I need audiobook recommendations!
June 11, 2011 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I need some new audiobooks! I'm a screen printer and find that listening to an audiobook helps me to focus and get more done during the day and consequently, I get through 3-4 books a week. I'll listen to just about anything (science fiction, biographies, western, you name it), as long as it's engaging but doesn't require too much concentration. I've listed my favorites below. Tell me what you've enjoyed listening to and what I've been missing!

Audiobooks I loved (hands down, my favorites and ones I can listen to over and over again):
Harry Potter (both US and UK versions)
anything by David Sedaris
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Doomsday Book, All Clear, and Blackout by Connie Willis
The Passage by Justin Cronin
World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollstead
Chaos Walking seried by Patrick Ness
Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jones
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
the "Death" and "Sam Vimes" Discworld book by Terry Pratchett
The Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams
Jeeves and Wooster book by PG Wodehouse

Other audiobooks I have listened to and enjoyed:
everything else by Terry Pratchett
anything by Neil Gaiman
Wicked and Son of Witch by Gregory Maguire
A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud
Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Bill Bryson and other various travel themed books
The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy by Carrie Ryan

Audiobooks I have started and not been able to finish:
Madeleine L'Engle books narrated by the author
Song of Ice and Fire books (too complex for casual listening?)
Ender series by Orson Scott Card (not fond of his slang)
Artemis Fowl series (I want to like it, I really do but I just zone out every time)
posted by emilygraves05 to Writing & Language (39 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Dark Tower - Stephen King
posted by pyro979 at 7:18 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like a lot of the books you mentioned so I will just through some out there:

Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K Leguin (And the next two books in the trilogy)
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Dracula - Bram Stroker
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell - Susanna Clarke
Snow Crash - Neal Stevenson
posted by meta87 at 7:18 PM on June 11, 2011

Have you tried the Escape Pod/Podcastle/PseudoPod podcasts? There are a bunch of other podcasts that do SFF short stories.

I'd recommend the Octobery Daye books by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is also good -- maybe too complex for casual listening -- though it's rather irritatingly read by a man, when the narrator is very clearly a woman.

I really liked A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.

If you'll do non-fiction, In the Heart of the Sea is, hands down, the best audio book I have ever listened to.
posted by jeather at 7:19 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bartimaeus trilogy
posted by pyro979 at 7:19 PM on June 11, 2011

Audiobooks I have known and loved:

Feed - M.T. Anderson

Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries - Dorothy Sayers

Just So Stories read by Boris Karloff

Obama narrates very well if you are interested in either of his autobiographies.

If you go for children's fiction, the Ramona Quimby books read by Stockard Channing and the Little House on the Prairie books read by Cherry Jones are both fantastic.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:25 PM on June 11, 2011

Oh! C.S. Lewis! The Narnia books, with narrators including Kenneth Branagh, Lynn Redgrave, and Derek Jacobi, are excellent. And the John Cleese version of Screwtape Letters is terrific fun.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:32 PM on June 11, 2011

Thank you for asking this question! I am just beginning to listen to audiobooks, so I cannot recommend any personally. But at one point, I looked through lists like AskMe threads and Audible's "best books" lists to compile the following wish list of well-recommended books:

Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
Wicked (Gregory Maguire)
American Gods (and a few others by Neil Gaiman)
Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
Bloodstone (?? can't find -- maybe I wrote this one down wrong?)
Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
Gunslinger (Stephen King)
Ulysses (this version, James Joyce)
World War Z (Max Brooks)
Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
Outlander Series (Diana Gabaldon)
The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman)

... It looks like you've already listened to a couple of those. In many cases, they were recommended equally due to the strength of the reader, so I would look for the more famous or well-recommended narrator.

Also, if you have not discovered the zombie podcast "We're Alive," you might enjoy that. It comes out on the order of about 20 minutes per week, so I find it best to allow a few episodes to stack up, but you have an entire first season that could keep you busy.
posted by slidell at 7:36 PM on June 11, 2011

A few I've greatly enjoyed:

Dune by Frank Herbert
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:39 PM on June 11, 2011

Oh, I forgot, I can also personally Winter's Bone.
posted by slidell at 7:39 PM on June 11, 2011

Three audiobooks that I’ve liked are:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

Also, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is amazing, but it's already on your list.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2011

You've listed many of my favorites and since we seem to have a bit in common in regard to those, I'll take a chance and recommend a few that don't have a mythical/mystical theme. These are stories I enjoyed hearing even more than I enjoyed reading:
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornsby; narrated by Scott Brick, Simon Vance, and Kate Reading.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler; narrated by Blair Brown
An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance; narrated by Kathe Mazur

When I can't give a story my full attention, I'll choose a classic or something I've already read. That way I get to enjoy the storytelling, and I don't have to worry about missing a clue or plot point. I recently listened to Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, narrated by Tony Britton - fantastic!
posted by kbar1 at 8:11 PM on June 11, 2011

I do a lot of podcasts. I like some from NPR, particularly Selected Shorts (once a week, one hour, short stories) and O'Dark Thirty (local to austin but available via streaming. I record it and make a custom podcast for myself). I also listen to a few other ones that are too short to be useful for long periods of work like Planet Money and The Moth. There's also This American Life. Between these you can get about 6-7 hours of audio/week.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:21 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

A couple of non-fiction pieces you may enjoy:
Krakatoa: The Day the Earth Exploded by Simon Winchester (read by the author)
Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin (read by the author)
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Also I cannot recommend Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Niel Gaiman enough.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:59 PM on June 11, 2011

I've really been enjoying the Mary Russell books by Laurie R. King (as downloadable audiobooks from my local library). Note, Sherlock Holmes purists need not apply. If you're not a purist, though, they're pretty good (although I wish the reader had a more extensive and skillful set of accents in her vocal toolbox — so far "character with Indian accent" has sounded like "character with Arab accent" has sounded like "character with Hebrew accent" has sounded vaguely like "character with Russian accent"; "character with American accent" has been tolerable although a little hard on the terminal Rs).

The Castle of Otranto (available free here via the Internet Archive) is Gothic with a capital Goth and fairly entertaining.

On a completely different note, Zen teacher Cheri Huber has a weekly call-in talk show podcast with archives going back to 2002.
posted by Lexica at 8:59 PM on June 11, 2011

Gabaldon has a new Lord John due to come out in a few months; the audiobooks are usually released at the same time.
posted by brujita at 9:03 PM on June 11, 2011

Why don't you find and listen to all the Hugo winners? I don't think they're all on audio, but once you get close enough you can read the rest in print. Then you can say you've read them all!

I'm a third of the way through (I'm not reading them in order) and the only one I haven't liked so far is Double Star by Heinlein. It's humorous, but the plot didn't require it to be sf, and isn't really Hugo material. (ref. Moon Over Paradour)

Of course, the line of dialogue in the book, "That hack?" had me chuckling.
posted by CarlRossi at 10:59 PM on June 11, 2011

These are my favorites so far. My extra extra favorites get asterisks. Sorry to not provide links.

***Shantaram. Best ever.

***The Clavell (sp?) books - Noble House, Tai Pan, etc. (Not Gai Jin though).

***Anything by Stephen King, particularly Duma Key and Lisey's Story.

***Seconding (at least) Dune. Just fabulous on audiobook. About 800 times better than the movie.

The first 3 or so Diana Gabaldon books. (Caution though: sex scenes. I've learned I DO NOT like listening to them, even if I would be fine reading them.)

The "Girl with the Dragon Tatoo", "Girl Who Played with Fire" "Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" series by Stieg Larson. The first one stands alone, the second two do not.

Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortensen

The River Why

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

The Power of One

This Book Will Save Your Life (it's a novel, not a self help)

Water for Elephants

Telegraph Days

Time Traveler's Wife
posted by bluesky78987 at 11:41 PM on June 11, 2011

There are some excellent H. P. Lovecraft audiobooks out there, the ones by Gune and Gould are the best I've found.
posted by Canageek at 11:42 PM on June 11, 2011

Anything where a comedian reads their own book - as long as you like the comedian, these are usually amazing. Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Patton Oswalt...

John Hodgman's two audiobooks... Sorry, the title of the first one escapes me. The second is More Information Than You Require.

But absolutely, absolutely do not miss Around the World in 80 Days read by Jim Dale. I can't recommend it highly enough. One of the first audiobooks I've listened to, it set the bar incredibly high. Your ears will thank you.
posted by TangoCharlie at 12:30 AM on June 12, 2011

Don't know if you have an ipod/iphone, but I need to plug my new favorite (free) app, Audibly, which has tons of audiobooks in the public domain.
posted by Durin's Bane at 12:34 AM on June 12, 2011

When I was working similarly I used to enjoy audiobooks too, especially Bernard Cornwell's King Arthur books (The Warlord Chronicles) and his Grailquest ones too (thematically but not otherwise linked). Very enjoyable and just suited for reading whilst working!
posted by timpollard at 2:13 AM on June 12, 2011

Peter Bowen's Gabriel Du Pre/Montana mysteries --- all of the series can stand alone, but the first three are Coyote Wind, Specimen Song and Wolf No Wolf.
posted by easily confused at 3:11 AM on June 12, 2011

I like a lot of similar things to you. One of my most favourite audio books, and one I probably wouldn't have thought of listening to on my own, is a combination travel book/biography called 8.55 to Baghdad, both written by and ready by Andrew Eames.

He follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie when she jumped on a train to Baghdad and essentially disappeared for a few days, so you get her history, but he also goes out and meets people everywhere he ends up (sometimes sneaking away from his minders) so you get a slice of more contemporary history in a fairly troubled part of the world. It's engaging and interesting to listen to but not overly heavy (he has a good sense of humour), and I listened to it while I was working.
posted by shelleycat at 3:48 AM on June 12, 2011

Since you like David Sedaris, you might also enjoy fellow This American Life alum Sarah Vowell's audiobooks, which she also reads. The Partly Cloudy Patriot is one of my very favorite audiobooks of all time.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:54 AM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: These all sound great guys! I forgot to mention that I do love a good podcast ad subscribe weekly to This American Life, The Moth, and Risk!, so thanks for recommending them. You have good taste! I can't wait to get to the library and see what they have from y'all's lists.
posted by emilygraves05 at 5:43 AM on June 12, 2011

+1 for Bernard Cornwell's Arthur trilogy. Listening to them ruined all other fantasy literature for me - I'm doubtful I'll find anything halfway as enjoyable as I found those books and Edmund Dehn's brilliant reading of them.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 6:55 AM on June 12, 2011

Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay.
posted by tomboko at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2011

I would recommend anything by Christopher Moore, who hasn't been mentioned yet.

I enjoy listenening to rhe classics, as frequently I find I enjoy them more out loud. The most recent classic I listened to was To Kill a Mockingbird, which was just fantastic. Others to consider might be Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, etc. Ilove Jane Austen on audiobook, but can't stand reading her. She isn't everyone's cup of tea. lol

Tony Hillerman writes mysteries, and the audioperson (?) that does all his books is really good.
posted by annsunny at 9:14 AM on June 12, 2011

A couple audio books I've enjoyed:
Chabon -- Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Malcolm Gladwell -- Outliers
posted by Bron at 9:46 AM on June 12, 2011

Highly recommend based on what you like:

The Lie of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (haven't listened to the sequels yet)
The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (and then Cryptonomicon if you like that)
His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Good listens due to narration and fun but not "great" listens:

The Dresden Files series (read by James Marsters aka Spike from Buffy)
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:26 AM on June 12, 2011

For Scifi/Fantasy almost anything by Lois McMaster Bujold. If you can get the older Vorkosigan books that are narrated by a full cast, they are wonderful, the new ones are good, but not as good. The Challion series is also wonderful. I haven't read/listened to the Sharing Knife series, so I can't speak to them.

Sunshine by Robin McKinnley. Stuff by (mefi's own!) John Scalzi and Charles Stross (especially Old Man's War series, Laundry series and Eschaton series). If you can get your hands on the older short stories of Ray Bradbury, they're great. Something Wicked This Way Come by Bradbury as well. I'm fond of Mieville and Iain M Banks, but some of their stuff may be too complex to listen to while working. I'd start with Player of Games by Banks and Transitions by Mieville. Not their best works, but some of the easiest to listen to.
posted by Hactar at 12:29 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich - the narrator is wonderful, and the books are laugh-out-loud funny in many parts.

The Artemis Fowl series is a favorite in my family.

Haven't listened yet, but have heard that the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is good in audio format.
posted by hms71 at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2011

Lotsa similarities with my lists, too (and I also listen while doing non-verbal work), so here's mine that haven't been mentioned yet, somewhat selected for sheer vastness, always a plus when cranking through them at the rates we do:

Any Charles de Lint
SMStirling's Change series
T A Pratt
Lonesome Dove McMurtry
Any Nevil Shute
Some John Irving
Any Robertson Davies
Possession A S Byatt

You didn't mention mysteries or thrillers, but just in case, here's some series that strike the right notes for me:
Any Lee Child, William Kent Krueger, most Nevada Barr Gah!, endless category…

Or classics:
Any Dickens or Trollope (start with The Warden)…
posted by dpcoffin at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2011

Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander (narrated by Victor Bevine). I. Died.
posted by northxnorthwest at 11:26 PM on June 13, 2011

I really enjoyed the Tales of the Otori series - fictional, feudal Japan.
Also funny and interesting is Top Deck Daze, the story of how a converted double-decker bus touring company became Flight Centre Travel. I can't seem to find it on-line but if you're interested, shoot me a mefimail and we'll see if we can sort something out.
posted by unliteral at 12:10 AM on June 14, 2011

posted by littleredwagon at 8:01 AM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for rising to the challenge, I've already checked out a few of these and can't wait to get into the rest!
posted by emilygraves05 at 6:15 PM on July 10, 2011

I love books, I love audiobooks, but I can't stand poor voice performances. Here's a few I've listened to that come to mind:

George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is read by Roy Dotrice - not that I'm recommending getting into a huge multi-book series that isn't over yet... - great reading, excellent male voices, female voices are uniformly poor though.

The Amber Chronicles by Zelazny is a great series, but the only version I've found has an awful amateurish reader.

In case you haven't run across it, there's a radioplay adaptation of Pratchett's Guards! Guards! that's wonderful.

Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl is read very well and although more of a "bummer" novel, it's a fantastic story.
posted by porpoise at 3:38 PM on August 2, 2011

Annie Proulx read by Will Patton.
Outlander series, yes! Davina Porter is a good narrator.
The Dr. Siri Colin Cotterill mysteries set in modern day Laos- funny and fascinating.
Zoe Ferraris mysteries, set in modern day Saudi Arabia.
"White Heat", mystery set in Alaska, native Inuit detective.
posted by Kazimirovna at 4:03 PM on February 29, 2012

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