Road trip audiobook recommendations
July 23, 2021 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I’ll be going on a road trip with my 10 year old in a few weeks. What should we listen to?

The well has started to run dry on my knowledge of books that have an appropriate maturity level to line up with his interests, and I don’t know much about what audiobooks might be especially engaging. I’d like something that will also help a grownup get through 15 hours of dull highway driving more easily, so not TOO kid-oriented.

We are pretty flexible on genre but lean sci-fi and fantasy. Non-fiction is fine but we have had bad luck finding it compelling in audiobook form—I think we want a story, true or not. Humor is great, with some caveats below.

In terms of vocabulary and plot, kid is pretty mature (recent stuff he’s enjoyed includes the original Sherlock Holmes short stories and some adult-marketed sci fi with ~PG-13 level content). He is excruciatingly sensitive to the secondhand-cringe-theater that is so common in kid and teen media. He likes an obvious and interesting bad guy and a clever good guy.

He’s consumed and enjoyed most of the stuff that you’d expect from a modern fantasy-loving kid: HP, LOTR, Rick Riordan and his imprint, Warriors, Wings of Fire. He loves D&D and actual play podcasts, but asked for a more focused story for the trip, so a relatively tight audio drama podcast might also work.

I don’t have an Audible subscription but would be willing to get one for this trip.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by tchemgrrl to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The audiobooks of Garth Nix’s Sabriel series are read by Tim Curry and are very, very good on long road trips. Maybe give them a once-over to see if they’d be too intense for your guy? They do center around keeping the dead from returning to the world of the living, but I’m not really doing the series justice by explaining it that way. It’s a lot more complex and elegant than “fighting zombies.”
posted by corey flood at 7:30 AM on July 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Not fantasy, but an excellent road trip novel perfect for a ten year old (and absolutely enjoyable for adults) is Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

I also strongly recommend Cabin Pressure which is not a book but a radio sit-com and my absolutely favorite road trip entertainment.
posted by tangosnail at 7:57 AM on July 23, 2021

The Sabriel series mentioned above is SO GOOD. If you haven't heard the BBC Radio 4 version of Good Omens, I would highly recommend, it's got a full cast and sound effects so it's quite immersive.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Graveyard Book, if he hasn't read that.

Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins.

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett.

All of those excepting The Graveyard Book have sequels as well!
posted by missrachael at 8:46 AM on July 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Jonathan Stroud has two excellent series that both adults and kids enjoy: the Bartimaeus series (book 1 is The Amulet of Samarkand), which features Bartimaeus, the wonderfully sarcastic djinn and Nathaniel, the apprentice wizard who summons him; and the Lockwood & Co. series, about a group of psychic investigators (there's a ghost epidemic, and only kids can see/hear them).

Also seconding the recommendation for Sabriel.
posted by mogget at 8:58 AM on July 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Douglas Adams and Pratchett, above, are unlikely to turn out badly.
posted by eotvos at 8:59 AM on July 23, 2021

Our 10 yo is a little mature, but the Hunger Games trilogy was something we read to him last year and it is very well done. Excellent sci-fi world building, it’s written with pace and has some good cliff-hangers.

My little guy also suggests The Mysterious Benedict Society, which I know less about, but has just been made into a tv series.
posted by thenormshow at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

My kids of that age love Alex Rider (there are 10 books), and Percy Jackson - which your kid probably read.

Don’t make my mistake and agree to “warriors”. We had to listen to 5 hours of melodramatic cat drama before we broke down and forced the kids to listen with headphones.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 9:11 AM on July 23, 2021

The Magic Misfits (4 part series) by Neil Patrick Harris
How to Train your Dragon (10+ books), it has more or less nothing to do with the movies except for the fact that there are Vikings and dragons and some of them have the same names.
posted by pyro979 at 9:30 AM on July 23, 2021

I am a fan of Carl Hiaasen's quirky adult novels, and was excited when he began writing for younger people. My kids enjoyed Hoot, Flush, and another that I have forgotten. It looks like he has written several more since they outgrew him. Not science fiction but I think you would both enjoy them. His books are set in Florida, have eco type plots with good guys vs bad guys, and are very funny.
posted by maxg94 at 11:09 AM on July 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

seconding the Bartimaeus books, they are awesomely read by Simon Jones. And yes, anything by Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:24 PM on July 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I loved The True Meaning of Smekday. The start is disorienting and off-putting, but within a few minutes you're properly underway. Very funny and astute.
posted by kelper at 1:59 PM on July 23, 2021

John Steinbeck, "Travels with Charley," was a godsend on a road trip from DC to Chicago.
posted by MichelleinMD at 2:33 PM on July 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also love Wee Free Men, and we enjoyed Artemis Fowl.

If you're using Audible, we enjoyed How to Defeat the Demon King in Ten Easy Steps and Zero G. Also, for nonfiction, Rivals! Frenemies Who Changed the World.

I also enjoyed the audiobook of The Epic Crush of Jeannie Lo, which is YA but quite kid appropriate.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:59 PM on July 23, 2021

Best answer: Seconding Gregor the Overlander; it also has sequels that are also very good, though they do get progressively darker. I feel like if he's read LoTR, it'd be fine though.

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (another by Terry Pratchett) is another one you might consider; it's a Discworld take on the Pied Piper story.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien is a personal favorite of mine; the movie The Secret of NIMH is based on it, but the book is the more interesting of the two, IMHO.
posted by Aleyn at 7:50 PM on July 23, 2021

Local AM radio! It's less rich than it was 30 years ago, but it will convey the different ways of thinking that cross this country. Then you can talk together about what is acceptable and horrible about what you hear, and you can fill in your kid about your take on how we came to this.

If you're lucky and keep dialing, you'll still occasionally get a station that's doing local auction or local call-in and you'll learn a lot about the country you're traveling through.
posted by gum at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2021

My kid and I enjoyed Ostrich Boys
Book by Keith Gray
on a short road trip.
posted by vespabelle at 11:46 AM on July 25, 2021

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