the terms Gaiman uses might not be comprehensible at first, but his skills in storytelling takes the listener in the world he set up. Beyond its grand themes, The Ocean at The End of the Lane is also a masterwork taking on what makes us human and brings us a peek on how dark our nature can be. This book is available for download at $22.01.
6. A Short History of Nearly Everything
Scientific phenomena are sometimes joked as being really esoteric, because some of their terms only cater for those who are dedicated to the subject matter. In fact, the general public will not bother to read chemical names akin to tongue twisters or formulas found in quantum physics. That is why A Short History of Nearly Everything became a hit when it was released, thanks to Bill Bryson’s effort to explain science using the most accessible terms. It was so loved by the general public that it became one of the bestselling science books in 2005 in the United Kingdom, with over 300,000 copies sold. Bryson was already a popular travel book writer and this was his first deviation from his usual genre. Here, he explained scientific terms in geology and other sciences, using a layperson’s point of view, much to the enjoyment of the readers. He also narrated some quirks done by scientists behind laboratory experiments, in a humorous manner. A Short History was also met with positive reviews, commending its ability to simplify scientific explanations while retaining its entertainment value. Narrated by William Roberts, it runs for 6 hours as an abridged version and is available for download for $20.68.
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mystery novels are often good reads, because of their ability to grab the reader’s attention and immerse him with the intricate set ups and red herrings. Mostly, these are catered to the adult demographic due to a complex plot and portrayals of violence. That is why The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time became a critical darling and a commercial hit, as it was able to maintain its genre while being available for all ages. The book was able to garner several awards, as a proof of its outstanding contents. It was written in 2003 by Mark Haddon. The story was set in the first person perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year old teen who is a math genius with some behavioral problems. It all started when he discovered their neighbor’s dog was murdered using a garden fork. When the police arrived and interrogated him, his difficulties in interacting with other people caused him to punch an officer. From there, he investigated the circumstances around the dog’s death, which caused him to interact with people he never talked to before. This also resulted in him learning vital facts about his life that led him to embark a long journey. The climax and the ending will surely leave you enthralled, due to the author’s ability to insert himself in the shoe of a mentally challenged teenager. In case you want to experience the story in audiobook format, it was narrated by Ben Tibber and it runs for 6 hours and 3 minutes. The audiobook is available for download for $26.30.
4. Brighton Rock
The best exploration of an ideology is through presentation, without whitewashing or vilifying it. Brighton Rock is a murder thriller written by Graham Greene and is set in United States of America in 1930s. The novel focuses on the life of Pinkie Brown, who is a teenage sociopath and a gang leader, despite his young age of 17. Charles Hale betrayed Brown’s gang by writing an article in a newspaper about their responsibility over a slot machine racket. Terrified for his life after being threatened by Pinkie, Hale met Ida twice before being subsequently murdered. The story went darker the moment Pinkie tried to remove any sort of evidence of his deed. Ida, who has a strong resolve, decided to catch him because she thinks it is the right thing to do. What’s even more amazing in this novelette is its depiction of moral greyness, in a sense that Pinkie is a Catholic and Ida is non-religious but their morality couldn’t be any more different. This sinister tale was narrated by Samuel West, runs for 9 hours and 10 minutes and can be downloaded $23.44.
3. The Examined Life
Psychology often produces fascinating explanations of human behavior, with equally enchanting tales from which psychologists draw their conclusions. While psychoanalysis as a means to fix personality has been superseded with shorter methods, it still thrives as a private practice. The Examined Life is written by Stephen Grosz and it relates his encounters, from a 25 years period, with his patients dealing with psychological problems. Every case entails stories from real persons, which were packaged as parables, and his explanations mostly avoid jargons used in his field. At its bleakest, the book provides a compelling case as to why the reputation of psychoanalysis has deteriorated. It is composed of 22 accounts of Grosz’s patients. Hence, The Examined Life might feel like you are eavesdropping on a very private conversation between two persons. Rich in detail and emotionally engrossing, The Examined Life is narrated by Peter Marinker and runs for 5 hours and 20 minutes. It is available for download at $17.48.
2. Angela’s Ashes
Memoirs give you a peek on the life of the author, plus some nice little quirks which made them as they are right now. These are often personal in nature and the best ones are devoid of pretentiousness. Now, imagine a Pulitzer Prize winning book, narrated as an audio format by none other than the author himself! Angela’s Ashes is a critically acclaimed work, written and narrated by Frank McCourt, that was first published in 1996. The book recounts his life as an Irish immigrant in the Depression-era United States and in slum areas of Ireland. Its Pulitzer award is not just for show, as it depicts how hard the characters struggle just to meet their daily needs. Devastating images of McCourt’s family, literally finding things they might sell in the trashes, their apparent eviction from their already dilapidated home and other hardships are found in the book. Not all is bleak, however, as McCourt also incorporated some humorous encounters, which set a fairly balanced tone to this book. Coupled with his delivery that sounds like looking at a distant past, but still painting a vivid emotional and visual imagery, this is a must experience as an audiobook. It runs for 14 hours and 57 minutes and is available for $42. Meanwhile, an abridged version is also available for $9.76 and runs for 4 hours and 17 minutes.
1. Every Man Dies Alone
Sometimes, we want a haunting tale which leaves an impression that lasts for days. Add its historical value and you will get an entry that is not only emotionally rich, but also thematically strong. Every Man Dies Alone is a 1947 novel, written by Hans Fallada, considered to be the best German resistance novel of all time. It recounts a story of a working couple who became a part of the German Resistance in World War II. Unfortunately, they were subsequently discovered, stripped off of German citizenship, arrested and killed. Hans Falladas’ book is also one of first anti-Nazi writings which proliferated after World War II. The story started when an apolitical couple, named Otto and Elise Hampel, discovered their son was killed in France. This prompted them to conduct acts of civil disobedience against the German government. The Hampels wrote postcards which aimed to encourage people in overthrowing Nazi rulers. They continued reproducing leaflets and left those in apartment stairs and in mailboxes, despite the fact it was a capital offense punishable by death. Their stint continued for over a year, until they were caught and executed. Fallada wrote Every Man Dies Alone in 1946 in just 24 days and died a few weeks before it got published. While we might never see the actual postcards written by the couple back then, listening to their story is certainly spine chilling, courtesy of Simon Gray. The audiobook runs for 20 hours and 15 minutes and is currently available as Faber download at $ 38.49.
Have you tried listening to an audio book? What’s your experience? Voice your thoughts in the comment box!