Escapist audio books
June 17, 2015 9:47 PM   Subscribe

I get all my best audio book recommendations from Ask Metafilter! I'm looking for books like Ready Player One, the Golden Compass (I read this one on paper), or on a slightly different note, The Likeness (Tana French). Any suggestions?

I'm looking for books that have a world I can immerse myself in, a quest or source of suspense, a likable protagonist, and fast pacing. (The most common reason I can't finish an audiobook is that it's too slow.)

I'm happy to add detail later if this question is too vague. Thanks for your suggestions.
posted by slidell to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley was excellent - I just finished it.
posted by bq at 9:51 PM on June 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. The narrator of the audiobooks, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, is totally, completely fantastic. The books are basically police procedurals, in London, with magic. They are pretty great, I think, and there is an arc across the series (five books so far).
posted by rtha at 10:02 PM on June 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you're a fan of Tana French, you might like any of the James Lee Burke mysteries as read by Will Patton (only by Will Patton). These are sort of standard mysteries (no magical or epic element), but they are completely immersive and move along at a good clip. Both the source material and the performance are top quality. Stick to the ones set in the south, and especially the ones from the last 10 years. So very good. Will Patton is magical.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:20 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Holy crap, I came in here to rec The Rook and Rivers of London too! They were recommended on AskMefi and loved them.

So I'll add The Goldfinch, The Year of the Flood and The Bone Clocks.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:44 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Martian by Andy Weir.
posted by escapepod at 10:45 PM on June 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Reamde by Neal Stephenson is long but fast-paced and suspenseful.

China Mieville's Kraken; I don't think it's his best book, but the audiobook is excellent.
posted by neushoorn at 10:46 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Night Circus, and Station Eleven are both amazingly well done audiobook versions
posted by raw sugar at 11:08 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Third-ing The Rook - very fun. The Flavia de Luce books are really great on audio as well - the narrator is excellent, although they're not always super fast-paced.
posted by clerestory at 11:10 PM on June 17, 2015

I've enjoyed audiobooks from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. They've got likable protagonists (mostly the same from book to book), rollicking space adventures, romance, and a narrator with a pleasingly sarcastic voice.
posted by moonmilk at 11:19 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

All of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books except the most recent are on audiobooks, and they have just what you're looking for.

I'll also take this opportunity to second Reamde: I'm listening to it now, and it's a great yarn. I listen in my car and I find myself seriously resenting arriving at the end of trips and having to turn off the story.
posted by ubiquity at 5:56 AM on June 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think you would like The Girl With All the Gifts and also, books by John Scalzi, based on your enjoyment of Ready Player One.
posted by janey47 at 6:21 AM on June 18, 2015

The audiobooks of the Game of Thrones series was the first all-star production of the books: one narrator read a complete palette of accents and affects into the characters, and even his ordinary narrator voice is gruff and refined and perfect. I think it broke some record for number of unique voices from a single actor.

Although part of me winces at the choice of Welsh for the "impish" presentation of Tyrion.

I also found the audiobook readings of Steinbeck to be universally perfect. The little two-part coda in the middle of East of Eden remains a stunning piece of drama that sticks in my head, and the way the narrator read certain passages as if he were about to cry did me in every time.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:37 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know it's not a new title, and I'm far from the author's biggest fan, but Orson Scott Card's
Ender's Game read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and Gabrielle de Cuir is remarkably good. I got outvoted and had to listen to it on a family vacation a few years ago, and against my expectations found myself enjoying it quite a lot. My main issue with Card is that I simply do not think he is a very good writer - but he has managed to produce one work that is simply brilliant, and this is it, and this audiobook rendition really nails it home.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:43 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Terry Pratchett, for sure. The usual recommended starting point is Guards! Guards! or Small Gods, or Equal Rites.

Pratchett tends to have loosely connected series all set on the same world- Guards! is the start of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch thread, while Rites is the start of the Witches thread, while Small Gods is a pretty standalone book. You can pick up pretty much any Discworld book and find a good interesting story.... but the characters actually grow and change over the course of some 40+ books, so its generally a better idea to start somewhere near the beginning (but maybe not the beginning itself, as the first two books in the series don't quite hit the incredibly magic groove of, well, the other 40+)

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is... massive. I suspect the first few books meet your criteria. A lot of the complaints about the latter books' pacing is somewhere between valid and an artifact of the long publishing times. YMMV, but worth a look-see.
posted by Jacen at 6:45 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was completely entranced by the audiobook of M. T. Anderson's Feed.

Great story, great worldbuilding, hilarious invented teen slang, and amazing audio production.

In one fell swoop it got me interested in YA fiction and audiobooks.
posted by the matching mole at 6:52 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

If pirates and black magic is your thing, you might enjoy Tim Powers's On Stranger Tides read by Balki Bartokomous Bronson Pinchot. Pinchot's range of voices really makes the story come to life.
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:10 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lev Grossman's Magicians series is good, and fairly steady-paced once you get past the worldbuilding (which is interesting enough to remain engaging) in the first half of the first book.

I'm on my second listen of The Martian ahead of the movie coming out, listening with my husband this time. Extremely tightly-paced, though very sciencey (someone described it pretty accurately as "you know that part in Apollo 13 where the guys in Houston had to make a square filter fit a round hole? It's like an entire book about that.")

Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy is fast-paced, a little bit scary, and the audiobooks are really well done.

It's non-fiction, but one of my favorite books of the past 5 years is Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927. It was a pretty amazing summer, and Bryson is an excellent narrator. I was mostly listening to that one in the kitchen, and sometimes my husband would walk by and get "stuck" listening for 10-20 minutes.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:52 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I forgot Pat Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One: The Name of the Wind, Day Two: The Wise Man's Fear, (Day Three isn't out yet, if incomplete series make you crazy), and a novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you liked Ready Player One, Armada (by the same author) is out in about a month.
posted by WCityMike at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks! I'm really appreciating these recommendations, including many I hadn't heard, and some I'd heard of but hadn't looked at closely enough. Thank you.
posted by slidell at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2015

The science fiction thriller series The Expanse by James S. A. Corey, as read by Jefferson Mays. First book is Leviathan Wakes. It's really exciting; so good that I managed to listen to the latest book in the series over the course of 2 days, could not put it down.
posted by JDHarper at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I truly don't get the love for the magicians. oh well. the martian comment
posted by Jacen at 1:23 PM on June 18, 2015

Red Rising. It is going to be the next huge blockbuster, guaranteed. And the narrator is excellent.

Starts a little slow but you'll be begging for book 2 (which is out).

Also the detective books by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) are so good and the narrator is great. Likeable protagonist, fast, suspenseful, detective work. Perfect.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:20 PM on June 18, 2015

Seconding The Martian, read by RC Bray. May get too technical for you, however.
posted by Rash at 9:43 AM on June 21, 2015

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix. They're narrated by Tim Curry!
posted by TheCoug at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2015

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