Audiobooks give not only an easy means to knock out your reading list—literally, just press play. But they’re also a uniquely transformative activity in their own right. Sometimes I’ll go through a book and then hear it to find things I avoided before. Or sometimes I hear a rhythm in the narrator’s voice I didn’t picture myself. But best of all, an audiobook makes for a commendably easy quarantine companion. You can hear while washing dishes, trimming your beard, putting on a face mask, or deceiving yourself into believing you can bake good cupcakes. Audiobooks give you someone to listen to who isn’t a reporter, your friend, or Donald Trump. Hurray, right? Get started with these suggestions for an immediate isolation escape. This is our list of best audiobooks of all time.
20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
You have seen and liked and tweeted about Greta Gerwig’s 2019 movie but still have not read Louisa May Alcott’s masterwork? The time is now, comrades. Presented by Lauren Dern and a full crew, this delightful tale of sisterhood and power has demonstrated its timelessness again and again. Now, take out your gingham and start listening. It is very much accessible to people of any age. It is a solid start to dive into the world of audiobooks.
19. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Reciter Cassandra Campbell has a light, extremely-soft drawl that clings to your memory long after you’ve completed this worldwide bestseller. In the sad story of Kya, the “Marsh Girl” residing alone in a cabin along the North Carolina coast during the 1960s, you’ll observe pain and sorrow. But Campbell never forsakes Kya’s rock-solid awe. This is a story for isolated listening, a tale of isolation and strength—in other words, a complete quarantine read.
18. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Oh, Toni. We wish you were here to give your knowledge now. You can choose any Morrison classics to read in quarantine, and all would be smart choices. But I will opt for this version of Beloved read by the author herself. This is a shocking story of loss and sorrow, a liberated enslaved woman still confined by her memories. This is a genuine must-read, a proof of the power of love and liberation in the face of horrifying tragedy.
17. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
No offence to Elisabeth Moss, but Claire Danes is still the Offred of many people’s dreams. It’s all thanks to this spine-chilling recitation from the Homeland star. If you’ve waited this long to plunge into the hellish drama that started it all, quarantine is a great time to have a prolonged listen. It also demands a long think about the means our world could avoid Margaret Atwood’s horror. This shaped how horror can be a great companion to drama. And it made people rethink the way drama should be handled. It is a classic and deserves a spot in our best audiobooks list.
16. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If you still haven’t read one of the most pathbreaking young-adult narratives of our era, now is definitely the time. Angie Thomas’s portrayal of a young black man’s painful demise and the nationwide headlines sparked by the shooting persists. Sadly, it is as appropriate as ever, made even more heartbreaking and heartfelt by its 16-year-old narrator, Starr Carter. Read once again by the fabulous Bahni Turpin, and this is an entirely absorbing story of pain, society, and love.
15. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
It’s just satisfying to listen to his voice. Medium Raw is a sequel of sorts to Bourdain’s bestseller Kitchen Confidential. It is a tough-love letter to food, the food business, and all the blood, sweat, and tears that make it work. No one communicates about dining with utterly the love and correctness that Bourdain could. And this recital, read by Bourdain himself, is an outstanding partner for any quarantine cooking expedition. Whether you’re just baking a batch of cupcakes or trying to boil your first shellfish, Bourdain’s hoarse but indisputable charm will guide you through.
14. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
This is a majestic, frightful story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ronan Farrow. Along with the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Farrow was the first to reveal the Harvey Weinstein account in 2017. And he paved the path for many #MeToo stories to follow. In this self-narrated recital, he details the lengths he and his fellow reporters moved to expose Weinstein’s ugly secret. And he also talks about the strength of the women who decided to take a stand.
13. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
You are consuming a lot of time at the house. Maybe you see things you’ve never seen before and asking yourself queries like, “What is a hall, and why does it exist?” Bill Bryson has the solutions in this intensely researched, surprisingly interesting audiobook about life inside our safe homes.
12. American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman
We relish an audiobook that utilizes its full cast to craft an emotional and exciting performance as a Shakespearean play. This beautiful tenth-anniversary edition of one of Neil Gaiman’s greatest books feels like a fable passed down through the ages. We suggest taking a walk while listening; it will feel like the lead called Shadow—and the various beguiling fictitious characters surrounding him—are walking right beside you. The impact of this work of Neil Gaiman was so good that it spawned a TV show. And that was critically acclaimed as well. For the reasons stated above, this deserves a spot in our best audiobooks list.
11. Circe by Madeline Miller
This imaginary tale of a woman caught alone on a deserted island might seem like an absurd thing to read in the middle of our own solitude. But sadness loves company. And the brave tale of Circe, a witch exiled by Zeus to live alone, is as inspirational. Also, it is dream-like. This is an experience for our times. The story jumps thousands of years back to a time of solitude and strength we all still understand.
10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
To switch this literary heavyweight into a captivating musical experience, Random House Audio turned to a cast of 166 voice actors. Yes, 166. And the cast includes Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Ben Stiller, Lena Dunham, Keegan-Michael Key, Susan Sarandon, Bill Hader, and even George Saunders himself. The end product is an untamed but exceptional audio treat. It is as rich and surprising as its plot, following a grief-struck Abraham Lincoln and the spirits that hover beside him.
09. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
All of us will hear the way reciter Marin Ireland says “fire,” like “fawhr,” in our dreams, probably for the rest of our lives. And we wouldn’t mind, because it will make us laugh every single time she says it. And that is a lot, considering this novel is actually about two kids who immediately, unpredictably combust. It’s an unruly but surprisingly feel-good story about mothership, status, and the measures we’ll take when we ultimately find the love we were longing for. It is an enigmatic, eccentric tale that will make you laugh out loud at times. And your attention will be with the story and characters throughout. It definitely grabs a spot in our best audiobooks list.
08. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama, presented by Michelle Obama! Do you demand any further description? This autobiography, exploring her pre-White House times and her time as First Lady, has already sold higher than 10 million copies and was newly adapted into a Netflix documentary. Obama is an inspirational narrator with a memory so good it feels as if her story happened only seconds ago. Read by the legend herself, this audiobook is the penultimate lift-my-spirits for quarantine burnout.
07. Dune by Frank Herbert
It’s time to catch up on Frank Herbert’s popular fantasy before the movie comes out next year. The narrative shares small similarities with Star Wars and Star Trek lore. But it is freed of the former’s predictability and the latter’s cliches. The hero of the story Paul Atreides’ arc from youth to avenger on the desert planet Arrakis, is a political, environmental, and religious puzzle. And that’s delightful to disentangle alongside the audiobook’s gifted cast. Because of its importance and impact on the pop culture world, it cements a spot in our best audiobooks list.
06. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
What better quarantine storyteller than America’s Father, a person who has survived COVID-19 himself, the fabulous Tom Hanks? Reading Ann Patchett, no less? In this interesting story of siblings, money, personality, and mercy, all circling one glittering property in eastern Pennsylvania, Hanks are steady, calculated, and still so effortlessly charming. This is one voice you definitely want in your head.
05. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
We’d be negligent not to add a juicy romance on this list as reading one is like having a spoonful of chocolate cake while still in your pajamas; immediate comfort in our private world. Casey McQuiston’s big gay grand love story is a chocolate cake with your favorite frosting and a scoop of ice cream on top of it. The son of America’s president madly in love with the Prince of Wales? Ingenious. Empowering, witty, fresh, and sexy, this is a dopamine hike we all necessarily need.
04. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Tomi Adeyemi draws from West African to develop her world of magic and power in this dazzling fantasy saga. And please don’t allow the “Young Adult” label to make you think twice. This is not Twilight. Bahni Turpin, actress and voiceover artist who also recited The Hate U Give and The Underground Railroad, gives her musical, wizened tones to this gripping story. It will surely whisk you off to a world not so different from our own.
03. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Whoever cast the reciters for this explosive version of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s transfixing rock novel is most assuredly underpaid. Daisy Jones and The Six is penned like oral history, knitting one reciter with the next as each reveals the fall of a legendary 1970s rock ‘n’ roll band. Loosely suggestive of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, the narrative is unbelievable. But I’d fight that the vocal performances are much better, supremely attuned to the characteristics and mannerisms of each eccentric musician.
02. Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajado-Anstine
Given how fast short stories move from one tone to another, a compilation read by many narrators with both talent and sensibility can look like a complicated act to pull off. But Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s mindblowing compilation of narratives about Indigenous Latina ladies laid the ground for an unbelievable performance. And the cast backing this audiobook did not take the job casually. This is a necessary listen, not a simple one, but you’ll appreciate yourself later for urging play.
01. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
A tour of the Italian shore sounds fine, right? In this sprawling story of stardom, sunshine, and highly flawed characters pursuing very authentic dreams, a ghost-like American celebrity looks. She arrives on the seashore of the Ligurian Sea circa 1962 from the set of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic film Cleopatra. Her unexpected appearance bewitches a local innkeeper, commencing a series of events that traverse five decades. And the narrative hops from character to character in this clever, charming romance. Thus, this takes the numero uno spot in our best audiobooks list.