WSIRN Ep 134: Audiobooks for the whole family to binge

WSIRN Ep 134: Audiobooks for the whole family to binge
Meet Ben Huntington, a young audiobook fanatic who chews through stories at an exhilarating rate – we’re talking reading the Hobbit in one week! Today I’ll be recommending a ton of great audiobook series to keep his reading list full all summer, plus we talk about the allure of a good whodunit, ethical questions that arise from reading the Hunger Games, fantasy that’s a little too fantastical for Ben’s taste, and lots more. This is an episode the whole family can enjoy, full of books perfect for road trip entertainment! And stay tuned till the end, because I have some follow up commentary from Ben and his mom.



What Should I Read Next #134: Audiobooks for the whole family to binge with Ben Huntington


Books mentioned in this episode:
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• author Kwame Alexander (try The Crossover: Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkein (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Penderwicks at Last, by Jeanne Birdsall (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Spy Camp, by Stuart Gibbs (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Operation Redwood, by S. Terrell French (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Redwall series, by Brian Jacques (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Gregor the Overlander series, by Suzanne Collin (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, by James A. Owen (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, by Karina Yan Glaser (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin Van Draanen (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Green Ember series, by S. D. Smith (Amazon)
• Greenglass House, by Kate Milford (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Holes, by Louis Sachar (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)

If you’d like to learn more about dyslexia: 

• Maryanne Wolf’s must-watch video Embracing Dyslexia: The Interviews
• The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity focuses attention on the strength and creativity of dyslexic brains.
• The Learning Disabilities Association of America provides resources for adults living with dyslexia / other learning disabilities.
• The International Dyslexia Association educates about dyslexia issues in education and public policy. provides a fast overview and resources for parents if they suspect their child may be dyslexic.
The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning, by Ben Foss
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf
Headstrong Nation provides resources for both adults with dyslexia and parents of children with dyslexia.

Readers, the new 2018 Summer Reading Guide is now live! This is my personal, hand-curated collection of 25 of the season’s best reads. I’ve read and loved every one, and I tell you what you need to know so YOU can decide which books are right for your summer reading list. Don’t miss it.

What audiobook series do YOU think Ben should try out next? Do your kids have something to recommend? Let us know in the comments!

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50 comments | Comment


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  1. N says:

    Thanks for highlighting dyslexia! I’m the parent of a dyslexic student, and there are so many educational officials who refuse to acknowledge the existence of dyslexia. For another resource, there’s Learning Ally, a subscription-based audio book service. They provide downloads of books for students – fun books and textbooks. And if you need a book they don’t have, they’ll record a copy for you! It’s a fabulous organization that does much good for students who need access to books.

    • Heather says:

      My son also has dyslexia and I too was going to recommend Learning Ally :). Thanks Anne for putting all of those resources.

  2. Bailey says:

    Hi, Ben! I have a younger brother about your age, so I have several book recommendations that I think you’ll like. There are some obvious suggestions, like the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and anything written by Rick Riordan, but there are others that you may not have heard of. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is a Newbery Award -winning story of realistic fiction that tells readers about one boy’s “amazing and legendary feats.” When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead has also won awards, and it is also a realistic story with elements of mystery and magic. In terms of less realistic books, I kid recommend the Secret Series by Psuedonymous Bosch, anything by Brandon Mull (but especially Fablehaven), or the Septimus Heap Series by Angie Sage. Happy reading!

    • Christie Kline says:

      I came to recommend Fablehaven as well. We read those as a family, and as the series goes on the books and the themes become more and more complex and are great conversation fodder.

  3. Gloria says:

    I love that Ben was so candid with what he likes and doesn’t like. How great that he knows his preferences! Thanks for sharing your favourites Ben, I have added a few titles to my “books for the kids” list.

    My kids and I highly recommend Fog Diver and The Lost Compass by Joel Ross. Its a 2-book series about a far away future in which technology has decided that only way to save the earth is to make it so humans can’t live here. It follows a crew of great characters, with lots of action and suspense and is a favourite around here. We also love the How to Train a Dragon series on audio, it is fun to listen to.

    I was disappointed to here that Ben didn’t like The Story of the World. We love those here and listen exclusively on audio. We have the CDs and the kids know which stories are on which disc and can listen to what they want. We do audiobooks in different ways here – we have a CD player and a small collection of books on CD. We also listen on our laptop to books borrowed from our library’s systems and to our small collection of purchased books. We are looking to upgrade to an ipad for this and other homeschooling purposes so that the kids can be more independent with their audiobook listening. It is HARD to love audiobooks and have limited technology.

  4. Sarah Donnelly says:

    Hi Ben! I have a sixth grade boy and I wanted to tell you about one of his favorite authors because he has two series and there are a lot of books. They are great on audio too! The Ranger’s Apprentice series and The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan.

    • Amy Cole says:

      Yes, I highly recommend the Wingfeather Saga on audio books by Andrew Peterson–although it is fantasy, my 10 year old son who does not like Harry Potter and loves only graphic comic books and Garfield comic books, LOVED that series. I’m trying to find similar books to keep his interest going (away from graphic novels…)

      • Sarah Donnelly says:

        The Wilderking Trilogy is another Rabbit Room Press series that my son enjoyed that might be worth a try. I can’t recommend the Ranger’s Apprentice series and all books by John Flanagan highly enough. They are the books that my son re-reads the most.

  5. Sarah Donnelly says:

    Last one, I promise. Anything and everything by Christopher Paul Curtis. My personal favorite is Bud, Not Buddy but you can’t go wrong…another author we especially enjoyed listening to at our house.

  6. Alicia says:

    This episode was so much fun! It reminded me of the joy of being a kid and getting lost in a good book?So for Ben, I would also recommend, if he hasn’t read them yet, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game or The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues and The Phantom Tollbooth. They are clever and I love the “figuring out” piece of Raskin’s books.

    • Kate says:

      I was just coming here to recommend The Westing Game 😀 Another one that came to mind was Harriet the Spy. On the dystopian side, I just listened to Scythe by Neal Shusterman on audio and found it well-written and very thought-provoking.

  7. Alicia says:

    Oh, and also the Airborn series by Kenneth Oppel. I loved that series in my tweens, and from what I can remember it had some fantastical elements, but I don’t think it would fall into the “too much fantasy” category that Ben described. He’s got some other great books as well – I always like to champion for him because I think he’s not that well known for the quality of books he’s produced!

  8. Shawnna says:

    My kids like The Mysterious Benedict Socieity series. Fablehaven is good because it’s a little fantasy, but set in our world. I second the Secret Series – my daughter flew through those. The False Prince series – kind of a mystery, kind of adventure. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was amazing for both my kids and for me. Because of Mr. Terupt. Finally, The Lost Island of Tamarind.

  9. JoAnna says:

    My ten year old daughter was at home sick today and she was *thrilled* to hear a KID on your podcast, Anne! Ben, we loved hearing your favorites, and that even though reading doesn’t come easily for you, you have found a way to enjoy lots of incredible books. Definitely adding some of these to my library list, as well as some from the comments!

  10. Debi Morton says:

    Great episode! Ben, you are delightful! I have eight grandchildren, three of whom will be in 3rd, 5th and 6th grades next year. They are all big readers, so I loved getting some terrific ideas from Ben, Anne and other listeners. I think most of my ideas have already been mentioned, but I do strongly second The Wingfeather Series and The Secret Series. Both have been big hits around our families’ households.

  11. Laura says:

    I know Sci-Fi was not discussed but Enders Game (Orson Scott Card) is amazing! I have not read all in the series but I have heard they are all as good as the first. It’s a great book to listen to and will spark many discussions about morality and ethics.

  12. I introduced my son to the books by David Eddings – there are 5 in the first series and many more after than – he was about 11 and we took the 5 on summer holidays … I wanted to read them together. He raced through them and I had trouble keeping up … lol. He went on to read all of the others. When I heard your interview today with Ben I thought it was a series he too might enjoy given his interest in The Lord of The Rings and the Hunger Games. Happy reading Ben!

  13. Don says:

    What a fun episode. And I think it’s terrific that Ben is such a thoughtful reader. I wish I could recommend some books for him, but nothing comes to mind right now. One thing bothered me a bit. Your comments about the Redwall Series give the impression that blind people are only able to read using audio. I am an avid reader and I am blind. While I love audio books, I think it’s very important that we never forget about Braille. sometimes, I hear comments that Braille is no longer valid because of technology. In fact, the opposite is true. The existence of Braille displays, and of services such as Bookshare at, make Braille more available than ever before. (Bookshare allows the user to choose which media works best for him or her; so Ben and his family should definitely take a look at what they do.) At any rate, whether you read with your eyes, your ears or your fingers, and whether the book is in print, Braille, large print, or audio, nothing comes close to the joy that can be found in a great book.

  14. Tiffany says:

    I have a son who is about Ben’s age, and he sounds like he has similar reading tastes!

    Some other audiobooks he recommends: 1.) One Crazy Summer by Williams-Garcia, 2.) The Westing Game, and 3.) The Mysterious Benedict Society (series).

    Such a great episode!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Ben! I work at a middle school and my 6th grade students have recommended to me: the Septimus Heap series, the Last Apprentice series,and the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I also love the Wayside School series by Louis Sachet. Also, the following two books are not a series, but are super good: One for the Murphy’s and Fish in a Tree, both by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Have a great summer and happy reading!

  16. Ginger says:

    I’m like a broken record when it comes to two series — Mitford by Karon and the Austins by L’Engle.

    I can see Ben loving Meet the Austins, and the following series, because it feels like the perfect mashup between families (Penderwicks) and sci-fi (Hunger Games). I want to BE an honorary “anti-muffin” (aka Austin family member). And he’ll just have to read it to get all the rest of their inside jokes.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Such wonderful books! I love the Melendy Quartet books they are some of my favorites. I also really loved the Redwall books, and I read a short series that was similar that you might enjoy, they ar called the Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I.Micalistar, and the title of the first one is Urchin of the Riding Stars. It has the talking animals and adventure, so I hope you enjoy them!

  18. Liz Beaver says:

    Loved this episode! As a mom of 5 (almost) grown boys with reading tastes all over the map, it’s a joy to hear a young male reader talk about books he loves . . . and doesn’t love!

  19. Lynn Pugh says:

    I really loved this episode! It was a great tie-in to summer traveling with kids, and you both gave such great recommendations I’m excited to try.

  20. BarbN says:

    Loved this episode and Ben’s articulate and perceptive responses. Also wanted to second Sarah’s recommendation above of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. My son loved those when he was your age. I think there are ten or twelve of them.

  21. Sandra Mosolgo says:

    When our son was young, we would often sit in the car to finish a chapter of the Redwall books, so engaging for all ages.

  22. Nicole says:

    This was a great episode. One series that I thought of while listening is “Keys to the Kingdom” by Garth Nix. I have enjoyed both reading and listening to them. It’s a series of 7 books, so they can keep you busy! As a recommendation for you, Ben, it might have more fantasy than you prefer, but I thought I’d share it anyway just in case it does hit the spot. Happy reading!

  23. Mimi says:

    Hi Ben,just wanted to say you have great “microphone presence”! You did a great job on that podcast! Have you read Hatchet? If not, enjoy!

  24. Shannon says:

    Ok Ben…I’m going to take a chance here. You loved The Hunger Games (which is pretty mature) as did my son! He’s only 10 but we read The Martian and Ready Player One together and he LOVED both of them. Celeste – don’t kill me! There’s definitely some mature language in both books (RPO more than TM)but my son was able to handle it with some conversation from me. The best part is that there is a movie for each of the books. The Martian movie is also an absolutely FAVE in our house and Ready Player One (although not like the book) was also a big hit for my son! If you aren’t quite ready for these books yet, give them a year or two and then give them a try! I think they’ll be a hit for you!

  25. Diane says:

    Hi Anne and Ben. I really enjoyed hearing the podcast and must second the Redwall Series! Brian Jacques was a brilliant writer.
    I wanted to ask if you have tried 100 Cupboards series?
    Also Bethlehem Books has wonderful older audio books. One that I like is The Winged Watchman. Historical fiction during WW2 in Holland.

  26. Christie says:

    I love that Ben came out and said, “nope not for me” to one of Anne’s suggestions. I don’t think I’ve heard any guests do that before.

  27. Keicia says:

    Several titles that I came to add have already been mentioned but I didn’t see this series yet: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.

  28. Robin Troxell says:

    Loved this episode. Ben you might like Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August. It is the first in a trilogy.

  29. Ginger Mallard says:

    Hi Ben! I really enjoyed listening to your episode, and I thought The Gateway Series by Cerberus Jones (who is actually three different people) might fit your criteria. I’ve only read the first book, but I liked it, and I actually started reading the series because the description of one of the later books caught my attention, so I’m hoping that the series will only get better. It’s about a girl whose parents buy a creepy old hotel, and…weird stuff starts to happen. LOL-I don’t want to give away too much. It’s mostly stuff that could happen, but with a dash of creepy, not-so-likely-to-happen weirdness. I hope you’re enjoying all your new reading!

  30. Shelby says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your likes and suggestions! I have a few more to add to your list. I have two girls and we love listening to an audiobook in the car. The books I list here are fun for kids AND adults to listen to!

    The Saturdays and the rest of the Melendy Series by Elizabeth Enright. Old Timey Fun.
    Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright – more modern, still fun! I think you’d really like these.
    Tuesdays at the Castle and the rest of the Castle Glower Series by Jessica Day George. About a Magic Castle and the kids who live there, but it seems realistic (in a magical way of course!)
    The Enchanted Files by Bruce Coville. All in the series have been great fun, excellent audio productions and excellent stories.
    Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
    The Candymakers by Wendy Mass – some parts seemed a bit dark for a kids book, but that part gets cleared up later in the book, so keep going even if you don’t like the dark stuff.
    101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – way better than any Disney version
    Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman – makes me want to read more of his books
    The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    Guinea Dog 1 and 2 – fun stories, makes you want a Guinea Pig for a pet!
    Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective Series by Octavia Spencer, read by the author – excellent audio production
    Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
    Author Kate DiCamillo – everything I have read/listened to has been fantastic
    I hope you enjoy these as much as we have!

  31. Kelly Petersen says:

    My son is going into 7th grade and has similar taste in books. He just finished Divergent and said it was great! He recommends the Lemony Snicket series, All the Wrong Questions and the Ruby Redfort Series by Lauren Child. Both of those series are mysterious with kids trying to gather clues and solve puzzles. I have two books to try, both of them are completely realistic: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My last suggestion won’t work as audiobooks, but if you ever read graphic novels, the Bone series by Jeff Smith is excellent.

  32. Erica says:

    Ah! I’m catching up on old episodes that piled up during vacation / post-vacation workload. I’m from Chapel Hill! So cute, I loved hearing Ben talk about the books that he enjoys and his candid assessment of ones he did not :). I can’t wait until my son (6) can get into some of these series you recommended.

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