Earbud Confidential: 5 Captivating Audiobooks

by Kathleen
Published: Last Updated on

I’m an audiobook devotee, and here’s why:

  • Audiobooks are a multi-tasker’s dream.  Reading while driving, folding laundry, running, or doing dishes?  What more could a modern bibliophile ask for?
  • Also, the best listens are supremely motivating – I’ll slog an extra mile or scour another bathroom just to hear the next chapter.
  • Finally, audiobooks elevate the reading experience.  A great narrator (and there are so many!) translates the text in lovely, surprising, and/or curious ways that stick with me for months after hearing the recordings.

Starting your audiobook life or looking for your next great listen?  Here are five of my faves – titles that kept me on the treadmill for miles at a time.

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher.  Like millions of others, I adore this literary thriller. Rachel, an alcoholic with a faulty memory, cracks cans of gin and tonic on her London commuter train and watches a “golden couple” she’s named Jess and Jason drink coffee on their terrace while the train is stopped at a signal.  When “Jess” disappears, Rachel realizes she may have critical information in the case and becomes deeply and uncomfortably entwined in the investigation.  Engrossing.  Addictive. Kept me doing chores with my headphones on for hours. The narrators each brought nuanced, empathetic performances.
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Read by Caroline Lee. I loved this book and Lee’s charming and warm narration (okay, and also her Australian accent). Here’s the story: Cecilia’s husband is on a business trip when she discovers a letter from him in the attic, to be read only in the event of his death.  Tess, meanwhile, escapes to her mother’s house after her own husband confesses that he’s in love with her cousin-slash-best friend.  Finally, Rachel has been mired in grief for the many years since the murder of her daughter.  The stories, all humanizing and ultimately hopeful, intersect and morph.
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.  Read by Edward Hermann.    I was just beginning to fall in love with narrative nonfiction when I pressed play on this audiobook, and it held me spellbound.  This story, adapted into a movie of the same title directed by Angelina Jolie, chronicles the life of Louie Zamperini.  Zamp was an Olympic runner-turned serviceman who survived a horrific plane crash, endless days at sea in a rubber life raft, and years in a Japanese POW camp.  Ed Hermann’s warm narration in a voice I know so well from Gilmore Girls gave the story immediacy.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  Read by Cassandra Campbell.  This is an exquisite family drama that covers 45 years and excavates five perspectives, the perspectives of people who live together but lack fundamental understanding of each other.  It’s sad and hopeful at the same time, and features one of my favorite first lines ever: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”  I also recognized Campbell’s voice from another favorite audiobook – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
  • The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Read by Dennis Boutsikaris.  Of all the audiobooks I’ve listened to, I think this one was most positively impacted by the narrator.  His deadpan delivery of the darkly humorous, simple sentences added to the mixed sense incredulity and inevitability I experienced throughout this book.  One day, millions of people just disappear from earth.  There’s no explanation, and they don’t come back.  The book is the intersecting stories of some of the people left behind.  It’s just really fascinating and good, and apparently it’s now a show on HBO.

Am I missing one of your favorites?  Help me spend my next Audible credit in the comments!

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Whit May 2, 2016 - 11:09 am

I always listen to podcasts when I’m driving or folding laundry. I really should just invest in audiobooks because I’m a lover of multi-tasking too! (P.S. You probably didn’t give anything away, but I purposely skipped over the section about The Girl on the Train. I don’t want to know anything about it before I finish it!)

Kathleen May 2, 2016 - 5:48 pm

Haha – I gave NOTHING away on Girl on the Train. You and I both love thrillers! I wouldn’t dream of spoiling!!

Aubrey Wood May 3, 2016 - 1:03 pm

Thanks for writing this! I also LOVE audible (how else to get ready in the morning or drive anywhere?!) and definitely plan to check these books out.

My favorite audio books so far have been anything by Ken Follet that John Lee reads — especially the Century Trilogy, starting with Fall of Giants. The Call the Midwife series, read by Nicola Barber, is also fantastic. Both are very talented narrators who bring a diverse group of characters to life. Can’t say enough good things :).

For a fun and kind of quirky listen, I recommend Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, written and read by Sarah Vowell. She’s very entertaining.

Happy reading!

Kathleen May 3, 2016 - 1:16 pm

Ooh! Thanks, Aubrey – you are the second person to recommend Lafayette as a listen. I’m adding it to my Goodreads right now. And, I’m a huge fan of the Call the Midwife show – I should try the books!

Joli May 3, 2016 - 7:34 pm

This is inspiring me to try an audiobook! I keep thinking I don’t have time to listen to one, but maybe that’s because I neglect doing chores? Hahaha, maybe downloading an audiobook will help me stop leaving the house a mess 😀

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - Literary Quicksand May 27, 2016 - 6:12 am

[…] fellow LQ contributor, Kathleen, included The Girl on the Train in her list of captivating audiobooks to listen to, and I am happy to say that I wholeheartedly agree with her: This novel is a roller coaster ride of […]


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