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Discover the best audiobooks of all time that are must-listens. I’ve listened to hundreds and shared only the best of the best in fiction and nonfiction with you below. You’ll have an unforgettable immersive listening experience on your road trips and beyond. Let’s get literary!

how to find the best audiobooks.

Quick List of the Best Audiobooks of All Time

Fiction

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote: narrated by actor Michael C. Hall on the Audible version
  2. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: narrated by a full cast
  3. Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry: narrated by actors James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury on the Audible version
  4. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (my top pick): narrated by actor Tom Hanks
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: narrated by Bahni Turpin
  6. One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle: narrated by actress Lauren Graham
  7. Such a Bad Influence by Olivia Muenter: narrated by a full cast
  8. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett: narrated by actress Meryl Streep

Non-Fiction

  1. The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff: narrated by 500+ people
  2. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed: narrated by the author

METHODOLOGY

I have listened to hundreds of audiobooks, and while many are very good, I am extremely picky about the ones I call the best audiobooks of all time, as I know this is an important question for many readers. I’ve detailed below the few books for which I truly believed the narration was exceptional AND the reading experience was enhanced by listening to the audio format.

I did not include the best audiobook memoirs in this list because I find them to be a bit different (though also fantastic).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the classic story of Holly Golightly, a New York socialite during the 1940s. Holly is unique, independent, glamorous, fragile, flawed, and lost. Her cat doesn’t have a name and she neither wants to be caged nor alone. She is happiest at Tiffany’s.

What the book has that the movie adaptation does not is poetically strung words that become luscious sentences. They read like a master class in complex character creation.

Why It’s a Must Listen: The Audible version is read by Dexter actor Michael C. Hall, and his narration is both haunting and delightful at the same time. He narrates as Paul (known as “Fred” to Holly), Holly’s charming male neighbor and a writer, who is fascinated with her.  I simply haven’t read a character-driven book as detailed or multi-faceted as this one ever before or since. 


Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • Book of the Month’s Book of the Year
  • Reese’s Book Club pick
  • New York Times bestseller
  • Named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, and more

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: Daisy Jones & the Six is an extremely popular book (and Amazon Prime adaptation). Loosely based on the story of Fleetwood Mac, it’s about the rise and fall of a 1970s rock band.

Why It’s a Must Listen: It’s told in documentary style through dialogue from interviews of the characters across many decades. This unique way of telling a story, as well as the full cast of narrators (including famous names like Jennifer Beals and Benjamin Bratt) really bring this immersive book to life. It also includes songs from the album!

Related Posts: Daisy Jones & The Six Book Review | Taylor Jenkins Reid Books Ranked


Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry

  • 1988’s Pulitzer Prize-winner for Drama

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: Driving Miss Daisy is the story of the complicated, yet beautiful decades-long friendship between an elderly Jewish woman and her Black driver in mid-century Atlanta. (It’s on the Rory Gilmore book list as well!)

Why It’s a Must Listen: It’s a short play, so there’s a ton of dialogue that lends well to the audiobook format. The Audible version is exquisitely narrated by the incomparable James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury. They are national treasures, and their unmatched talent shows here. It’s an absolutely unforgettable rendition that I have recommended to so many grateful readers.


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

  • 2020 Audie finalist for audiobook of the year and best male narrator
  • Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
  • Jenna Bush Hager’s book club pick
  • New York Times bestseller
  • Named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, and more

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: In the family drama novel The Dutch House, the lives of the Conroy family are forever changed when they move into “The Dutch House,” just outside of Philadelphia. Without spoiling any storylines, siblings Danny and Maeve are left to fend for themselves. Maeve essentially takes a mother role to Danny, as they live through decades of life and its ups and downs, occasionally returning to this house.

Why It’s a Must Listen: The Dutch House is my top pick for the best audiobook of all time. It perfectly blends Ann Patchett’s breathtaking writing with Tom Hanks’s chill-inducing narration.

Hanks splendidly captures the character of the narrator Danny. His likeability translates seamlessly to audiobook narration, especially one written by an author known for depth, thoughtfulness, and complexity in her writing.

Related Posts: The Dutch House Review | Best Ann Patchett Books


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

  • Goodreads Choice Awards winner for “Best of the Best” 
  • William C. Morris Award winner
  • National Book Award Longlist
  • Printz Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor book
  • #1 New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: The Hate U Give touches directly on the “Black Lives Matter” movement. A Black teenager named Starr witnesses her Black friend being shot and killed by a police officer who mistakenly believed the hairbrush he was holding was a gun.

Starr lives in a “thug” neighborhood, but she goes to a preppy private school in a different neighborhood. She struggles in dealing with the aftermath of being “the witness” of a violent act in the two different worlds she inhabits.

Why It’s a Must Listen: The voices of bold, coming-of-age Starr and her politically active father feel truly alive, and they give the reader a unique sense of empathy. These strong character voices make listening to the audiobook feel like watching a movie. It’s been years, and I can still hear their voices in my head. For this reason, this immersive audiobook is one of the best books of the 21st century and would be especially great for road trips!

Related Posts: The Hate U Give Summary


One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

  • New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: One Italian Summer is a book set in Italy that touches on the theme of mothers and daughters. When Katy’s mother dies, she struggles to cope but ultimately takes the Italian vacation they had planned to take together alone.

After all, Positano is the stunning seaside town where Katy’s mother spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father.

Once Katy’s there, she meets a woman who doesn’t just look like her mother but appears to actually be her mother, albeit at age 30. As she makes new friends and deals with her grief, this dose of magical realism changes everything. It’s a twist that only Serle, known for her bestselling books with themes of grief, can pull off.

Why It’s a Must Listen: It’s perfectly narrated by one of TV’s most beloved mothers, Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls. She is so very skilled at emoting those special feelings between mothers and daughters.

Related Post: Lauren Graham’s Books


The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff

  • 2020 Audiobook of the Year and Multi-Voiced Performance Audie Awards
  • New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: The Only Plane in the Sky is one of the most fascinating nonfiction books I have ever read. This book about September 11, 2001 is a minute-by-minute breakdown told entirely through the dialogue of five hundred people, from children in distant parts of the U.S.A. to the President of the United States at the time, George W. Bush.

It’s probably the most thoroughly researched and curated book I have ever read. It’s breathtaking, emotional, raw, and real.

Why It’s a Must Listen: Told by 500+ people, the audiobook also includes many real audio snippets from the day. At times, it feels more like a podcast or documentary than a book. This format shares the historical impact of this date with reverence, and it provides an extremely engaging educational experience.

As a bonus, the audiobook also includes an exclusive interview with Garrett Graff and Holter Graham, as well as archival audio from United States Presidential addresses, In-Flight Communications, and Air Traffic Control.


Such a Bad Influence by Olivia Muenter

My Review: ★★★★☆

Plot: Such a Bad Influence is a whipsmart and razor-sharp, somewhat dystopian take on modern influencer culture on social media. When Evie, one of the first child stars on YouTube grows up and goes missing during a live stream, her sister Hazel is determined to find her– dead or alive.

The edge-of-your-seat investigation takes Hazel into the depths of the dark internet and into the greedy minds of the friends and family who exploited Evie. It all leads to a jaw-dropping plot twist in the final chapter.

Why It’s a Must Listen: The audiobook has a full cast of characters. Pairing this with the unique format of the book, which includes detailed internet content like Reddit threads and podcasts, makes an already suspenseful book an utterly unputdownable book.


Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Reese’s Book Club pick

My Review: ★★★★★

Plot: Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of the best of author Cheryl Strayed’s popular advice column, Dear Sugar.

Why It’s a Must Listen: The author’s own narration is especially personal, and her advice is tender, thoughtful, and compassionate. This makes for an intimate listening experience akin to listening to radio’s famed Delilah.


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • Reese’s Book Club pick

Plot: In Tom Lake, it’s Spring 2020, and Lara’s three daughters visit the family’s Northern Michigan orchard, where they ask her to retell the story of the famous actor with whom she once shared both the stage (in Our Town) and a love affair.

It’s both a family drama and a story of love and the forms it takes in our lives. It’s an absolutely masterful work of fiction, just like the play performed in it, Our Town.

Why It’s a Must Listen: Actress Meryl Streep’s narration of the audiobook is, very expectedly, sublime. She becomes Lara, and she is absolutely captivating as she slowly and quietly reveals with nostalgia a part of a mother’s life that her children didn’t experience with her.

Related Posts: Tom Lake Summary and Character Guide | Book Review of Tom Lake | Tom Lake Book Club Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best audiobook ever?

Some popular choices for the best audiobook ever include Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House narrated by actor Tom Hanks, and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six narrated by a full cast. These audiobooks are praised for their engaging storytelling and skilled narration.

Who is the best audiobook narrator?

Julia Whelan is a highly acclaimed, beloved audiobook narrator who narrates popular women’s fiction by authors like Kristin Hannah and Emily Henry. She is praised for her engaging performances and ability to bring characters to life.

What is good to listen to on Audible?

The classics are good to listen to on Audible because many of their Audible versions are narrated by famous actors, who draw on their acting skills to prevent compelling narration.

Do audiobooks count as reading?

Yes, audiobooks are considered a form of reading. While the experience differs from reading text, listening to audiobooks still involves processing and understanding the content, which contributes to literacy and comprehension skills.

Conclusion

The best audiobooks of all time often have characteristics like full casts, audio bonuses, and/or famous narrators that make for the most immersive listening experiences. My top pick is The Dutch House narrated by actor Tom Hanks.

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