How Audiobooks Saved My Sanity and 40 Listens to Save Yours!

My first year teaching, I found myself losing my mind. Not only was I cracking under the uncertainty, workload, and pressures of being a new teacher, but I had two hours of commute time every day on the highway during the iciest winter Indiana had seen since the “great blizzard of 1978.” In an effort to help curb my driving anxiety, a coworker suggested audiobooks and that suggestion changed my life. Seven years — and over 1,100 audiobooks later — I am a certified audiobook junkie.

I am not exaggerating when I say that audiobooks are lifesaving. Members of the “Audiobook Addicts” Facebook group frequently tout the healing power of audiobooks saying the stories have helped them in their grieving of miscarriages and the deaths of spouses, children, and other loved ones. Audiobooks have helped them live with anxiety, depression, and autoimmune diseases. Audiobooks get people through divorce proceedings, long commutes, lonely nights, tedious housework, cancer treatments, workouts, and parenting. My own mother cites audiobooks as a key to her health and sanity after a surgery left her with a chronic pain condition.

The stress of this school year, the anxiety over safety, and the loneliness that pervades isolation mixed to make 2020 (and now 2021) a year of mothering nightmares. The difficulties of the last nearly twelve months have been relentless. And while I can’t turn back the clock, or skip forward to bypass this time, I can do my best to maintain my sanity and joy while living through it.

For me, audiobooks are crucial in creating some peace during this noisy time.

If you aren’t already addicted to audiobooks, give one a try next time you are driving, cleaning, working out, breastfeeding your babe in the middle of the night, or playing a particularly long game of hide ‘n’ seek!

How to Listen:

All featured apps allow you to download the audiobook to your device so that you can listen anywhere without constantly using data.

Most of these options allow listeners to change the speed of the audiobook. Personally, I like listening at 2.0x speed!

FREE:
  • The Libby App—This is your local library’s audiobook app. The Mid-Continent public library system has nearly every book I have ever wanted to read, and I am sure KC’s public system has just as many. Even a smaller local library should have some selection. Just download the app and enter the ID number on your library card!
  • LibriVox—This is a collection of public domain audiobooks, so think literary classics.
Costs $:
  • Audible—Monthly Subscription for credits that you then spend on any audiobook. After purchase, you own the audiobook forever even if you cancel the service. Largest selection. Has lots of BOGO sales!
  • Scribd—Monthly Subscription for unlimited listening. Read as many books as you’d like. Smaller selection. Don’t own the books.
  • Google Audiobooks—No subscription. Purchase-to-own books individually.

So I have convinced you and you downloaded an audiobook app, but what should you listen to?

Here are 40 Audiobooks that are so good that you won’t want to hit “Pause”

For the whole family
For the whole family

Pax
By Sara Pennypacker
Narrated by Michael Curran-Dorsano
Synopsis: Peter and his pet fox, Pax, set out on adventures to reunite after they are forced to separate.

Other Words for Home
By Jasmine Warga
Narrated by Vaneh Assadourian
Synopsis: Written in verse, this middle grade novel follows Jude, a young Syrian girl, as she is forced to leave her home country and her family to move across the world to make a new home in the United States.

Thirteenth Child
By Patricia C. Wrede
Narrated by Amanda Ronconi
Synopsis: If Laura Ingalls Wilder and JK Rowling wrote a book together, this would be it! Follow Eff, the thirteenth (and supposedly unlucky) daughter of a pioneer family, as she explores America’s wild, and magical frontier.

The Graveyard Book
By Neil Gaiman
Narrated by Neil Gaiman
Synopsis: When Nobody Owens was a baby, he wandered into a graveyard and has since been raised by the loving ghosts inhabiting the space. His adventures in both the world of the living and the world of the dead are filled with wonder and delight! This book is a personal favorite of mine and the author, Neil Gaiman, acts as a fantastic narrator for the tale. This book is perfect for 10 years and up.

The Crossover
By Kwame Alexander
Narrated by Corey Allen
Synopsis: This middle grade novel is written in verse from 12-year-old Josh Bell’s perspective. This is a fast paced story about basketball, family, and brotherhood.

Contemporary Dramas
Contemporary Dramas

Beartown
By Fredrik Backman
Narrated by Marin Ireland
Synopsis: Beartown is a tiny rural town where hockey is king. The entire town is rocked after a violent act traumatizes a young girl and leads to accusations toward the team’s star player. Rumors, denials, and blame are thrown around as the town is split in two. This book is so much more than just a sports book. I have listened to it three times and have recommended it to hundreds of people. Trust me and give it a listen.

A Woman Is No Man
By Etaf Rum
Narrated by Ariana Delawari, Dahlia Salem, Susan Nezami
Synopsis: This novel follows three generations of Palestinian-American women as they grapple with their own desires and complying with what their Arab heritage asks of them.

A Spark of Light
By Jodi Picoult
Narrated by Bahni Turpin, Jodi Picoult
Synopsis: A gunman walks into a women’s reproductive services clinic, taking lives and taking hostages. When the local hostage negotiator shows up on site, he realizes that his own 15-year-old daughter is being held hostage in the building. This book walks you through each character’s individual story leading up to that point, including the gunman’s.

Lily and the Octopus
By Steven Rowley
Narrated by Michael Urie
Synopsis: A story of the powerful love between a man and his most loyal friend, his dog. Get the tissues ready for this one!

historical fiction
Historical Fiction

The Island of Sea Women
By Lisa See
Narrated by Jennifer Lim
Synopsis: On the Korean island of Jeju live two best friends, Mi-ja and Young-sook. They spend their days working with their village’s all-female diving collective. This very dangerous job is only taken on by what this society considers is the strongest sex, the women. This moving and heartbreaking tale of friendship, loss, war, and rebirth is based on the remarkable true island society.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, Robin Miles
Synopsis: Old Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo has lived a life filled with decades of scandal and now she is ready to tell the truth about her many marriages and the other secrets that she has kept from the world.

The Murmur of Bees
By Sofia Segovia, Simon Bruni—translation
Narrated by Xe Sands, Angelo Di Loreto
Synopsis: Set during the Mexican revolution and the deadly 1918 influenza, The Murmur of Bees follows little Simonopio, a mysterious and powerful abandoned (and then adopted) child who has visions of what is to come.

We Were the Lucky Ones
By Georgia Hunter
Narrated by Kathleen Gati, Robert Fass
Synopsis: In 1939, the Jewish Kurc family is separated by the war and the Nazi regime. This devastating and nearly unbelievable tale was inspired by the incredible stories of a real-life family that was flung to the far corners of the world during WWII.

Be inspired by real people
Be inspired by real people

My Year of Running Dangerously
By Tom Foreman
Narrated by Tom Foreman
Synopsis: Try to keep up with Tom Foreman as he trains and completes four half marathons, three marathons, and one 55-mile race. This entertaining read ALMOST convinced me to like running, almost.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
By Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb—contributor
Narrated by Archie Panjabi
Synopsis: If you have not already read this memoir from Nobel Prize-winning, human rights powerhouse, Malala Yousafzai, now is the time. When she was just 15, she was shot in the head by members of the Taliban because she was standing up for girls’ right to education. She lived to tell the tale, and she continues to inspire millions through her humanitarian work.

Until Tuesday
By Luis Carlos Montalvan
Narrated by Luis Carlos Montalvan
Synopsis: Luis Montalvan, a decorated captain in the U.S. Army, came home from war facing physical trauma and PTSD. It wasn’t until meeting Tuesday, his service dog, that he began to heal. This is the perfect book for dog lovers, and well, anyone with a heart.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person
By Shonda Rhimes
Narrated by Shonda Rhimes
Synopsis: Shonda Rhimes, the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” was called out by her sister for always saying “No,”  so she challegened herself to say “Yes” for an entire year. This “yes” experiment brought to her life more fun, opportunity, and joy. Say “yes” to this audiobook and you might start saying “yes” more in your own life!

Laugh until it hurts:
Laugh until it hurts

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler
Narrated by Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Mike Schur, Eileen Poehler, William Poehler, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner
Synopsis: Amy Poehler’s memoir, need I say more? Do yourself a favor and listen to this one instead of reading it. This audiobook is narrated by a full cast of famous names you probably recognize!

My Lady Jane
By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Synopsis: This novel has the most off-the-wall premise and it will make you laugh from cover to cover! It is an alternate history of Tudor-era Lady Jane Grey. It is hysterical, sarcastic, and a little bit magical.

The Last Black Unicorn
By Tiffany Haddish
Narrated by Tiffany Haddish
Synopsis: Tiffany Haddish holds absolutely nothing back in her hysterical and, at times, heartbreaking collection of autobiographical essays.

Where the Hell is Tesla?
By Rob Dircks
Narrated by Rob Dircks
Synopsis: Written in self-deprecating first person point of view, journey along with Chip as he goes on a reality and time bending sci-fi odyssey to save famous scientist, Nikola Tesla.

Thrillers to keep you on the edge of your seat
Thrillers to keep you on the edge of your seat

Verity
By Colleen Hoover
Narrated by Vanessa Johansson, Amy Landon
Synopsis: Writer Lowen Ashleigh agrees to the odd task of finishing out a very famous series of books for another author who was severely injured in an accident. She moves in with the famous author’s family to complete this task and, in the process, develops intense feelings for the author’s husband and also discovers dark secrets that could tear the family apart.

The Guest List
By Lucy Foley
Narrated by Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, Rich Keeble
Synopsis: The Guest List is a whodunnit that lovers of Agatha Christie will love! A small group gathers at an isolated Irish Island to celebrate the wedding of a powerhouse couple. But one person doesn’t make it out of the wedding alive.

In a Dark, Dark Wood
By Ruth Ware
Narrated by Imogen Church
Synopsis: Nora is invited by a long lost friend to a weekend getaway in the woods. By the end of the trip, she is hospitalized, having barely escaped with her life and with the knowledge that someone is dead. But who? Unable to remember what happened, she has to revisit her dark memories and search within herself for the answers.

Romances that will make you swoon
Romances that will make you swoon

Beach Read
By Emily Henry
Narrated by Julia Whelan
Synopsis: Two authors, January (a romance writer) and Augustus (a brooding literary writer) end up spending the summer in neighboring beach houses on the Michigan coast. On one competitive summer night, they dare each other to write in the other’s style to help break out of their writer’s block.

The Royal We
By Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan
Narrated by Christine Lakin
Synopsis: This is a love story that sounds suspiciously close to that of Prince William and Kate. Watch as a commoner steals a prince’s heart and has to deal with the responsibilities and hardships that come along with dating the monarchy.

The Simple Wild
By K. A. Tucker
Narrated by Rebekkah Ross
Synopsis: In an attempt to reconnect with her father, Calla moves from Toronto to the Alaskan Wild. When she gets there, she meets rugged pilot Jonah and tries to prove to herself, and to him that this city girl can handle the wild.

Red, White & Royal Blue
By: Casey McQuiston
Narrated by Ramon de Ocampo
Synopsis: The son of the U.S. President falls in love with the Prince of England—need I say more?

Fantasy to take you to new worlds
Fantasy to take you to new worlds

Red Rising
By Pierce Brown
Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Synopsis: If you mixed Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games and made it more adult, it would be Red Rising. I am obsessed with this series. Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste in an interplanetary color-coded caste system. Soon, he realizes that he and his community of reds have been toiling and dying in order to prop up the Gold class. To overcome this, he sneaks his way into the Institute, the battle ground and training school for Gold’s deadliest young adults. *This book has a lot of world building in the beginning so please get through the slower first couple hours, and I promise the book will take off and you will never regret listening!

Circe
By Madeline Miller
Narrated by Perdita Weeks
Synopsis: Circe is banished to a deserted island when her father, Zeus, finds out just how powerful her magic is. This re-telling of the famous mythological tale will breathe life into one of the more mysterious stops on Odysseus’s journey home.

Children of Blood and Bone
By Tomi Adeyemi
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Synopsis: This is a West-African inspired fantasy. Zelie, and others like her, have to hide their magical heritage from the kingdom that has sought ruthlessly to eradicate magic and their kind by any means necessary. But when Zelie has the chance to bring back magic, she will have to leave her home to fight back against those who seek to destroy her.

Science-Fiction to peak your interest
Science-Fiction to peak your interest

The Martian
By Andy Weir
Narrated by Wil Wheaton
Synopsis: Even if you have watched the movie, listen to this book! It is so much fun and such a treat. Mark Watney is accidentally left on Mars and has to learn how to survive. This book is hysterical, emotional, and will get your heart pumping!

11-22-63
By Stephen King
Narrated by Craig Wasson
Synopsis: Touted as one of King’s best novels, 11/22/63 follows Jake Epping, a 35-year-old English teacher, as he adventures through a portal that takes him back in time. This portal gives him the wild and dangerous opportunity to stop the JFK assasination.

The Girl with All the Gifts
By M. R. Carey
Narrated by Finty Williams
Synopsis: Melanie is a little girl under constant lockdown and surveillance, not for her safety, but for the safety of others. She loves to attend school and she loves her teacher, even if she has to be led to class tied up and under gunpoint. She promises she won’t bite, but they don’t believe her.

YA (Young Adult) that even adults will love
YA (Young Adult) that even adults will love

When Dimple Met Rishi
By Sandhya Menon
Narrated by Sneha Mathan, Vikas Adam
Synopsis: Trying to avoid her mother’s plans for an arranged Indian marriage, Dimple attends a pre-college summer camp for web-developers. Little does she know, Rishi, the boy her parents have promised her hand to, will also be at the camp!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
By Benjamin Alire Saenz
Narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Synopsis: Expertly narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this novel will make you feel all the feels. You will swoon, sigh, and cry all the tears reading about how two seemingly opposite people, Aristotle and Dante, develop a life-changing friendship.

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Synopsis: 16-year-old Starr Carter witnesses her childhood friend lose his life during a traffic stop with a police officer. She is then quickly thrust into the national spotlight as her friend’s death leads to a movement for justice. I think about this book often, and I highly recommend that everybody read it, no matter their age.

On Mothering
On Mothering

The Magic of Motherhood: The Good Stuff, the Hard Stuff, and Everything in Between
By Ashlee Gadd
Narrated by Sarah Zimmerman

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
By Pamela Druckerman
Narrated by Abby Craden

Cat and Nat’s Mom Truths: Embarrassing Stories and Brutally Honest Advice on the Extremely Real Struggle of Motherhood
By Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer
Narrated by Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer

I am convinced that listening to audiobooks makes me a more relaxed mother and a more informed human. There is nothing like diving out of our current reality and into someone else’s story to make you feel better.

Audiobooks have changed my life for the better, and I know they can do the same for you, so what are you waiting for? Press Play!

Kelsey was born and raised in Branson, Mo. It was there, in the town that boasts the “World’s Largest Banjo” that she met her husband, Samuel. It was his first day at a new high school and she was the only person to say “Hi” to him that day, so he married her! A decade later and now they take up residence in KC-adjacent-Suburbia, but tell out-of-state people they are from “Kansas City” because it is way easier. Kelsey taught high school English for 6 years, but now she stays home to hang out with her adorable toddler, Theodore. Her passions include traveling (34 countries and counting!), playing board games, writing murder mystery parties, reading, and talking to as many people as possible.

1 COMMENT

  1. Very insightful, informative and inspiring !! Have NEVER read an audiobook!! Will give it a try!! 😊. Thanks Kelsey!!!

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