We are driving to Texas to visit my family this summer: About 14 hours from our door to my mom’s door, one way.
That’s a lot of time in the mini-van, people. Everyone wonders how the boys do, but I’m the worst passenger. The kids love road trips because they can watch movies and play on their devices and the time passes quickly. But halfway through the trip I’m stir crazy and driving Matt nuts (“Why aren’t you talking to me?? You don’t love me anymooooooore!” I’m only exaggerating a little.)
We’ve learned that audiobooks will save our marriage from road trips. They keep me occupied, entertain the kids if we don’t want them rotting their brains with 14+ hours of screen time in a row, and help Matt stay focused and alert while driving.
Since we make the drive to either Texas or Colorado every year, and last year we drove the 20+ road to Disney World, we’ve listened to a LOT of audiobooks.
If you’re going on a road trip this summer and looking for some audio book recommendations, I am your girl. Here are 11 audio books/series your whole family will love (plus 3 more at the end that are mostly for adult or teenage ears.)
I’m including Amazon links if you want to buy them through Audible (we have an Audible subscription, and love it). But we listen to a lot of books for free from our public library. Many libraries use the Overdrive app these days. It is super easy: Download the app, then find your library in a list. Put in your library card number, and then check books out and listen from your phone.
Audiobooks your whole family will love
I am surprised this middle grade magical realism series does not get more love. Set in Ireland (so the narrator’s accent is fun), Artemis Fowl is an 11 year old evil genius who wants to restore his family’s criminal empire and fortune by capturing a leprechaun. He captures Holly Short, an elf officer with LEP Recon, the Lower Elements Police. This rollicking adventure made me nervous at first, centering on an amoral pre-teen. But Artemis learns to be human from the fairy friends he makes over the course of the series, which is a delight from beginning to end. (I’d recommend these for 8+, younger than that might have trouble following the story.)
I read this out loud to my oldest when he was in the third grade and we all fell in love with the series. I’ve listened to the audio book version on my own and with my younger two kids. The Mysterious Benedict books remind me of Roald Dahl, adventures set just slightly off kilter from the real world, with strange and fantastic characters, and lonely children who discover belonging and purpose. I love the underlying messages in this book about the value of team work and friendship, each person having something to contribute (even the ones who annoy you to death), and the importance of free thinking and creativity. These books are long, but appropriate for kids of any age, as long as they have the attention span for them. There are a few threatening situations, but they are mild and every thing works out.
My middle son and I LOVED this book. This is the inspiration for the movie HOME, but the book is in an entire other universe. The book is better and the book is MORE. We have a strong female main character, an absolutely hilarious alien sidekick, a rollicking cross country adventure, and a wild assortment of supporting characters along the way. All of this layered over social commentary: The set up is that an alien race has “discovered” earth and is colonizing, moving all the humans into reservations (that keep moving around as the aliens discover where the good land is.) But nothing about this book feels like school, it is way too entertaining for that. Appropriate for all ages (lots of silly voices and accents), but this is another one that might be too long to hold younger kids’ attention.
I checked the first book in this series out for us to listen to on a drive to Florida last fall. We ended up buying the second two audiobooks over the course of that trip because we had to find out how the story ended. Another book in the magical realism genre, 100 Cupboards introduces you to 12 year old Henry York whose overprotective parents have mysteriously disappeared after sending him to live with his aunt and uncle in Kansas. Henry discovers cupboard doors plastered over in his attic bedroom, and lands in the middle of a classic good v. evil conflict he learns he was born to take part in. Our (then) 16 and 7 year olds didn’t pay much attention, but Matt and I both enjoyed these books, as did our 9 year old.
I listen to a lot of middle grade audiobooks, here a few recent favorites I highly recommend. I’ve listened to these on my own, but not with the family (yet.)
And I can’t leave you without plugging a few classics (all of these are available on Overdrive from the Lincoln Library, they’re probably available in your library too):
And of course…
The Harry Potter Series Whether you’ve read the books, seen the movies, or neither, these are the gold standard in audiobooks. Narrated by Jim Dale, who I am practically obsessed with: He puts more personality, feeling, and reality into each character with just his voice than the actors in the movies were able to do with their entire bodies.)
The HP books are the reason we got an audible subscription (you get a book credit each month with your subscription, and the cost is way cheaper than buying the audiobook out right, since the later books in this series are $30+. So we subscribed to Audible, thinking we’d keep it for 7 months, get all 7 HP books so I wouldn’t have to deal with the long library wait, then cancel it. But we like Audible a lot, so we’ve stuck with it.)
Audiobooks for Adults (and teens)
If you’re lucky enough to be making a kid-less road trip, or looking for a few choices for the adults (or teens) while the youngsters have their headphones plugged in, here are a few we’ve enjoyed:
This Sci Fi/Post Apocalyptic story is heavy on the nostalgia, aimed particularly at people who played video games in the 80s and 90s. I knew my husband and teen would enjoy this story about a world wide video game competition for a genius game creator’s empire and legacy. I have zero flips to give about video games, but the story and characters sucked me in (plus there’s an entire section devoted to my childhood favorte, War Games.) Narrated by Wil Wheaton, which will either mean nothing to you, or seal your decision to listen to this book, depending on where you fall on Star Trek. (There’s some language in this one, and dangerous situations, but we found it fine for our teen, who says he hears worse than that at school every day.)
In this time travel story from Stephen King, an English teacher discovers a wormhole that takes him back to the late 1950s, and decides to try to stop the murder of JFK. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, which is a mystery and a love story and really about time itself. Lots of language, some violence, and some sexual situations, so in our family this was adult ears only.
Father Gregory Boyle’s memoir is full of beautiful and heartbreaking stories from his years working with former gang members in LA through Homeboy Industries. This was probably my favorite book last year, after reading the actual book I talked Matt into listening to it with me on the road. Lots of language and violence (so adult ears only for our family). But there is so much HOPE in this book, and Father Greg has a beautiful, high view of God. Definitely one I’ll read/listen to again (and again.) Our teen wasn’t with us when we listened to this, but I would love for him to read or listen to this book. Tough subject matter, so use your discretion for any teens along for the ride.
What road trips do you have planned this summer?
I’d love to hear any audio book suggestions for us, since we have another 30+ hours on the road this summer!