34 Best Audiobooks in Every Category to Listen to This Year
No time to read? Keep up with the latest literature and nonfiction by listening to the best audiobooks while you're driving, cleaning the house, working out, or doing anything else!
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Find a new favorite audiobook
Whether reading is your new favorite pastime or you’ve always loved books, you’re in luck. Because when you read every day, chances are you’re doing more than just enjoying a good story: Reading is a workout for your brain that could lead to an improved IQ and vocabulary, as well as reduce your risk of dementia. But what if you don’t have the time to pick up an actual book? Choosing the best audiobooks is a great hands-free alternative you can enjoy just about anywhere.
Start your search for the best audiobooks by signing up for Audible’s free trial via your Amazon account. In addition to the best Audible books, there are plenty of other ways to listen to free audiobooks (legally) if you don’t want to commit to a subscription service. Regardless of your interests, schedule, or budget, there’s something for you, be it classic books, gripping nonfiction books, book series, or even some of the best books of all time. If you want to make listening to storytelling a family affair, you can also find the best family audiobooks and a ton of free audiobooks for kids.
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How we chose the best audiobooks
The audiobooks in our curated collection come from a variety of best-of lists, critically acclaimed titles, and award winners, mixed with some of our personal favorites. These selections include brilliant debuts from new authors, anticipated novels from your favorite writers, highly rated books, nonfiction written by experts in their fields, and a few tried-and-true classics. Our picks also reflect not just the book’s merit, but also the quality of the audio narration—you’ll recognize some celebrity voices here! Keep reading to find the best audiobooks in every category to start listening to today.
Looking for your next great book? Read four of today’s bestselling novels in the time it takes to read one with Reader’s Digest Select Editions. And be sure to follow the Select Editions page on Facebook!
Best fiction audiobook
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
In Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr’s newest novel, five characters all have one thing in common, in spite of spanning almost 600 years: their love for a long-lost and, at times, nonsensical story written by the ancient Greek author Antonius Diogenes. For them, this story has a massive impact and is alternately entertaining, consoling, motivating, even life-saving. One of the best fiction books of the year, Cloud Cuckoo Land immediately won over critics and readers alike. It was on the New York Times best-seller list for 11 weeks and earned a spot in AudioFile Magazine‘s Best Audiobooks of 2021. It has also been named a New York Times Notable Book, a Barack Obama Favorite, a National Book Award Finalist, and more.
Best nonfiction audiobook
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach
Can nature break the law? Popular science writer Mary Roach delves into the science behind human-animal conflict to answer just that in Fuzz. She tagged along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and “danger tree” faller blasters in attempts to uncover the best ways to solve or prevent conflicts between humans and wildlife. While talking about getting mugged by monkeys and taste-testing rat bait, she mixes plenty of her trademark humor with a wealth of scientific facts in her own narration, making it one of the funniest books to listen to as well.
Best thriller audiobook
Win by Harlan Coben
Fans of the Myron Bolitar series who already love the morally gray sidekick Windsor Horne Lockwood III are ecstatic that master of thriller books Harlan Coben has finally given Win his own set of spin-off novels. In this series starter, Win’s suitcase and a long-lost stolen painting belonging to his family are discovered in the penthouse apartment of a murder victim. Win has no idea how they ended up there, but his personal connection to the case leads him to take up his own investigation using his own fortune and unique ideas of justice. The audiobook is read by actor and frequent Coben narrator Steven Weber.
Best fantasy audiobook
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Whether you’re lover of fantasy books or have never before mingled with any high fae, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a must-read. In this novel, loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, readers will meet Feyre, a 19-year-old huntress whose skills are the only things keeping her family alive. But trouble comes to her cabin after she kills a wolf during one of her hunts—which wasn’t a wolf at all, but rather a shape-shifting faerie whose high lord comes and steals her away as retribution. She finds herself captive at the cursed Spring Court, ruled by the immortal and beautiful Tamlin. As Feyre adapts to his world, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion, and she’ll do anything she can to break the curse—or risk losing him forever.
Best sci-fi audiobook
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
This 1996 book, the debut novel of now-science-fiction-superstar Neil Gaiman, is one of NPR’s Top 100 fantasy and science-fiction books of all time. When a young man stops to help a girl on the streets of London, he inadvertently becomes invisible, losing his life as he knows it while getting pulled into the alternate, magical world of the London Below. This supernatural British tale is sure to captivate you while its read out loud by the author himself.
Best romance audiobook
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
They say that the books are always better, but if you’re already a fan of the Starz series, listening to the original audiobook will make you realize that the show is done pretty darn well. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to pack everything into a series of hour-long television episodes, so true Outlander fans will love having the gaps filled in and relationships further explored (not to mention even more steamy scenes involving Claire and her smoldering Scot, Jamie Fraser) by the unabridged romance novels in this series.
Best biography audiobook
Robin by Dave Itzkoff
When Robin Williams died in 2014, many of us felt like we lost a member of our own family. Author Dave Itzkoff combed through more than 100 original interviews with Williams’s family, friends, and colleagues, and relied on extensive archival research to write this comprehensive biography that delves into the life of the beloved comedian. Covering everything from Williams’s unparalleled talent to his struggles with addiction and depression, Robin paints a stunning portrait of the legend that is Robin Williams.
Best autobiography audiobook
In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
Brainwashing. Starvation. Human trafficking. Rats feasting on the bodies that line the streets. To say that life in North Korea is grim is an understatement. In one of the most gripping autobiographies you’ll ever read, Yeonmi Park details her life in North Korea and the harrowing details of fleeing with her mother at just 13 years old. In Order to Live candidly recounts what it was like to be sold by human traffickers, to make a second escape through a brutal desert, and to know that death is the best option should she be caught. This incredible story of one girl’s bravery, resilience, and desire for a better life will leave you reeling.
Best memoir audiobook
Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover’s memoir was named one of the best of 2018 by the Washington Post, the New York Public Library, TIME magazine, and countless others. If you haven’t read Educated yet, now is a great time to listen to actress Julia Whelan recount one of the most moving memoirs of overcoming some of life’s biggest obstacles, all in the name of getting an education.
Best true crime audiobook
Finding Tamika by Erika Alexander, Kevin Hart, Charlamagne Tha God, Ben Arnon, Rebkah Howard, David Person, and James T. Green
In 2004, 25-year-old Tamika Huston disappeared. Her case, like so many others involving people of color, received little to no media attention. Actress and narrator Erika Alexander teamed up with Kevin Hart, Charlamagne Tha God, and a team of other talented people to produce this true crime Audible original in hopes of changing a system in which missing Black girls have been largely ignored. In this powerful and important audiobook, readers will hear chilling details about Huston’s case along with eerie, beyond-the-grave commentary from Tamika herself. This is one of the best true crime books that’s only in audiobook form.
Best horror audiobook
Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
A screenwriter and director in addition to author, Chbosky is best known for his beloved novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In 2019, 20 years after that book’s release and infinite success, Chbosky penned one of the creepiest horror books in recent memory, about a seven-year-old boy who is sent on a terrifying mission by a “nice man” only he can hear. His encounters with the hissing lady, fanged deer, and an entire town gone mad make Imaginary Friend a book you definitely won’t want to listen to when the lights go out.
Best classic audiobook
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
If you’ve never read the classic dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged by controversial author Ayn Rand, now’s the time. See (or, rather, hear) what happens when one man sets out to show what would happen to the world if all the heroes of innovation and industry went on strike. This book will challenge everything you think you know about economics, government, and morality, and ultimately leave you questioning your own world views. It’s also one of the most notable books written by female authors.
Best coming-of-age audiobook
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This coming-of-age novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014—and if you haven’t had time to read it, try listening to it, because it’s also one of the best audiobooks in literary fiction. A haunting story that begins with a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a boy who survives along with the title painting, the acclaimed audiobook lets you take Donna Tartt’s crystalline prose and intricate storytelling on the go. Winner of Audie Awards for Solo Narration-Male and Literary Fiction, The Goldfinch is narrated by actor David Pittu.
Best beach read audiobook
Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
Is summer even summer without an Elin Hilderbrand book? In her novel Golden Girl, Nantucket author Vivian Howe is killed in a hit-and-run accident while out jogging. In the afterlife, Vivi is assigned to another woman, Martha, who allows her to watch over her loved ones for one last summer. She is also given three “nudges,” which she can use to help guide her three children as they begin to navigate life without her. But it’s hard for Vivi to find peace as she learns about the struggles her children have kept hidden from her and worries about one of her own hidden truths coming to light. Lying on a towel with your audiobooks playing is heavenly, so remember to line up your beach reads in advance!
Best audiobook for women
The Light of Days by Judy Batalion
Looking for stories about some of the bravest women to have ever lived? Look no further than this powerful and enlightening tale of the Jewish women who became resistance fighters during World War II. Their stories haven’t been told often, but thanks to The Light of Days, which was written by the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors and has already been optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture, their bravery will live on.
Best feminist audiobook
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Need some humorous empowerment during this weird time? Journalist, author, and narrator Caitlin Moran provides that in spades with one of the funniest feminist books in recent memory. How to Be a Woman is an exploration of how far women have come, how much further there is to go, and the seemingly endless “rules” for being a woman—and how to break them.
Best audiobook about racism
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas’s important debut novel, The Hate U Give, tackles racism, injustice, and activism and is now being taught in schools across the country. Starr Carter is a 16-year-old Black student from a poor neighborhood who attends a predominantly white prep school. Though she normally feels out of place in her neighborhood, Starr attends a party where she runs into her childhood best friend, Khalil Harris. The party is cut short when gunshots are fired during a gang fight, and Khalil offers to drive Starr home. On the drive home, Khalil is pulled over and searched by a white police officer. When Khalil opens the door to check on Starr, the officer opens fire. Khalil’s death becomes a national headline, as protesters take to the streets to demand justice while others are determined to paint Khalil as a trouble-making thug.
Best audiobook by a Black author
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The former First Lady sold out stadiums for her book tour when she rolled out this memoir at the end of 2018. If by chance you haven’t read (or listened to) it yet, now should be the time, as it’s one of the best books by Black authors. Michelle Obama narrates her own story, from growing up in Chicago to her time at Harvard Law School to her eight years as First Lady. Not to mention, it’s one of the best audiobooks you could listen to: Becoming won the 2020 Grammy for Best Spoken World Album. Is there anything she can’t do?!
Best LGBTQ+ audiobook
A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris
Let’s get snarled in every kind of traffic delay while we listen to these seriously funny diary entries written and read by the deliciously subversive David Sedaris, author of some of the best LGBTQ+ books. He shares his commentary on everything from people-watching to politics, with a generous helping of dirty and dirtier jokes. Funny woman Tracy Ullman joins Sedaris in narrating this intriguing and often hilarious collection of anecdotes and observations.
Best historical fiction audiobook
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Author Kristin Hannah has written some of the best historical fiction books of all time, and now she has one of the best audiobooks as well. Her latest novel, The Four Winds, takes you back to the Great Depression of the 1930s, in which Elsa Martinelli discovers the real meaning of love, family, and survival. There’s a reason this novel, which was released in February 2021, has been named a number one best seller by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the New York Times.
Best mystery audiobook
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
If you love mystery books, listen to this gripping historical entry set in 1945 Barcelona. When Daniel is 11 years old, his father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret library guarded by the city’s guild of rare-book dealers as a place for books forgotten by the world. Daniel falls in love with a book titled The Shadow of the Wind by an author named Julian Carax. When Daniel sets out to read other works by the long-dead Carax, he discovers that someone has been destroying them. But who? And why? This beautifully written story is filled with mystery, love, and a reminder of how powerful books can truly be.
Best audiobook by a Latinx author
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
It’s been almost 15 years since readers have been treated to a new novel for adults by Julia Alvarez, who’s written some of the most significant books by Latinx authors, but it was worth the wait. In Afterlife, Antonia Vega’s life is completely turned upside down when, after she retires from her job as an English professor, her husband dies, her sister disappears, and an undocumented, pregnant teen shows up at her doorstep. For once, Antonia is unable to find solace in the literature she loves. Rather than fall apart, she is determined to keep her husband’s memory alive while navigating her relationship with her sisters and just trying to figure out what, exactly, we owe one another.
Best dystopian audiobook
The Every by Dave Eggers
What would happen if the world’s largest and most influential Internet company merged with the world’s most dominant e-commerce site? Would it bring a sense of order to our chaotic world, or would it mean the final days of free will? Either way, life as we know it would be over. Welcome to The Every. Tucked away on its own island, this massive company is rife with surveillance, outlandish outfits, and the overall devolution of our species. Delaney Wells is determined to take it down from the inside with the help of her friend, Wes Makazian. Audie Award winner Dion Graham narrates this dystopian novel, which raises questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge. It could end up being one of the books that predicted the future.
Best banned audiobook
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sex, drugs, and a predetermined caste system rule in this disturbing yet relevant novel written in 1932. It’s set in the year 2450, when humans are grown in bottles and then conditioned to belong to one of the World State’s five castes. Mass media suppresses the possibility of any original thought. Art and religion no longer exist, and consumerism is king. If that sends chills up your spine, you’re not alone. Not only is Brave New World one of the most famously banned books, but it’s also one of the best science-fiction novels ever written, read here by acclaimed British actor Michael York.
Best children’s audiobook
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
No list of book recommendations would be complete without Harry Potter, one of the best children’s books ever written. Kids and adults of all ages will relish the magical world of the title character, an orphaned wizard who lives in a cupboard under the stairs in his cruel (non-magic) aunt and uncle’s house. That is, until mysterious letters begin to arrive from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In this timeless classic, Harry embarks on a fantastical adventure in which he learns the truth about his identity, what it means to belong, and the meaning of friendship. It’s also one of the best audiobooks ever, read by Grammy and Audie Award winner Jim Dale.
Best young adult audiobook
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
If you picked up these considerably sized fantasy young adult novels—The Golden Compass and its two sequels—in high school, maybe it’s time to do so again, or listen with your own teens. The author is the narrator, with every character played by a different actor, making the audiobook “like watching a movie in your head,” says one user. And that’s saying something, considering the books were also turned into an HBO series with James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Best audiobook by a blogger
Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson
In Broken (in the Best Possible Way), Jenny Lawson, aka The Blogess, narrates her experiences living with mental illness, and she does it in the most candid, humorous, and relatable way possible. Laugh out loud as Lawson shares ideas she’d like to pitch to Shark Tank, argues why she is more full-grown mammal than actual adult, and lets you know that it’s totally okay to eat floor onion rings because, at the end of the day, being who you are, quirks and all, is the best way to be.
Best nonfiction audiobook for kids
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
Although it’s not specifically written for kids, fans of all ages will enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at one of the most beloved funny family movies—and what better way to get youngsters interested in nonfiction? Westley himself, Cary Elwes, narrates As You Wish (which he also wrote) chronicling the making of the classic. He also snagged interviews with castmates including Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, and Carol Kane, plus director Rob Reiner. Perfect for listening to during a family road trip!
Best historical true crime audiobook
The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
If you think you know anything about Lizzie Borden, who went on trial for two grisly axe murders in 1892, think again. Author Cara Robertson dives into more than 20 years of research and newly unearthed evidence into the crime that enthralled the world. This story, hailed by Publisher’s Weekly‘s starred review as a “definitive account to date of one of America’s most notorious and enduring murder mysteries,” allows the listener to act as judge to the infamous Lizzie Borden.
Best self-help audiobook
Redefining Anxiety: What It Is, What It’s Not, and How to Get Your Life Back by Dr. John Delony
Scratch everything you thought you knew about how to deal with anxiety: This is one of the best self-help books to inspire and motivate you. Millions of people suffer from anxiety, and if you’re one of them, author and narrator Dr. John Delony does a great job letting you know that you’re not broken. In Redefining Anxiety, he breaks down our culture’s myths about anxiety, practical steps you can take to reclaim your life and calm what he refers to as your body’s alarm system, and long-term strategies for moving forward.
Best business audiobook
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
Want to make sure your business is in it for the long haul? Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game explains, in detail, the strategies that work to keep companies going strong for generations. A must-read for every business owner, executive, and leader.
Best finance audiobook
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Ready to stop living paycheck to paycheck? Finance guru Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover offers simple yet effective strategies, also known as the baby steps, that will allow you to take control of your finances and ultimately achieve financial freedom. Could it be one of the books that make you rich? Maybe!
Best audiobook about grief
Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler
You may already be familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, and depression. But did you know there’s a sixth stage? Grief expert David Kessler narrates Finding Meaning, which was inspired by the sudden death of his own son. He acknowledges that grief will never go away completely, but we can lessen the pain when we find meaning in our loss. Since no two losses are the same, this book is filled with a variety of stories, insights, and emotions that will help validate your own feelings and help you on your healing journey. It might be one of the sad books that make you cry—but that’s part of getting through loss.
Best supernatural audiobook
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo is the first novel by acclaimed short story writer George Saunders. He narrates the audiobook with the help of 166 others, including big names such as Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, and Don Cheadle, in this 2018 winner of the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year. It’s a groundbreaking work of historical fiction that explores a lesser-studied period of Honest Abe’s life during the first year of the Civil War, when Lincoln was also dealing with a far more personal tragedy: the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie. This experimental novel, which won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, takes place over the course of one evening in a space between life and death called the bardo, where ghosts contemplate their existence.