Audiobooks are podcasts with plots. They were podcasts before there were podcasts (as was talk radio). In fact, most of the time, they’re better than podcasts. You can’t start a audiobook on a whim, so right there you cut out most of the chaff. If you’ve been wanting to get into audiobooks but don’t know where to start, we have a few suggestions.

Sherlock Holmes

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Narrated by Stephen Fry

The Sherlock Holmes series holds up. The stories are going on 125 years old, but Doyle’s writing style doesn’t show as much age as other works from the same time period. With Stephen Fry’s narration on top, the story’s get another injection of life. Fry is a natural choice for the narration, as he’s super British, intelligent, and plays Mycroft Holmes in the Guy Ritchie movies. And any time Stephen Fry talks to you about anything, you get smarter in general. $83


Lincoln in the Bardo

Written by George Saunders

Narrated by Ensemble

Lincoln in the Bardo almost has to be heard rather than read. It’s an amazing book, don’t get us wrong (seeing as how this will be the fourth time we’ve recommended it), but, for some readers, it can be difficult to follow, what with its unusual formatting. In audiobook form, with a full cast, you can keep voices straight and hear the conversations as they’d sound as real dialogue. Plus, have you ever seen an audiobook cast list this stacked with excellent voices? Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Ben Stiller, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, Bill Hader, Megan Mullally, Rainn Wilson, Kat Dennings, and George Saunders himself all feature, and we had to pick and choose who we included. $25


The Harry Potter Series

Written by J.K. Rowling

Narrated by Jim Dale

The Harry Potter series might not be strictly “cool,” but there’s a reason it’s captured people’s imaginations for as long as it has. It’s an entertaining, richly developed series that lends itself to repeated readings/listenings. We all know someone who takes a month out of the year and rockets through the entire series, and while we don’t advocate such vigorous Harry Potter consumption, that person’s onto something. Jim Dale’s reading is great too. He brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm to a series that absolutely demands it. $30 (First Book)


The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Written/Narrated by Douglas Adams

This spot was originally going to go to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as read by Stephen Fry, but we decided against it in favor of this one. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is one of Adams’ lesser known works, but no less deserving of your time. It hits plenty of the same surreal notes as Hitchhiker’s but stays a little more grounded, at least in so much as they don’t leave Earth on a spaceship. If you remember when we talked about Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency way back at the end of 2016, it’s the same character. So if you like that show, you’ll like this book. Plus, it’s read by Douglas Adams himself and who’s better suited to perform Adams’s work? $20


Dubliners

Written by James Joyce

Narrated by Ensemble

We’re not completely up on our Irish/Irish-American celebrities, so a few of these narrators went over our heads, but the ones we recognized are fairly heavy hitters. Ciaran Hinds is in there, who you know as Mance Raider from Game of Thrones and Jonathan Reiss from the exceptionally well reviewed Lara Croft: Cradle of Life. Jim Norton, the American comedian, is in there, and Frank McCourt is a name people know in literary circles. You might know more of them than we do, but we guarantee none of these people do a bad job. You don’t get hired to do a Dubliners audiobook if you don’t love James Joyce. $29


Breakfast of Champions

Written by Kurt Vonnegut

Narrated by John Malkovich

Most people were forced to read Slaughterhouse Five. For the people who liked it (which seemed like most people, come to think of it), a logical next step was Breakfast of Champions. It’s the title we hear second most often and what we hear is generally positive. Put John Malkovich on the project and his unique delivery brings an almost exasperated narration to one of Vonnegut’s more depressing works. But depressing in Vonnegut’s personal way, which means, listening to this audiobook, you’ll either be wonderfully entertained or wonderfully entertained then in existential despair for the next week. $20


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Written/Narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s second greatest strength (his first is his brain, obviously) is his ability to make complicated scientific principles approachable and digestible for the layperson. There’s no one we’d rather have guiding us through the field of astrophysics than Tyson, which is probably why we have his Colbert Report interviews bookmarked. Since Tyson provides the narration for his own book, every subject covered is crystal clear. Tyson’s also an expert at making the expanse of the universe not feel like a crushing, depressing wasteland, so expect to feel uplifted at the end of the book, rather than nihilistic. $18


Bossypants

Written/Narrated by Tina Fey

Tina Fey’s Bossypants is one of those books comedians write that are actually worth something. So many other comedians have written books that weren’t anything more than a career padding money grab. It was just their material repackaged and not improved. But Bossypants is an honest, hilarious look at what women can expect in comedy and what nerds can expect in life. If there’s even a shred of common ground between you and Tina Fey, you’ll find it here. And if there’s not, at least it’s funny. $31


George Carlin Reads to You

Written/Narrated by George Carlin

Calling George Carlin a stand-up comedian doesn’t feel quite right. Early in his career, it was fine. He stuck to more traditional bits and jokes. As he got older, he turned his act into more philosophizing than anything else, chewing through huge topics in American life. In our opinion, George Carlin Reads to You feels like a better way to listen to his material than watching him on stage. You get all the comedy and theorizing, delivered directly to you, rather than an audience first. $35


Good Omens

Written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Narrated by Martin Jarvis

Good Omens is one of those pet projects that ended up being an amazing piece of writing rather than a steaming pile of weird egotistical vanity projects. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman created a seamless blending of their two styles into one great piece of weird literature. Even the people who wrote it can’t tell where their work starts and the other’s ends. Good Omens audiobook is a great casual listen, for when you’re cleaning, driving, exercising, or just want to sit in bed and listen to someone read you a book. $31


American Gods

Written by Neil Gaiman

Narrated by Ensemble

Even if you watched Showtime’s adaptation of American Gods, you should still experience the book. Things changed (not in a bad way) for the show, with plot expansions and character changes and alterations to make the story fit the new medium. That said, this audiobook version has a full cast, which you can look at if you’d like. We don’t recognize any of the names, but that’s better, in a way. These are all fresh voices, so we can be drawn into the story, rather than think about how Ron Swanson is telling us about an ancient religious struggle. $42

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