Road-Rage Busters: Great Audiobooks to Make Traffic (Seem) Less Horrible

You know how the book is always better than the movie?

Well, it doesn't work that way with audiobooks! Some books are great reads, and some are also great to hear. Some are--gasp!-- even better heard than seen. 

Also: audiobooks written for young audiences are often delightful for adult listeners, and audiobooks written for an older audience are often accessible for young listeners.  

Here is a list to keep you and your passengers happy in the car... maybe even after you've arrived at your destination. Some are even available as downloadable audiobooks, so they can be loaded onto a device and played straight through, with no flipping of CD's every hour.


Beauty Queens

When a planeload of teen beauty queens are stranded on a (supposedly) deserted island, the girls must make some tough choices. Will they turn all Lord of the Flies?  Will the Sparkle Ponies prevail?

Satire, social commentary, and a wickedly hilariously funny story read by the fabulously irreverent author. This book contains sexual situations, GLBTQ characters, cussing, feminists, corporation stooges, the insane dictator of a tiny country called "Cha Cha," and some astonishing tips on alternative uses for feminine depilatory cream. Highly recommended for ages 14 to adult.  


The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman's award-winning recasting of The Jungle Book is the story of a boy called Nobody (Bod) Owens. Like Kipling's Mowgli, Bod is orphaned at a very young age. Unlike Mowgli, raised in the jungle by wolves, Bod is raised in the graveyard... by the dead.  

You might expect this book to be creepy, but it mostly isn't. You might expect it to be scary, but it mostly isn't that, either. Instead, it's lovely and loving, with the wisdom of ages passed down via ageless ghosts, vampires, and a werewolf, all intent on keeping Bod Owens safe as he grows to adulthood. The author reads the book himself, in a mellow, dark chocolate voice perfect for telling the story. Listeners will want to hear favorite parts again and again. Recommended for ages 8 to adult; supernatural characters, some scariness.  


Bloody Jack

Mary is a poor orphan living on the streets of London in the late 1790s. She doesn't want to starve to death, so she disguises herself as a boy and signs on to HMS Dolphin. And thus begins the series of twelve nautical adventures starring Mary "Jacky" Faber, who runs into historical figures, both fictional and real, as she jaunts around the globe in search of her true love.

In every story, Jacky finds new friends and escapes death several times. With any other storytelling team, the exploits might grow old, but author L.A. Meyer and narrator Katherine Kellgren expertly balance the suspense and the humor to keep readers and listeners engaged to the very last word. Recommended for listeners ages 8 to adult; some seagoing cuss words and sexual "near miss" situations, especially in later volumes.  



In this retold story with a sci-fi twist, Cinder is a teen cyborg with two stepsisters and a hateful stepmother. While working as an android mechanic in the public market, Cinder meets up with the charming Prince Kai, who invites her to the ball.

With artfully re-cast fairy tale elements, listeners will wait breathlessly to hear the next twist in the story. Rebecca Soler's voice narrates the book with exactly the tone of practicality one might expect from an overworked and unappreciated stepdaughter who deserves a better life. Recommended for listeners who appreciate a well-constructed futuristic fairy tale with a bit of romance, ages 10 to adult.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Narrating the Harry Potter books for audio was probably the smartest career move that voice actor Jim Dale has ever made. The series offers tremendous scope for Dale's agile voice, and netted him two Grammy Awards, seven Grammy nominations, ten Audie Awards, and twenty-three Audio File Earphone Awards. Dale also holds a Guinness World Record for creating 134 different character voices for the books.

What's so good about the audio version? All of the adventure, the suspense, the fear, and the magic of the books comes through speakers loudly and clearly.  If you loved the books, you may really love the audiobooks. Recommended for listeners ages 8 to adult; supernatural characters, some scary situations, mild cussing in the final volumes.


The Hobbit

There are many audio interpretations of Tolkein's classic introduction to his Lord of the Rings series. The BBC did a credible full cast radio dramatization, as did the American National Public Radio.

However, my personal preference is the unabridged, undramatized version read by Rob Inglis, who sings all the songs, recites all the poems, and pronounces all the names without a hitch or a hiccup. Highly recommended for newcomers to Middle Earth, as well as those who have only met hobbits via the Peter Jackson films. Recommended for listeners ages 8 to adult; some battlefield violence.


The Martian

Martian astronaut Mark Watney is alone on Mars, and he isn't dead--yet. He might die of starvation, or of carbon dioxide poisoning. He might get lost on the surface of the planet with no way to find his way back to the equipment that can help him survive. He might even die of loneliness or despair. But he isn't dead yet.

With a narrative so immersive that I found myself gasping for breath when Watney's oxygen ran low, the story is fast-paced and believable. It also contains a sh**load of cussing. If you got stuck alone on Mars, you'd probably swear too. Recommended for ages 14 to adult who are not bothered by the cussing.



All Clear

In year 2060, historians conduct field work by traveling back in time. Merope, Polly and Michael have separate assignments in England during WWII, but when something goes horribly wrong with the time machine, they join forces to try to survive--and try to avoid destroying the future by changing events in the past.

Blackout/All Clear is a single novel released in two volumes, with both books deftly read by Katherine Kellgren. The historical suspense and action is guaranteed to take your mind off of your traffic jam. Recommended for ages 14 to adult. 


Do you have favorite audiobook suggestions to add to this list? Please note them in the comment box, along with your recommendations for listener ages!

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