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November 15, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I commute 2 hours round trip, 4 days a week. Sometimes I listen to music, but mostly I like to listen to audiobooks. I'm just about out of ideas. What are some great, really long audiobooks or podcasts I might like? I'm into horror that makes me think, character-driven sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal thrillers (NOT of the vampire romance genre), paleo-lifestyle, and cool/funny non-fiction.

When I say "really long" what I mean is, something that will last me multiple weeks. I have a subscription to Audible that gets me one credit per month, and I'm not really interested in spending more money for more books, so I need 1-credit long reads. I'm open to other, nontraditional sources of audiobooks, too. Feel free to me-mail me if you prefer. I'm also open to shorter form audio entertainment like podcasts, if the podcast has a whole lot of episodes I can bank and queue up.

Here are some of the things I've listened to and enjoyed in the past few months (since this commute started), to give you an idea of what I like (and what I don't need recs for, because I've already listened to it.)

1 credit, took about a month
- The Dark Tower series (Stephen King)
- Insomnia (Stephen King)
- It (Stephen King)
- The Stand (Stephen King)
- Black House (Stephen King)
- The Talisman (Stephen King)
- From a Buick 8 (Stephen King)

Yeah, that's a whole lot of Stephen King; I started with those because I'd already read them in print and thought I could get an extra dimension out of the audiobooks. Plus, they were REALLY long - many around 40 hours. (You haven't really read From a Buick 8, Black House, and It until you've listened to the audiobooks, by the way.)

1 credit, about 1-3 weeks
- A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
- Assorted Vorkosigan novels (Lois McMaster Bujold)
- Red Shirts (John Scalzi)
- The Hot Zone (Richard Preston)
- Good Calories, Bad Calories (Gary Taubes)
- Black Sun Rising and sequels (C. S. Friedman)

I've thought about listening to the entire Discworld series, because I've heard great and I think I'd enjoy it. But the books are really short listens (around 7 hours each?) and I don't think I could afford to marathon it.

Other books/series I've loved in print, but either I'm not sure if the audiobooks would be any good, or the audiobook may not exist, or may have several versions and I'd love to know which you like best:

- A very limited amount of early Dean Koontz (before he started to suck) like Phantoms, Watchers, Lightning
- Hellspark (Janet Kagan)
- A whole lot of Jane Austen (Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility are my favorites)
- The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
- The Cloud Roads/Raksura trilogy (Martha Wells - AWESOME)
- The Queen's Thief series (Megan Whalen Turner)
- Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman)
- Harry Dresden series (Jim Butcher) (but after the 6th book or so I could no longer take the machismo and had to bail)

Podcasts:
- Robb Wolf podcast (but this got to be too much biochemistry to hold my attention after a while)
- Welcome to Nightvale (Hit or miss for me)
- Zombies, Run! - not exactly a podcast, but similar in many ways, and mixed in with my music)

In general, I prefer audiobook narrators who "do" voices and inflection - who perform, rather than read. I love Frank Muller (RIP), Stephen Weber (he read IT, and it was awesome), Grover Gardner, Mike Chamberlain, and R.C. Bray. Narrators who just read, or drone on with little inflection, do nothing for me.

Any recs would be very welcome. I'm one hour away from the end of The Stand!
posted by kythuen to Media & Arts (49 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Clarification - when I say I'm not into spending more money for more books, what I mean is, most audiobooks are freaking expensive. I'd like to spend ideally around $14.95 US max for a book, and I'd like that book to last me at least a week or so. Exceptions can be made for really amazing books!
posted by kythuen at 9:57 AM on November 15, 2014


Have you read Corey's Expanse series yet? We listened to the first one while driving cross-country, and it took up a substantial part of the country-- it's a very long book, and quite good. I've only read the next two books in the series, but I imagine they could keep you occupied for a long time. However, we didn't purchase it through Audible, so I don't know how many credits it is.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:01 AM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've really gotten into NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, which is a sort of roundtable discussion of pop culture stuff, lead by mefi's own Linda_Holmes. They have a ton of back episodes available on iTunes; most are around 45 minutes. I have found that even when they're talking about something I don't know anything about, or thought I wasn't interested in, I'm still interested! Like, I don't care about the Grammys, but I listened to their post-Grammys discussion and it was hilarious and interesting.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on November 15, 2014


Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles: The Name of the Wind, 28 hours. The Wise Man's Fear, 48 hours. Novella/book 2.5 (only 3.7 hours) The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

I believe the third book is due out next year.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:12 AM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy: Feed, Deadline, Blackout. Each is a relatively lightweight 15ish hours.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:14 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The BBC radio versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Looks like they're on Audible. They're radio plays with lots of actors, not just a single narrator.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


In the non-fiction, podcast category is History of Rome. It was a 179 episode podcast. The author is now doing a new podcast on Revolutions. Also, he was (is?) supported by audible, so in many of his podcasts he makes recommendations on books to get from audible.
posted by nightwood at 10:26 AM on November 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


do you have a CD player available? my public library has tons of audiobooks on CD. if not, they also have some Playaways that are like little MP3 players with just one book. As far as long, good audiobooks, Skippy Dies has a full cast of voice actors and was at least 20 hours.
posted by katieanne at 10:36 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


My library has free downloadable audiobooks, which I make extensive use of. If you're willing to rip from CDs you can also get the hard copies from the library, which expands your collection further. And it might be worth checking Amazon's Kindle Unlimited to see if there are books you'd be interested in -- the selection's still pretty thin, but it's only $10 a month for unlimited audio and text from the collection.
(Also, if you're clever you can get library cards from multiple libraries and benefit from the different collections they have. I have a library card where I live, one where my mother lived last year, and am going to get one or two more from cities that only require me to be a resident of our state. Each library has a different collection, though there are of course huge overlaps, so sometimes I think something's unavailable only to find it at one of the other libraries.)
posted by katemonster at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, Among Others is only 10 hours but has a really good reader if you can handle a heavy Welsh accent.
posted by katieanne at 10:41 AM on November 15, 2014


NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (Stephen King's son) nearly 20 hours for one credit
Not a horror but you seem to have similar taste to me, so I'll also recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 32 hours and a rather King ish character driven quality to it.
posted by KateViolet at 10:42 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just listened to Stephen King's 11-22-63. Not horror, but very good, well narrated, and very long at over 30 hours.
posted by The Architect at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Stephen King's 11-22-63 (30+ hrs long)
Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad mysteries (usually over 20 hrs long)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (20+ hrs long)

Are you listening to Serial? There aren't many episodes banked, but it will quickly become what you listen to first thing on your Thursday morning commute.
posted by lakemarie at 10:50 AM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Roy Dotrice’s reading of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is well-acted and extremely (EXTREMELY!) long. 33-50 hours per book, five books so far.
posted by bcwinters at 10:52 AM on November 15, 2014


I'm not totally sure this is in line with your tastes but Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is great - and 8 huge books. It's about a time traveling WW2 English nurse who gets involved with the Jacobite Rising in the 1700s and ends up in the American Revolution. The scientific/herbal medicine/historical research Diana has done is fantastic. The middle couple of books aren't the best but the eighth is really worth sticking around for, I think. And there's a ninth in very early stages.

The reader/performer Davina Porter is stellar - she does a huge range of voices - men, women, Scottish, English, American, French. So, so great to listen to. (The books are written with appropriate dialect/spelling and are hard for me to read.)

I get all my audiobooks from the library. If your local library has half the audiobooks Multnomah County Library has, you'll be set.

And I can totally recommend the Discworld audiobooks. Nigel Planer did the first several books and now Stephen Briggs seems to be the narrator of choice. I prefer Nigel and it took a little to get used to Stephen but they are both good. Celia Emrie did a couple but I don't care for her voice at all.
posted by Beti at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2014


For fantasy, you might consider Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, with the final books completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan's death. These books are mostly over 30 hours, and the entire series from start to finish is over 450 hours. Most of the books are very good as is the narration. Sanderson does a great job finishing the series and is a terrific author. His Stormlight Archive series already has two excellent books, great narration, and are over 45 hours each.
posted by The Architect at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


You're in Boston? You need a Boston Public Library card. If you cannot/will not set foot in a library, get the digital card. This gives you access to both Overdrive and Hoopla.

Suggested listens:

October Daye series by Seanan McGuire (real name of Mira Grant, suggested up thread)
Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
possibly the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyers
Raven Cycle series by Maggie Steifvater
anything by China Mieville
BPL has some but not all of Discworld, totally worth listening to
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Bill Bryson narrates his own audiobooks
also amusing are J Maarten Troost's travelogues (couldn't get into Headhunters on My Doorstep, though)
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 has a great hours:credits ratio on Audible.

There are lots of great podcasts that might fit the bill, some of which have long archives. For example, public radio staples like This American Life and Radiolab. Then there is the current wave of well produced podcasts like 99% Invisible, Radio Diaries, The Memory Palace, and The Truth. Some of those already have decently long archives, but even if not you can add up to many hours per week of listening by subscribing to a bunch. I use Downcast on my iPhone, which doesn't require any syncing and lets you set it up so new episodes just get added to a playlist, so it ends up being kind of like listening to the best radio station ever that only plays your favourite programs.
posted by Emanuel at 11:04 AM on November 15, 2014


Scribd now has audiobooks as part of its monthly subscription service, which costs $8.99/month for unlimited reads. It's similar to the earlier suggestion of Amazon Kindle Unlimited but a dollar cheaper I think. I've been using the print part of their service for awhile and have seen it improve greatly over the past few months but I haven't explored the audio part yet since it is so new.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 11:07 AM on November 15, 2014


Well, if you're willing to stick to public domain works (pre-1930's or so), there are always the free audiobooks on Librivox.

You said long? Consider Messrs. Tolstoy and/or Proust.

(And, of course, Austen.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2014


I was going to jump in and suggest the Dark Tower series (I'm on my third listen of the 4th book - we revisit them every year and always notice new things each time) and The Stand, before I saw what you said after the fold. For more Stephen King, I definitely suggest Duma Key. I think that's one of the best-narrated books I've heard.
posted by sascha at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2014


What about podiobooks? I don't have any specific author recommendations, but if you're only searching for podcasts or audiobooks on iTunes, I don't know if you'd see this part of the store.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2014


I'm a 2-hour round-tripper too, although mostly these days I listen to podcasts.

I enjoyed the audiobooks of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series; although ISTR that the library had two editions of some of them, with two different narrators, and I liked one narrator better than the other but don't remember which.

However: they're mid-length novels so not as long as the King doorsteps.

Second/third the rec for checking out your library: our county libraries have good collections of audiobook-on-CD. Borrow, rip into iTunes, listen, delete from iTunes seems perfectly reasonable to me from an ethical standpoint.

(And this makes me want to go see if the library has the From A Buick 8 audiobook; one of my favorite lesser-known Kings, and why nobody's made it into a movie yet beats me.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:46 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you haven't yet listened to the Harry Potter books on CD I highly recommend them. Your local library will carry them, and it will take you weeks and weeks to get through them all.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nthing Middlesex, very very good. Also: A Confederacy of Dunces (13 hrs) and The World According to Garp (20).
posted by getawaysticks at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2014


" I prefer audiobook narrators who "do" voices and inflection - who perform, rather than read. "

Me too. That's why I choose audiobooks based on the quality of the actor and her/his performance, above even my interest in the book.

A rare conjunction of a stupendous actor doing a stupendous job with an (arguably) stupendous book is William Hurt's treatment of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises

I tend to read Hemingway's taut prose dryly. An actor like Hurt mines all the deeper emotions and subtext. He's simply a much better actor than the imagination of my inner ear.

Simon & Schuster released this in a collection with other Hemingway works read by big-ticket actors (here's a list). I'm assuming all are up on Audible, and all worthwhile.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dune, and nthung free audio from the public library.
posted by pennypiper at 12:04 PM on November 15, 2014


I read the print version AND listened to the audiobook of David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks; the audiobook definitely did it justice. There are multiple narrators, and they all do a terrific job. It's hard to classify, but there are strong elements of fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal, so, right up your alley. Plus, it's 24 hours long, so there's lots of bang for your buck.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:18 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Since this wasn't on your list, Stephen King's Under the Dome is close to forty hours and the narrator is excellent.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:28 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


RE the above mentioned "History of Rome" podcast, here are reccos for Audible books from fans on his web site.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are now a few hundred episodes of Escape Pod and Podcastle, and Starship Sofa for short fiction. Scot Sigler has 10 of his novels on podiobooks
posted by Sophont at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2014


The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (18 hours). Next one is out in Feb 2015. Not my taste, but I did notice that The Game of Thrones audiobooks are really long, as you would expect. The one on the shelf next to my holds was 45 hours of listening.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2014


Titus Groan: Volume 1 of the Gormenghast Trilogy is 17 hours - it was both really cool and pretty difficult to read, but I imagine could be good in audio form.
posted by pennypiper at 3:54 PM on November 15, 2014


The complete cases of Sherlock Holmes are available for one credit on Audible. It doesn't really fit your requirements, but it's 60 - 70 hours of listening (I can't remember exactly), and they are excellent. And the short stories are great for repeat listens as well.
posted by backwards compatible at 6:06 PM on November 15, 2014


Since you asked about Dresden Files: I've only listened to Storm Front so far, but I really enjoyed James Marsters as Harry Dresden.
posted by cabingirl at 6:20 PM on November 15, 2014


The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. Just over 18 hours.
posted by goodsearch at 11:19 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


You might also find some of The Teaching Company's audio courses interesting.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:38 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


As an alternative source of ebooks, you might like to keep an eye on Humble Bundle - they currently have a pay-what-you-want bundle that might skew a bit young for you, but it includes the whole Hunger Games trilogy (total: 33 hours). They have new bundles regularly.
posted by escapepod at 1:26 AM on November 16, 2014


An alternative source of *audiobooks*, I meant to say, not ebooks, although there are often ebook bundles too.
posted by escapepod at 1:44 AM on November 16, 2014


You could listen to old time radio dramas, like Suspense, especially since you mention you like audiobooks that are more dramatized.

Previously and previously, among other excellent FPPs.
posted by marguerite at 3:09 AM on November 16, 2014


I just finished listening to Middlemarch, which is beautifully read with lots of eccentric characters and is 35 hours long. Took me about six weeks. Highly recommended. Also, I don't recall how many hours Wolf Hall is, but it kind of didn't matter to me because i loved it so much and it was read so amazingly well (he gets Cardinal Wolsey so perfectly that i kind of chuckled every time Wolsey had something to say) that as soon as I finished it, I started over.
posted by janey47 at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2014


I don't use Audible, so I'm not sure how many credits this would be, but Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is long and inline with your stated interests. I got it from the library and LOVED it.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:01 AM on November 16, 2014


You want the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien, read by Patrick Tull. They are LONG and dense and fantastic. Start with Master and Commander (which is not the book of the movie of the same name: the movie was based on a later novel, and took episodes from a bunch of different novels in the sequence).
posted by suelac at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer is only 13 and a half hours, but A) it's only $9.79/1 credit, B) it's fascinating, and C) if you listen to it and fall in love with Montaigne (as I did), you can then listen to The Complete Essays of Montaigne, which is also only 1 credit and clocks in at just under 50 hours.

Scrolling down my podcast list for possibilities… here are a few:

The BBC podcast Americana: inside the USA is no longer being updated but has 53 half-hour episodes available for download.
Their Food Programme podcast is still being updated, and has 225 half-hour episodes in the archives.
I've been enjoying the History of English podcast, currently up to episode 52.
Back to the BBC, A History of the World in 100 Objects is very interesting.
The various podcasts in the Radiotopia family are well done and widely varied. Worth checking out.

Fiction podcasts, most of which have lots of episodes available:
Clarkesworld
Escape Pod
Lightspeed
Podcastle
Pseudopod
posted by Lexica at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dan Simmons Hyperion series lasted me a few months in the car. The reader(s) for the first book are all good, then the one reader for the others is great. (warning: I almost gave up on the first disc. SO GLAD I didn't)
posted by Tevin at 8:23 AM on November 17, 2014


Thrilling Adventure Hour is a live show (then podcasted) done in the style of old-time radio programs. There's actually 5 (? ish?) different stories ongoing, I have only kept up with Beyond Belief and Sparks Nevada but you could start at the beginning and listen to all of them.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and on this:

A very limited amount of early Dean Koontz (before he started to suck) like Phantoms, Watchers, Lightning

I liked the Odd Thomas audiobook quite a lot; a strange off-kilter world, a personable narrator.

(Diminishing returns on the sequels, so much so that I bailed on reading them a few books in -- "started to suck", yes. But the first book is a good standalone.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:19 PM on November 18, 2014


The Expanse is great (but it does switch narrators for the most recent volume), I also really like Daniel Abraham's Dagger and Coin series (first book is The Dragon's Path). American Gods are both good and both pretty long. The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix is fantastic; all but Clariel, the distant prequel, are read by Tim Curry, who is a wonderful voice actor.

Scribd recently added audiobooks to its subscription plan, by the way, and there's some good stuff on there. It's also worth keeping an eye on Audible's sales and daily deals. If anything you're looking for is a classic, there's a good chance there'll be a Whispersync deal on it where it's actually cheaper to buy the kindle + the audiobook together. Some non-classics have this, too, sometimes it's even cheaper to buy the book outright (or buy the kindle + book combo) than the cost of the credit.

The Swordspoint novels by Ellen Kushner are expertly produced; they're sort of... partially full cast? I think the phrase they used was "illuminated", with certain scenes acted out as a sort of illustration. Kushner herself has a history in radio and wrote extra stuff so that people in the background are muttering to each other things that make sense in-world. They're some of the most interesting books I've listened to, and they're really fun-- a sort of modern take on swashbuckling, romantic political intrigue, with all the involved gossip, bloodshed and hidden identities-- but generally a bit sexier and a lot more queer.

Seraphina is a lovely YA novel about dragons that's funny and dynamic; the narration is absolutely beautiful. There are a few songs in it and they are performed without accompaniment-- I've read audiobooks that add instruments to musical bits and ones that just read them and they both feel awkward to me in ways Seraphina doesn't. The main character is a music teacher and the book is very music-oriented, so it makes sense that this would be a good approach.

I also sometimes look for stuff my favorite narrators have done; I really like Kristine Hvam, Mary Robinette Kowal, Tim Curry, Simon Vance (not everyone likes his style though) and Bernadette Dunne.
posted by NoraReed at 9:34 PM on November 20, 2014


Give a listen to Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. It's 42+ hours, and just wonderful. I never spent much time on Audible, but I did absolutely love their treatment of Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, so if you like the one, there's 7 more audiobooks that stretch out to another 115 hours.
posted by bemusedsamadhi at 1:11 PM on November 21, 2014


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