Mom-safe audiobooks for a car trip?
May 15, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Tomorrow, I will be driving my mother on a ten-hour road trip. I desperately need some entertainment for the drive, but most of the stuff I already possess for my own entertainment would annoy, offend, or disturb my mom. My mom is very religiously and politically conservative. I am looking for audiobooks, podcasts, etc. that we could listen to in the car and that we could both enjoy. It doesn't have to be 100% squeaky clean but nothing worse than a PG movie or network television show like NCIS. Bonus if it is (a) long (b) available for free as a podcast or I can use an Audible credit to get it (c) entertaining enough to keep me alert as I drive. I'm thinking maybe clean humor, English-style "cozy" mysteries, heartwarming but not cloying books like All Creatures Great and Small, something along those lines.
posted by oblique red to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Have you taken a look at Archive.Org? Lots of classics there, most all of it PG or G-rated.

Three Men in a Boat


Most Downloaded
posted by Runes at 9:14 AM on May 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you are into history at all (and even if you aren't) the Hardcore History podcasts run 2-3 hours each, and they are fantastically entertaining, as well as educational.
posted by COD at 9:21 AM on May 15, 2014

Best answer: Cabin Pressure? My discs for season 4 are in my car if you want to borrow them.
*NB for people reading: I know the OP in RL* :)
posted by pointystick at 9:21 AM on May 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

It looks like The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is on Audible. I read three or four of these books when I was on a road trip in college and as I recall they were a little bit offbeat, entertaining, and totally the sort of thing you could listen to with older relatives. It struck me as being very much in the vein as English-style "cozy" mysteries. It's a little over 8 hours long, so just about perfect for your trip.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who books fit this description almost exactly, and are available on Audible.
posted by MeghanC at 9:24 AM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Steinbeck's Travels with Charley is my recommendation, also on Audible.
posted by MichelleinMD at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just about anything from classic literature is available at LibriVox for free.
posted by lharmon at 9:36 AM on May 15, 2014

Anything by Bill Bryson.
posted by mkultra at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

The Harry Potter audiobooks kept my daughter and me entertained on multiple 7-hour road trips. They're really good!
posted by Lynsey at 9:43 AM on May 15, 2014

Maybe old Bill Cosby comic routines? Garrison Keillor?
posted by The otter lady at 9:59 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perfect solution! Old Time Radio shows! Also available at

They are free. They are clean. They are nostalgic. They are great storytelling that allows you the use of your imagination and, there are zillions of shows available.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Radiolab podcasts are great. Some of them have some political content, but lots are science-y and unlikely to offend - for example, this one on color.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:07 AM on May 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Depending on what flavor of religious she is, seconding the Harry Potter audiobooks. They're incredibly well done and the story is full of enough action that it should keep you awake. If she's of the "Harry Potter books should be burned" variety of religious, cozy mystery novels is always a good genre for roadtripping. Maybe something by Dorothy Sayers.
posted by beep-bop-robot at 10:09 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth's memoir about midwifery in London's East End in the late 1950s. Even if midwifery isn't of particular interest, Worth's writing is lovely, the characters are engaging, and the books are as much about the economic and social issues of the East End in that time as about anything else.

(I listened to the Audible books, and they are well read, too.)

On second thought, I should mention that prostitution and abortion both come up. They are handled in the way you would expect from a 1950s memoir, and I would call it very Mom-safe in general. However, if birth control is something she has strong opinions about, maybe better not.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:11 AM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not light but probably PG - 13 and very entertaiing.

Isaac's Storm (actually anything by him but htis one is more PG13 then the others)
Destiny of the Republic
The Six Wives of Henry the Vlll
Brain on Fire
Cutting For Stone
The Assasins Accomplice
11/22/1963 (Stepen King)
The Help - great on Audio.

posted by MrsMGH at 10:15 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Tobolowsky Files podcast features stories from the actor's life and is really engaging. Start from the beginning.
posted by Mchelly at 10:19 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out Vinyl Cafe from the CBC. Available as podcasts. Great storytelling, some music and hilarity!
posted by bricksNmortar at 10:22 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anything from Dorothy Gilman or Charlotte MacLeod should be mom-suitable!
posted by easily confused at 10:23 AM on May 15, 2014

My mom and I listened to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman on a trip and it was great. It is available through Audible. But it is along the same lines as Harry Potter, so if that is a concern be aware.
posted by ephemerista at 10:35 AM on May 15, 2014

Yeah, I was going to suggest Garrison Keillor too. Full episodes of Prairie Home Companion have variety (music, comedy, stories), are G-rated, and long...

I feel like other NPR (Radio Lab, This American Life) could go either way, depending on the episode... There's also some innocuous music shows you could probably stream, like Thistle & Shamrock.
posted by jrobin276 at 10:36 AM on May 15, 2014

Seconding the Bill Bryson recommendation, especially A Walk in the Woods, which centers on an attempt by two out-of-shape, middle-aged guys -- Bryson and a buddy from back in the day -- to traverse the Appalachian Trail.

It's a work of history, geography and humor that makes a case for conservation, but never in a way that hits you over the head. BTW: A longtime family friend whose politics have moved steadily to the right in the decades I've known him* loved A Walk in the Woods and recommends it to everybody.

*Example: Said friend and his wife left the mainstream church in my hometown for a fundie congregation that doesn't allow Halloween parties because "it's a pagan holiday."
posted by virago at 11:08 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth series. They're on audible, plus you might be able to download them from your local library.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:10 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like the Librivox recordings of Anne of Green Gables quite a bit.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:25 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love the podcast Stuff You Should Know. Just go pick a bunch of them. The titles of each one tell you exactly what they're about, so you can skip over ones you feel would be too much for your mom. It's just two guys talking about stuff like family crests, jousting, the paleo diet, etc. Really varied and interesting.
posted by cooker girl at 11:39 AM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Expert Show is a podcast that is just three comedians talking to various scientists in a kind of quiz show format. Pretty inoffensive. Some episodes include Canine Cognition, Fish Noises, Rare Books, and Mind Perception. All of those subjects are surprisingly interesting, and the episodes are very funny.
posted by Garm at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2014

Response by poster: Lots of fantastic recs here! I will go through and download this evening and hopefully it will make for an entertaining and stress-free drive (at least on the inside of the car.) Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by oblique red at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2014

Best answer: I really enjoyed Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl.

Seconding Cabin Pressure. Hysterical!
posted by stampsgal at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

My parents are similar and we've successfully passed many miles with the audio versions of the tamer Terry Pratchett books (not Small Gods, due to religious content). We also listened to a lot of Fibber McGree and Molly on car trips as kids.
posted by Candleman at 9:06 PM on May 15, 2014

Thrilling Adventure Hour is a comedy podcast, recorded in the style of old-time radio shows. "Beyond Belief" is all stand-alones, while "Sparks Nevada" is more serialized. It's something of an institution.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:29 PM on May 15, 2014

Best answer: You've probably left on your trip already, but for when you get home/the next trip, both of these are clean, delightfully funny, and bargain-priced on Audible: Cabin Pressure (previously on MeFi), and (by the writer of Cabin Pressure) John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme. (Multiple series of both shows are available.)
posted by Lexica at 9:02 PM on May 16, 2014

Response by poster: Updating - Cabin Pressure was perfect! Thanks, everyone!
posted by oblique red at 8:17 PM on May 29, 2014

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