As much as we love to crack open a hardcover or paperback, there’s no denying the allure of a good audiobook. In fact, we prefer a number of titles in the latter format. From an experimental ghost story read by a star-studded cast of some of our favorite actors to a Grammy Award–winning narration by a former first lady, these nine books are even better heard than read.
Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author
The former first lady’s best-selling memoir recounts everything from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive to her time spent in the White House. It’s candid and inspiring, regardless of how you consume it, but we’re partial to Obama’s unsurprisingly fabulous narration skills—which just earned her a Grammy.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by a full cast
Saunders’s 2017 novel is not your typical historical fiction: It imagines Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the death of his 11-year-old son. The majority of the story, which takes place over the course of a single evening, is set in the bardo—an intermediate space between life and rebirth. Strange and gripping, it won the Man Booker Prize. The audiobook, for its part, has a star-studded cast that includes Nick Offerman, Julianne Moore, Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon, Bill Hader and more.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Sixteen-year-old Starr is stuck between two worlds: the poor community where she lives and the affluent prep school she attends. This balancing act becomes even trickier when her childhood best friend is shot to death by the police in front of her eyes. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s an important read for adults and teens alike. It features the voice of Bahni Turpin, an award-winning audiobook narrator whose résumé includes Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion, narrated by Diane Keaton
Double the girl crush, double the fun. Didion’s 1968 essay collection recounts her time in California in the '60s and is full of weird, counterculture-y anecdotes. (Think hippies, the American Dream and LSD.) In this reading, the inimitable Keaton captures the time and place to a T.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, narrated by the author
This powerful 2003 novel about friendship, betrayal and the final days of the Afghan monarchy is an absolute must—whether read or listened to. That said, Hosseini’s narration is particularly compelling and will make 12 hours fly by in what seems like no time. It’s also helpful to hear the author, an American born in Afghanistan, properly pronounce words we definitely wouldn’t have gotten right ourselves.
Bossypants by Tina Fey, narrated by the author
Tina Fey can do no wrong, and in our opinion, the best way to experience her hilarious 2011 memoir is to hear it narrated by the funny lady herself. Unlike other celebrity tell-alls, Fey’s keeps it light and laugh-out-loud funny, covering everything from recurring stress dreams (which weirdly involve her middle school gym teacher) to being called bossy (which she considers a compliment).
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, narrated by the author
To be honest, anything by David Sedaris could find a spot on this list. But there’s a special place in our heart for Me Talk Pretty One Day, in which the super-funny writer details everything from speech coaches to drug-fueled performance art to his nearly calamitous move to France with his partner.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, narrated by the author
The late, great Bourdain is largely to thank for the food memoir genre as we know it today. In the book that launched his career, Bourdain quickly strips the glamour away from the chef’s life, writing crudely (but hilariously) about what goes on behind the counter of a busy New York bistro. The compelling—at times cringe-y—story is taken to the next level by Bourdain’s trademark deep, gravelly voice.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, narrated by David Pittu
We’re going to be honest: Favoring the audiobook version of Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece is largely about length. Her Dickensian novel is about Theo Decker, a young orphan struggling to make his way in a cruel world with the help of a stolen painting and his friend Boris. The audiobook alone is a whopping 32 hours and 24 minutes long, so it’s great for a road trip or your weekly workout sessions.