I love to learn but lately I can never seem to find the time or focus I need to give nonfiction books the attention they deserve. Give me a fluffy romance novel and I can read it pretty much anywhere under any circumstance— the TV blaring, in line at the grocery store, the world outside gone full-on zombie apocalypse— but give me something serious and suddenly I'm reading the same line fourteen times before nodding off.
But that's where audiobooks come in! What better way to fill my brain with a bit of knowledge than on my daily commute?
If you're looking to use your time as a captive audience to learn a little something, too, the following titles are great because they're pretty distraction-proof— they have interesting topics, engaging narrators, and they won't leave you too lost if you miss a few moments here or there.
Word by Word is an engaging look into the world of dictionary-making, written by Merriam-Webster lexicographer Kory Stamper. Stamper's infectious enthusiasm in both the writing and the narration, paired with her vast and interesting word-knowledge, make this a fun listen for any language lover.
This fascinating look at the birth of forensic science in the 1920s and 30s follows the passionate, almost obsessive push by New York's chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler to develop methods for identifying poisons despite the rampant corruption of the time. It has all of the lurid details about arsenic-laced chocolates and radium-lined watch faces that you could possibly want!
Published for the first time almost 100 years after it was written, Barracoon is an interesting, quick look at Zora Neale Hurston's interviews in 1927 with Cudjo Lewis, the last living former slave who was stolen from Africa. This is worth listening to on audio because Hurston took great effort to keep Lewis' dialect intact, and the reader really brings him to life with her performance.
This look at Charles Darwin's relationship with his wife, Emma, whose extreme religiosity often lead to strongly differing opinions between the two, is informative but also just a really sweet love story. Deborah Heiligman does a great job of portraying the complex relationships of historical figures in a way that's interesting for teens and adults alike (also worth checking out is her newer title, Vincent and Theo)
Mary Roach's books are always a great choice for entertaining nonfiction told in a light, cheeky way. She picks fascinating topics—sex (Bonk), death (Stiff), ghosts (Spook), etc.— and digs up the most bizarre and interesting facts on the subject to really hook you.
The Truth About Animals had me laughing out loud pretty much from the get-go! Written by the founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, this lighthearted listen looks at the quirky and hidden habits of animals that are often misunderstood by humans.