Give me an amazing 12 hours with an audio book.
May 21, 2007 7:05 AM   Subscribe rocks. I have listened to two books a month on various devices for the past six years, and the well of known winners is getting a bit dry. Help me (and anyone else who is interested) find some great new finds from Audible's collections, especially in nonfiction or science fiction/fantasy. A few conditions (and my suggestions) inside...

Here are the conditions:
-Audible gives you book credits each month, so the cost of each book doesn't matter. Listening time does, however. I won't listen to a book that is less than 6 hours long - its not worth the use of a credit.
-Unabridged books are preferable to abridged.
-I have listened to most of the big nonfiction standards that everyone agrees are great: Bill Bryson, Ruth Reichel, David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, and David Rakoff. All are very good, btw.
-I have listened to a lot of science fiction/fantasy, including most everything by Terry Pratchett, Garth Nix, the Neils (Stephenson and Gaiman), and Loius McMaster Bujold, who have excellent audio books.

So, what have you listened to that is incredible?
posted by blahblahblah to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
The A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. There are four books already offered on and all are ridiculously long (in a good way). Seriously good fantasy, narrated brilliantly.
posted by esilenna at 7:27 AM on May 21, 2007

There's always the Dune series, both new and old, since you're into sci-fi.

The un-abridged versions are freaking ridiculously long. I'm nearing the end of The Machine Crusade, which clocks in at something like 28 hours.

The only caveats are that some of the older books (written by Frank Herbert) aren't read by the best readers. And the writing of the newer books (written by his son, but based on Frank's notes), littered with such words as rakish, beatific and wry, is better suited to romance novels. Even so, the STORY of the pre-history of Dune is fascinating.
posted by jaded at 7:33 AM on May 21, 2007

My favorite audible downloads have been Bryson's Brief History... which I assume you heard and Eugenides' Middlesex.

I haven't been a member there in a while, but if they have any recent unabridged James Ellroy (Cold Six Thousand, LA Confidential, White Jazz, or American Tabloid), I've heard good things about 'em.
posted by dobbs at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2007

Oh, I also liked The Tender Bar (non fiction). Don't recall how long it was or the author (JR Moerhinger or something like that).
posted by dobbs at 7:40 AM on May 21, 2007

I just heard Stumbling upon Happiness. It was definitely interesting.
posted by special-k at 7:45 AM on May 21, 2007

Freakonomics (6.5 hours) is far and away the most enjoyable Audible experience I've had so far. Overthrow, by Stephen Kinzer, was depressing, as was Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, but they're worth a listen if you're not already familiar with that info. George Lakoff's "Don't Think of An Elephant" is less than five hours (or about $10), but it is really intriguing.
posted by kimota at 7:57 AM on May 21, 2007

There's a very recent AskMe thread about audiobook suggestions, but let me say that after a few months of no audiobooks, I've been listening to Audrey Niffenegger's The Time-Traveler's Wife (unabridged) and Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box. Both have been excellent listens, and both are on Audible.
posted by blueshammer at 8:09 AM on May 21, 2007

I also love Audible and have been a member since it started. Here are books that I've downloaded and loved. I've starred the ones that seem closest to your criteria.

"Shadow Divers" -- exciting non-fiction book about deep-sea diving (something I have almost no interest in, but I still loved the book)

* "Protector" -- good "hard" sci-fi by Larry Niven

"Charlie Wilson's War" -- great novel-like, non-fiction about events leading up to 9/11. I hate politics, but I this book held my interest.

"Bel Canto" -- one of the best novels I've read/heard in my life. About the day-to-day lives of people held hostage by freedom fighters.

* "The God Delusion" -- I wish Audible had some of Dawkins' evolution books. But he's a great writer, and I always enjoy what he has to say.

* "When We Were Orphans" -- this is sci-fi in the sense that "1984" or "The Handmade's Tale" is sci-fi. It's by the author of "Remains of the Day." Excellent. Audible also has the (non-sci-fi) novel "Never Let Me Go" by the same author. Also excellent.

* "Lisey's Story" and "The Cell" by Stephen King. In my opinion, King has finally matured as a writer. "The Cell" is a sophisticated Zombie story; "Lisey's Story" is rich, character-based fantasy. I also enjoyed a few other King novels from Audible's collection, notably: "From a Buick 8," and "Gerald's Game." (really fucking scary!)

"A Little History of the World" -- you didn't mention history. But in case you want to give it a whirl, this book is really charming and fun.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night-Time" -- doesn't meet any of your criteria, but it's a book I imagine most sci-fi fans would like. It's narrated by an "alien mind", a boy with Autism. Really fun, moving novel. By the same author and also really good: "A Spot of Bother". But this latter one is a pure "character book." Nothing fantasy-ish about it at all.

*** "Lonesome Dove" -- okay, this doesn't meet your criteria, but it's simply one of the best novels I've read in my life. It's a western -- a genre that, in general, doesn't interest me. But I can't imagine any sci-fi/fantasy fan not liking it. It's a quest story, like "Lord of the Rings." It's set in a richly-drawn alien world (of the past, but still...) Amazing prose, plotting and character work. Fans of "Deadwood" should especially like this novel.

* "The Adventure of English" -- A history of the English language. It's not science per-se, but it should appeal to the sort of mind that likes science books.

* "The Ominvores's Dilemma" -- one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. It's delves into all the secrets of food. As with my last suggestion, it's not exactly a science book, but if you like science, you should like this.

* "The City, Not Long After" -- post-apocalyptic sci-fi. One of the better one's I've read. It has something of a cult following.

* "The Traveler" -- part one of a sci-fi trilogy. Not too deep, but fun in a "24"-ish sort of way.

* "Time and Again" -- classic Time Travel novel. Brilliant.

* "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" -- one of my favorite fantasy books. Harry Potter for grownups.

*** "A Game of Thrones" and other books in the "Ice and Fire" series by George R. R. Martin. I'm seconding esilenna on this one. I don't have much patience with Tolkein-ish books, yet I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next one in this series.

"Master and Commander" -- MANY sci-fi/fantasy fans love this series. (I've heard people call the movie version "the best 'Star Trek' film ever made.) It's a historical series, set during the Napoleonic Wars. If you like it, you'll be busy for a long time. There are 20 books in the series, and I think Audible has them all.

* "The Amulet of Samarkand" -- fun, Harry-potter-like (but better, I think) trilogy. Excellently read.

* "Oryx and Crake" -- people are divided about this post-apocalyptic novel by Margaret Atwood. I love it.

"Life of Pi" -- (this is NOT about 3.14159...). It's a unique philosophically novel, likely to appeal to you, given your tastes (though it doesn't fall neatly into any of your categories).

* "Ender's Game" -- as a sci-fi fan, you've probably already read it. It's a classic. Audible has other books in this series, too.

* "Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age" -- two cyberpunk novels by Neal Stephenson.

There are many other books that I've loved from Audible. But I haven't listed them here, because they are too far off the mark of your interests. But if you run out of books and want some suggestions, drop me a line.
posted by grumblebee at 8:14 AM on May 21, 2007

Items that I've included that are shorter than 12 hours are exceptionally good. Especially in terms of narration. The kind of thing you find longer routes in your car and more chores to do, so you can continue listening.

My other advice is plumb biography, young adult, children's lit, and classic literature. There's excellent storytelling there.

All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, narrated by Frank Muller, 9+ hours

Under the Banner of Heaven, by John Krakauer, narrated by Scott Brick, 12+ hours

The Devil Wears Prada, by Laura Weisenberger, narrated by Bernadette Dunne, 14+ hours

Transmission, by Hari Kunzru, narrated by Hari Kunzru, 9+ hours

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry, narrated by John Lee, 24+ hours

The Apprentice, by Jaques Pepin, narrated by Michel Chevalier, 8+ hours

Bel Canto, by Anne Patchett, narrated by Anna Fields, 9+ hours

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Sussanna Clarke, narrated by Simon Prebble, 32+ hours

The Emperor of Ocean Park, by Stephen L. Carter, narrated by Richard Allen, 25+ hours

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers, narrated by Cherry Jones, 12+ hours

At Home at the End of the World, by Michael Cunningham; narrated by Colin Farrell, Dallas Roberts, Blair Brown and Jennifer Van Dyck, 11+ hours

The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, narrated by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow, 17+ hours

The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass, narrated by Anne Marie Lee, 22 hours

Dragon Rider, by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Brendan Fraser, 11+ hours

Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Brendan Fraser, 18+ hours
posted by nita at 8:35 AM on May 21, 2007

That recent AskMe thread is here. There have been some other threads as well.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:52 AM on May 21, 2007

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Frustrating and amazing. I must note it helps to listen to the segments in the correct order, which I failed to do. :)

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. You've probably already listened to this one but I just had to note it because has the most excellent narrator I've heard in my admittedly short experience with audio books.

Another vote for The Time Traveler's Wife. I probably never would've actually read this as a book, but it tore me apart (in a good way) as an audio book.

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn and the following books in the series are a second-rank choice. Fun, but not astounding. I liked the female narrator's voice, which kept me hooked.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:23 AM on May 21, 2007

"Master and Commander" -- MANY sci-fi/fantasy fans love this series. (I've heard people call the movie version "the best 'Star Trek' film ever made.) It's a historical series, set during the Napoleonic Wars. If you like it, you'll be busy for a long time. There are 20 books in the series, and I think Audible has them all.

Let me second this one. I had little interest in the topic, but the writing is way better than you'd expect, and the reader (Patrick Tull) is simply amazing, moves seemlessly from a variety of characters and accents (youtube).
posted by malphigian at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2007

As an avid audiobook fan, I've waded through a lot of bad readings - I'm currently listening to two good ones though: THE LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel and THE GRAPES OF WRATH - I'm not 100% sure there are from Audible - but I just did a search for AUDIO BOOKS on some download program and got these classics. Dawkins was great too, but someone already said that.
posted by mateuslee at 11:39 AM on May 21, 2007

I was on audible for a while until I wasn't driving as much so my book listening time dwindled to nothing. What I found is that the reader made a HUGE difference on how well I liked the story. For example, the lame accents used to read the Da Vinci Code made it absolutely unbearable... oh my god, the pain the pain.

That said, The Time Traveler's Wife was read/performed INCREDIBLY well, I thought. Since it deals with various accents and ages of the people in the book, it was tricky to pull off and I was really just blown away by how much it hooked me into the story. So that's my big recommendation. The story's wonderful and the acting kicked ass on that audiobook.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:29 PM on May 21, 2007

I just answered a similar question. My recommendations were for longer texts, but I assume that if the text is long, you can probably find an unabridged audio book.

The short and the long of it:

The Stand unabridged by Steven King (sci-fi, sort of.)
The Dark Tower series by Steven King
Children of Hurin by Tolkein
Trinty by Leon Uris
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
An Oridnary Time by DKG
Einstein by Walter Issacson
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (HILARIOUS)
The Civil War series by Shelby Foote
posted by santojulieta at 1:39 PM on May 21, 2007

I recently listened to The 8.55 to Baghdad, written and read by Andrew Eames. It's a travel book but also a bit biographical, as he is retracing the route Agatha Christie took via the Orient Express into the Middle East. He was there just at the same time as the weapons inspectors and war was imminent. It's one of the most interesting books I've 'read' in ages, covering all kinds of stuff about the places, both currently and in the past, as well as stuff about Agatha and about the Author's personal experiences. It's also read very well, was a pleasure to listen to. Was 10 CDs so probably 11ish hours long and unabridged.

I mention it because you list Bryson on your list of likes. Travel-ish books and biographies work well as audio books in my opinion, so I second your looking that way for ideas.

I really need to take it back to the library actually, it will be overdue very soon.
posted by shelleycat at 4:14 PM on May 21, 2007

This was mentioned in the previous AskMe thread, but the His Dark Materials series got me through some quite tedious days at work last year. It's really well done -- it's read by the author but the characters are voiced by actors.
posted by harkin banks at 5:22 PM on May 21, 2007

A little bit off topic, but: if there was an easy way to hear audiobook samples on your phone, and order the books to your Audible account by pressing 5 or whatever, would you use it?
posted by nicwolff at 7:56 PM on May 21, 2007

A little bit off topic, but: if there was an easy way to hear audiobook samples on your phone, and order the books to your Audible account by pressing 5 or whatever, would you use it?


What I wish Audible would do is set up RSS Feeds and/or mailing lists. I'd like to be able to check off the sorts of books I'm interested in (unabridged, history, etc.) and then get an alert whenever there's a new book of that type on the site.
posted by grumblebee at 6:48 AM on May 22, 2007

blahblahblah, I seem to like reading what you like (you named a bunch of my favorite authors).

If you enjoy mil-scifi, I'd recommend the non-scifi Master & Commander or Hornblower. For actual scifi, there's always David Weber's books, especially the Honor Harrington series, as well as the Dahak and Empire of Man (March Upcountry, etc) series. (Incidentally, these are all Baen books, and quite a few of them are in the free library, I've linked to the first books in each series.)

For alternate timeline stuff, I like both Eric Flint's (and various co-authors) 1632 series and SM Stirling's various works (Peshawar Lancers* for a stand alone, Island in the Sea of Time series and the off-shoot Dies the Fire series).

From a completely non-scifi angle, there's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller. I enjoyed it immensely and I think it's actually better as an audiobook than as a written work, and that's pretty much the first time I've ever thought that of a book.

Incidentally, if you liked Stephenson's other works, you might like the Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon.

There's a bunch of good stuff already listed that I won't bother to second, just think of most of it as seconded. I've got my library cataloged at librarything, so you're free to check it out to see if our tastes are similar enough for my recommendations to be worth anything to you.

* which is based / strongly inspired by on an old out of copyright book called King of the Lancers or King of the Khyber Rifles or something of that ilk and is an interesting look at Victorian/Imperial India
posted by yggdrasil at 2:12 PM on May 23, 2007

« Older Not-quite emergency health care in NY?   |   I want better finger control! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.