The beginner’s great big guide to audiobooks.

the beginner's guide to audiobooks

When we were first married, Will and I listened to a lot of audiobooks together. We were rehabbing houses, and the books made the hours spent painting go by faster. We listened to The Professor and the Madman together while we were fixing up our kitchen and were hooked.

The technology has changed: it’s not as easy as popping a cd into the player anymore. Many readers want to try audiobooks, but are intimidated by the process of getting started. This guide is for you.

(If you’re an experienced audiobook listener, I hope you learn a few things and find some new titles you love.)

Why audiobooks?

There are lots of reasons:

• To “read” when your hands are occupied. This is my #1 reason.
• To redeem the time, like for a road trip, a daily commute, or folding the laundry.
• For kids who are too young to read to themselves. (Parents get hoarse, and tired.)
• For those who are unable to physically read, permanently or just in the moment, like when you’re feeling blah, or when your eyes are tired, or old.

What makes a great audiobook?

Individual tastes aside, not every book makes a great audiobook.


I love gorgeous novels, but I don’t like to listen to them. My brain does much better processing a complex, literary book when I can see the words on the page.

(One exception: I love to listen to great literary fiction on the re-read: Jayber Crow is great on audio the second time through, but it’s too much to handle on the first.)


A bad narrator can ruin a good book, but a great narrator can’t save a bad one. If anyone claims to have a favorite audiobook narrator, it’s probably Jim Dale. Everyone loves Jim Dale.

On Audible, reviews are broken into 3 categories: story, performance, and overall. Tastes differ, but it still helps to distinguish the good from the bad.

How I choose:

I personally choose audiobooks that have:

• compelling stories. (No zoning out!)
• smart, but not literary fiction. No gorgeous prose.
• fantastic narrators. Bonus points for a winning accent.
• not a requirement, but books that have a lot of dialect make great listening (and frequently, annoying reading). Think Tom Sawyer, The Invention of Wings, These Is My Words.
• many hours of listening, if I’m using an Audible credit. I want to get the most listening out of that credit! (I listened to hundreds of hours of Outlander  on Audible. It didn’t hurt that Davina Porter’s narration was fabulous.)
• I often listen to brand-new releases that I don’t think I want to own, but have a serious library waiting list. I love using my Audible credits to get hot new books with no waiting.

I don’t typically choose content that would make an HSP squirm. When I’m reading a physical book, it’s easy enough to skim—or even skip—over violence or lots of language. It’s harder to avoid when it’s right in your ears.

How does it work?

There are many ways to find and listen to audiobooks. We’ll start with my favorite,

the beginner's guide to audiobooks

How to use

When it comes to audiobooks, Audible is the service to beat. The Audible app is my favorite way to listen to audiobooks, for its everywhere access and ease of use.

I like Audible for their …

• extensive, high-quality library
• ability to search by title, author, or narrator
• reviews of the books and the narrators
• ability to listen to a sample before you buy
• clear indication of whether a title is abridged
• ability to listen at multiple speeds (.75, 1.25, 1.5, 2.0 …)
• ability to quickly rewind or fast forward 30 seconds (or whatever increment you choose, mine is set at 20 seconds)
• you can listen to your Audible purchases on up to 4 computers and 3 devices of each type

It’s not a free service (alas!) but it’s a good value for me because of …

Free 30-day trial
• daily deals that anyone can purchase, member or not (although sadly, they are U.S. and Canadian only at this time). This is a great way to try the service.
• members-only sales (more on that below)
• cheap audio versions if you own the ebook for many titles.
• their “great listen guarantee”: if you don’t like an audiobook, just exchange it—with no questions asked
• you own your audiobooks, even if you cancel your membership

How Audible credits work

Most new subscribers choose the gold plan, which gives you 1 credit per month. 1 book = 1 credit, regardless of whether the cash purchase price would be $8 or $48.

If you don’t want a recurring monthly charge—and don’t need to accumulate more credits—, you can put your account on hold. (To do this, click to chat with a customer service rep from the site. I’ve had great experiences on at least 3 separate occasions.) Though on hiatus, you still retain member benefits like being able to purchase titles at the member’s 30% discount rate (which I never do) and participate in their member-only sales (which I do all the time).

How to listen to your Audible audiobooks

Sign up for a free trial or choose a membership plan (don’t stress about which plan to pick—you can switch at any time). Purchase an audiobook, then download the free Audible app. You can then download your purchases to your device and start listening. (You can’t buy an audiobook straight from your phone: plan ahead for those road trips!)

About those big sales

Audible runs frequent member-only promotions (although you can participate if you’re on a free trial). Past sales have included:

• a 2-for-1 promotion, which offered 2 books for 1 credit from a selected list. I got Americanah (terrific) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (haven’t listened yet).
• a huge children’s lit sale, where I picked up a slew of Beverly Cleary books for $2.95 each.
• half-price sales, where popular audiobooks are on sale for half off.


Other sources for audiobooks

Audible’s not the only game in town. Other options include:

The library

The library is a great resource for old school audiobooks on compact disc. These are easy to listen to if you’re in the car, or have a cd player handy. My kids can operate these easily. Just keep a pen and paper handy to jot down your place.

Libraries also carry nifty little orange devices called Playaways. Imagine a dedicated one-book iPod: all you need are headphones and a triple A battery.

Some libraries have another great resource at their disposal: it deserves its own category.

The OverDrive app (via your local library)

OverDrive is a service that lets you easily borrow materials from your local library. With the OverDrive app, you can borrow ebooks, audiobooks, and videos—if these items are in your library’s collection. (If your library doesn’t own it, you can’t borrow it—even though the item will be indexed in the OverDrive app.)

I’m jealous of the many MMD readers who tell me they frequently borrow audiobooks through the OverDrive app. I adore my local library, but they have zero digital audiobooks. They’ve chosen to invest their funds elsewhere, which I can certainly appreciate. And they do have an extensive ebook collection.

To get started, use the library finder on (or in OverDrive’s app) to browse your library (or school’s) collection.

If you’re having trouble, ask for help at your local library.


Spotify has an extensive collection of audiobooks, but the quality of the narrators is hit or miss. (They do have an extensive Jim Weiss collection: my kids love him.)

To browse the collection, click Browse > Genres & Mood > Word. You can also search for any audiobook’s title from the home screen.

A free account works fine for desktop use, but it can be difficult to listen on-the-go because only premium accounts can turn off shuffle play for mobile.

(To unshuffle: create a playlist for your chosen audiobook. Select the playlist in the app. Start any track, then open that track by tapping the bar at the bottom of the screen. You’ll see two symbols that utilize arrows at the bottom screen. Tap the arrow symbol that resembles an “x” until it appears white, not green.)

The Audiobooks app

This free app (by Cross Forward Consulting, LLC) features recordings from Librivox’s extensive collection of free public domain audiobooks. The narrators are hit or miss, and chapter breaks are marked by recorded Librivox disclaimers. But it’s free.

The app also has 263 higher-quality, disclaimer-free titles available for $.99 each, or $7.99 to access the complete collection.

Cracker Barrel

You can rent audiobooks (on cd) from Cracker Barrels nationwide for $3.49 per week.

Here’s how it works: buy an audiobook at any Cracker Barrel location. Return it when you’re done, and they’ll refund you your purchase price less $3.49 for each week you had it.

Crowd-pleasing favorites

If you’re not sure where to start, choose from these crowd-pleasing favorites.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Harry Potter series. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. View more of my favorite audiobooks (and some of yours) here.

We also listen to a lot of kids’ audiobooks. If you’re a grown-up and you’ve never listened to Peter and the Starcatchers, or The Little House Series, or Neil Patrick Harris read Beverly Cleary, you are missing out. View 40 favorite audiobooks for kids right here.

What else do you want to know? What are your best audiobooks tips? Share away in comments. 

Many readers want to try audiobooks, but are intimidated by the process of getting started. The beginners' great big guide to audiobooks is for you.

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Leave A Comment
  1. Michelle says:

    You’re in Louisville, KY, right? You can download free audiobooks from LFPL but you need the OneClick Digital app. Not a huge inventory but most are 21 day rentals! You can also download them so you don’t use your data.

      • Rachel Brand says:

        Just wanted to second the OneClick Digital recommendation! My library doesn’t use OverDrive, but they have a reasonable collection of ebooks and audio books on OneClick, and the Android app is super easy to use.

        Also, although the prices and deals mentioned in this post reference, I can highly recommend the UK site. I’ve been incredibly impressed with their range of titles. I tried them on a whim when I got a free-trial voucher back in 2011 and I haven’t looked back. I do a lot of walking as I don’t own a car, so I listen to a lot of books. 🙂

  2. Tiffany says:

    The problem I had when trying to use audible was that I didn’t have enough storage on my phone to download the book. I couldn’t figure out a way to just stream it, like I do with podcasts. I’ve wondered if I could use a kindle fire for audible, but I haven’t tried it.

  3. Jamie says:

    I’ve had issues with Overdrive – maybe it’s just user error, but I often find it not user friendly. Audible has been amazing, though! Absolutely worth the cost.

    My favorite audiobooks s far have been the Halo series – well written, well narrated, and long enough that you feel like you got your money’s worth. (Start with Contact:Harvest. Note: not for children or HSP’s.)

    My only problem is that sometimes I’ll get very caught up in the story while driving and have a hard time switching back to reality when I reach my destination! 🙂

    • Anne says:

      I’ve heard people say the same thing about Overdrive (it’s not just you!)–but I know many people use it with no issues.

      And yes to that pesky thing about reality. 🙂

    • Shelly says:

      I also had trouble with OverDrive not being user friendly. The most annoying is that it would often not pick up at the same point where I left off when I started the app up. So, I would have to search to find my place in the book. Talk about frustrating!

      On the other hand, Audible is very user friendly. LOVE!!!

  4. Whitney W says:

    I am sold! I have never tried audiobooks before, but I have an hour commute to work and an hour and a half home, so I need to find something to pass the time. What is the best series to start with–Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, or Beverly Cleary? I want to start with one of these to see how I like it, then maybe move on to The Sweetness series.


  5. Ashley says:

    How do you feel about mystery audio books? Also, I have an overdrive account for 3 different libraries which makes finding things easier! 😉

  6. Ashley says:

    Oh! I forgot to ask, do audible credits just accumulate or roll over month to month? And does having an Amazon prime membership do anything for you in the audio books department? Thanks!

    • Anne says:

      They roll over. And as for Amazon Prime, I don’t think so. (I’ve seen chatter about that around the internet, but I can’t find anything…)

      • Liz K. says:

        I think the kindle unlimited has some audiobooks included–especially older titles in the public domain. Also, if you own a kindle edition of a book, a lot of times the audiobook price is very reduced. For example, there are several versions of Pride and Prejudice for 99 cents since I own the kindle version, even if the ebook was free! Finally, Audible has daily deals and that is one of my favorite emails to check in the morning.

  7. Kayris says:

    My kids like to borrow audiobooks through overdrive. My daughter likes to follow along in the paper book. She’s in second grade and reading the second HP book. Following along while listening to the audiobook, she’s getting through it faster than she would reading alone.

    I personally hate being read to, so I don’t do them.

    • Phaedra says:

      My daughter loves this, too! We loaded up her device and she started reading along, or doing as I do, listening to a book when she was otherwise occupied playing. I have read aloud to her since she was an infant, but this really helped her move to the next level in her own reading (hearing and seeing the advance vocabulary).

        • Phaedra says:

          My daughter is 9yrs and she’s now reading at 7th grade level (per beginning of year standardized testing). We are a family of readers, so it’s not terribly surprising, but I do attribute the fact that she’s been able to increase her skill level by listening/seeing a wider variety of words/stories than just what I would be able to take the time with her for. I started loading books for her in 1st grade and she went from small, easy chapter books to really tackling longer & more complex books. It helped her, just as much as it helps me still, to hear names & unfamiliar words or accents that really add a little ‘something something’ to the story. Instead of being burned out, she told me it makes the books ‘seem easy’. #Winning

  8. Jill says:

    The Free Library of Philadelphia has a fairly extensive audio book collection, and out of staters can purchase a card there for $50. You’d make up that money in a couple of months (or less if you can listen to more than one book a month) compared to Audible! The Overdrive app is very simple to use, but I will admit that the audio quality is sometimes less than audible’s.

  9. Ellen says:

    Great list! We love audio books – our kids use most of our Audible credits listening to children’s classics during quiet time, but my husband and I am getting into them too. I love the kid’s classics for the reason you mentioned – we homeschool, I’m an introvert HSP and I run out of energy/bandwidth for all the reading out loud the kids want. I’m currently listening to The Hobbit, myself, and it is very well narrated.

    One difference from what you said – I buy books straight from my Audible app all the time. Just bought The Professor and the Madman. I wonder why you can’t?

    • Anne says:

      What kind of device are you on? My iPhone doesn’t support in-app purchases, but I’ll correct that above if you can from other devices. (Thank you!)

      • SarahL says:

        Is it all in-app purchases, or just Audible? It might be a setting on your iOad. I have mine turned off because I don’t want my kids buying stuff. Check Settings —> General —> Restrictions —> In-App Purchasing.

  10. Jill says:

    Also, I LOVED Faithful Place on audio. Lots of cursing, yes, but the accent made up for it. Felt like I was in Dublin, even though I was in my basement on the treadmill. 🙂

  11. Kristin says:

    I often say that one of the only reasons my husband and I are still together today is due to audioooks! The first four years of our relationship (we met just weeks before I graduated college and moved away for a job) we lived 6 hours apart. I was usually the one travelling and I listened to LOTS of books. For longer drives I prefer fiction, but for my 40 minute drives to and from work now, I really enjoy non-fiction. Holds my attention and I enjoy learning something during otherwise “wasted” time. Plus I can save those delicious novels for when I want to “curl up with a good book” (something that is less appealing with non-fiction)

  12. Tory says:

    I have the opposite perspective on literary fiction – I LOVE having gorgeous prose read to me! Provided the narrator is good. I’m currently relishing The Brothers K. There are two things that make some audio books challenging for me. One is narrators who do terrible accents – I think Americanah suffered terribly from the narrator’s abysmal American english. The other is when the story switches around between time periods, sometimes its hard to place where you are in the story. I picked up All The Light We Cannot See in hardback because the reviews warned me about this.

    If there are any SF readers here – check out A Fire Upon The Deep, and anything from Iain Banks’ culture series. Fantastic audiobooks!

    • Anne says:

      Interesting. I really liked the narrator for Americanah. And I’m reading The Brothers K right now. I may check out the audiobook when I’m finished.

      That’s a great point about the story switching around. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Ah, I miss the days of heading out on a walk with my walkman and a ziploc baggie of the next cassette tape of my audiobook and spare batteries … NOT! Longtime lover of audiobooks here. I truly can’t imagine my life without them. I’ve been using Audible since 2003 and always tell my husband it is the best $22 a month I could ever spend! Like you, I love using my credits on hot new releases. I find phone listening too cumbersome so I listen on a regular iPod that I can tuck in a pocket (or my bra) as I do chores and take walks. I also drive while listening with one ear bud in. Don’t tell the police.

  14. I guess I’m the opposite of you–my preferred genres on audio are literary fiction, classics, and dense nonfiction. My mind tends to wander with the paper copy but not the audio (I almost always listen at double speed, which really helps).

    My husband got me an audible subscription for Christmas, and I’m most interested in their selection of children’s fiction because my kids LOVE to listen to audio books, and those are the ones that get listened to over and over again (whereas if I were just getting a book for me, I probably would just listen to it once and be done with it). Do you know of any way to transfer audible books to CD? I know I’m probably the only person who would want such a thing, but all of my kids have CD players in their rooms, and they are so much easier for them to operate.

  15. Stacey says:

    For some reason, I have a really hard time getting in to the groove with audio books. Every so often I remember that I love them and will listen to one and have the best time. Right now, for example, I’m listening to Amy Pohler’s Yes, Please and laughing a lot. Then I seem to forget to do it for a few months at a time. I love these ideas for how to decide what to listen to and also specific suggestions for great audio books. Off to explore a few options now!

  16. Jenntleh says:

    Don’t for get Kindle Unlimited. It’s low on name brand authors but unlimited in the amount of books you can check out in a month. I’m considering maybe it’s a stepping stone to Audio because it’s cheaper and one book a month is pennies to me. So far while Audio has a better selection Unlimited offers more features. You can follow along with highlighted words in the ebook, UNLIMITED, offers both audio and ebooks. I just enjoy being read to sometimes but still enjoy following the words. Other times I do use audio books for the reasons you’ve listed.

  17. Sara K. says:

    I love audiobooks though I don’t listen to them as much as I used to! My favorites are the Harry Potter series with Jim Dale and the Outlander series with Davina Porter! The narration makes such an impact!

    I have an audible membership and I need to branch out more and try some new books. I have a couple of Kate Morton books that I haven’t read yet so maybe I will go with that for now 🙂

  18. Betsy says:

    I’m a recent convert to audiobooks — I’ve been listening for about a year. I listen during my commute, and it has vastly improved the quality of my commute time. I don’t get irritated in traffic since my mind is engaged, and I even relished the super-long car wash line a couple of weekends ago because I got 20 extra minutes of book time!

    I’ve really enjoyed Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. I think the narrator is excellent.

  19. I just downloaded Audible this month so I could listen to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I loved it! Now I’m thinking of listening to Yes Please!, since I’ve heard so many good reviews. I commute to work, so it’s the perfect time to get all this listening done.
    Thanks for all the info!

  20. renee @ FIMBY says:

    good gracious Mrs. Darcy, another hit-out-the-park with good content. Facebooking this one also. We are huge audio book fans and our audible subscription saved our sanity on the appalachian trail. ANd we we became the trail pied piper, broadcasting Ender’s Game and subsequent books in the series with our portable blue tooth speaker.

  21. Dawn Reiss says:

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a very visual book and an audio version may affect your enjoyment of the story. Unless you’ve read the book version already. 🙂

    I’m not prone to listen to books, myself. But if and when I ever do, this will be my first stop! Thanks for putting all of the info together for audio book newbies!

  22. Tuija says:

    There’s also It’s free: public domain audiobooks read by volunteers.
    If you want to check out the narrator’s voice and accent, you can listen to a sample before you download. There are even many versions of some books – especially the most popular classics – so perhaps if one narrator doesn’t appeal to you, another one may. (And you can search by narrator, if you find someone you like to listen to.) I’ve listened to several Austen novels, and the Anne of Green Gables series, and some other books, too. But these days I have less ‘listening time’ and most of it goes to podcasts, so I haven’t really been looking for audio books so much.

  23. Katie Pritchard says:

    I just discovered audiobooks this last year and it has made me sooo happy! I listen to them while I’m working as well as to help me not be so grumpy about doing housework. 🙂 I’m definitely an Audible fan and I love that I can switch back and forth between reading on my Kindle app and listening on the Audible app with whispersync. I agree that Davina Porter is great narrating the Outlander books! One of my favorite audio book series is the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, narrated by Khristine Hvam. I’d read the books and then went back and listened to the first two before the third one came out and the way she did the voices and accents just made the books come alive in a whole new way for me. They are beautiful! That’s one of the things I love about audiobooks- the accents that I couldn’t do justice to in my own head when I’m reading them.

  24. Katia says:

    Great guide! It’s been a while since I’ve listened to an audiobook, but I suspect I know why. The last one I listened to was Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, and I rented the CDs from the local library. I love the Harry Potter books, so I thought I would give this book, by a favourite author, a try. Let’s just say that my INFP HSP self had to stop listening to it when I was about midway through the book. I completely agree with you that some books are best read by HSP, as we can skim over anything unpleasant, but it’s impossible to avoid that with an audiobook. I also wasn’t able to listen to the book with the kids anywhere near me, due to the language. I would, however, like to return to audiobooks. I love your suggestions. Thank you.

  25. kristen says:

    i just did a post about audiobooks as well – i think everyone should utilise them! especially the people who say they don’t have time to read. meanwhile I DESPISE Jim Dale. Seriously. Guess I’m in the minority there?

  26. Jo Yates says:

    Our whole family loved the Hank the Cowdog audiobooks. John Erickson, the author, reads them, and his different voices for the different characters (especially Sally May) are hilarious. Years ago I listened to Ken Follett’s On Wings of Eagles while driving between Dallas and Denton, Texas, for graduate school. The only thing that bothered me was that the narrator had a deep cultured voice, and he read Ross Perot’s dialogue in deep serious tones, when Perot actually has a high Texas twang! Also, usually I get so impatient to finish the book, I check out the print version because I read faster than I hear!

  27. Alicia G says:

    Love this post! We love audio books! We listen during drives, chores, and my daughter listens while I shower. We have gone through the Little House series (love, love, love) three times and almost finished our first round of Harry Potter.

    One tip I read is that if your library doesn’t offer a big Overdrive selection, you can buy a visitor library card to somewhere that has a bigger selection. Oh and I don’t use the Overdrive app, I run them through iTunes so it’s all in one place on my phone.

    This post is older but is one I have bookmarked to look into this someday:

    Another good source is Sparkle Stories. They have weekly free stories as podcasts + you can purchase longer books or a weekly subscription story. We have bought some longer books & my daughter loves the Martin & Sylvia series.

    Book love forever! 🙂

  28. Laura says:

    I just listened to my very first audio book, “Yes, Please”. I don’t recommend it. (Lots of language). Loved all of your suggestions. I’m looking forward to listening.

  29. Connie Weiss says:

    We listened to our first audiobook while driving to California on vacation. Jim Gaffigan, Dad is Fat is so funny!

    My library has a new partnership with Hoopla. Free audiobooks and movies!

  30. SS in NH says:

    LOVE audio books. I listen while I commute (an hour each way) and around the house, and even in the grocery store. I easily listen to 2-3 books/week at double speed via Overdrive, so Audible seems incredibly expensive for 1-2 books/month. I think the libraries in my state pool resources for Overdrive so the selection is great.

    • Darlene says:

      How do you change to double speed in Overdrive? I use Overdrive to listen to books on my Kindle during my long commute. I just plug my Kindle into my cars jack and listen through the car speakers.

      • SS in NH says:

        In the Overdrive app on my iPhone the option to change the speed is in the “now playing” screen. The symbol looks like a speedometer; it’s between the sleep timer and the share button.

  31. Kristen says:

    Wouldn’t you know, I was just looking into Audible this morning before I read your blog! I just signed up for the free trial and picked Our Mutual Friend as my free book. (I haven’t read Dickens since high school, but have been meaning to.) I also bought the first two books in the Outlander series because they’re on sale. I’m looking forward to giving audiobooks a chance. Thanks for this Beginner’s Guide!

  32. Jerry says:

    I frequently “read along” with audible books, i.e., I read the physical or eBook while listening to the book. I find this results in my overlooking few details from my faster reading of the physical (or eBook). I’ve found this especially helpful when reading/rereading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. As noted in your story, Davina Porter is a fantastic narrator for this series.

  33. Kate says:

    Audio books made me a Jane Austen fan. I’d tried a number of times to get into her writing but my modern “ear” couldn’t get past the more elaborate narration and dialog. Yet I knew I would like it if I could only find a way in. Aha moment: Read along while listening to a great narrator. I’m visually oriented, so hearing the conversations brought to life (in delightful British accents) while seeing the words on the page sealed the deal for me. The downside is it’s no time-saver!

  34. jessica says:

    i LOVE overdrive! if your library is small check for other larger libraries in your state. My library has a decent amount of audiobooks, but I also have a card for the philadelphia free library (same state) which in pa anyway you can get for free through the mail, and thus have access to all of their audio and ebooks as well.

  35. Katie says:

    I’ve never been able to “read” an audio book without my mind drifting away. But perhaps I am not listening to the right audio books! Fortunately, my library has a ton of books available on overdrive– I even found the Guernsey Literary audio book. Thanks for the recommendation! Can’t wait to get started!

  36. Lisa says:

    I am a huge fan of audiobooks. I put a list on my blog today, after reading this post. I love finding good books to listen to. My favorite over the last 6 months was Boys in the Boat and Unbroken. I have lots more to put on the wishlist now that I read your always…thank you Anne!!

  37. Erin says:

    I love Audible! I held out for so long, skeptical that $15 for one book was a good deal. But I use my credits on the books that my kids listen to over and over, as another commenter mentioned. Priceless for quiet time and car rides. And the specials are amazing!

    Another plus is Whispersync, which I think you mentioned briefly above. You can often add narration (i.e. the Audible version) of a book for a steeply discounted price once you purchase the ebook on Amazon. This is a fantastic bargain if you “purchase” free ebooks in the public domain! The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn fall into this category, and the audiobooks are narrated by Anne Hathaway and Elijah Wood. I think I got them for $1-3 apiece. Win!

    Thanks for this post!

    • Anne says:

      I never thought of doing that for public domain books! Even though many public domain audios are already available for free, the quality of narration is so much better on Audible. (I bought The Wizard of Oz on sale last year but haven’t listened yet. Thanks for telling me about Elijah Wood reading Huck Finn!)

  38. Erin says:

    I have been wondering if I should listen to the Outlander series instead of read them. It seems to take me a couple hundred pages to get into them, and I have so many books on my list that I want to keep moving. Do you think it takes away from the story of this particular series to listen instead of read?

    • Anne says:

      Unless the book has visual elements, I don’t think it takes away—it’s just different. I don’t think listening to the audio of this series detracts in any way. (Hot money-saving tip: most Outlander ebooks are less than $5 at Amazon. If you have an ereader, buy Outlander book 1 for $1.99 (it’s on sale) then add the audio for $3.99. )

  39. Elizabeth B. says:

    I usually “read” 5 Audible books a month. I like to listen while knitting or quilting. One of my favorites is The Good House. The narrator was fabulous! I also love reading autobiographies which are often read by the author.

  40. Laurie says:

    The Hubs and I just finished listening to The Mark of Zorro for the second time… We both LOVE it! I’m always on the lookout for books we can both enjoy! The accents add so much to a book that you wouldn’t get just reading it! Audiobooks rock!

  41. Cindy says:

    Thank you for this post. I was a true believer in Audio when my first two children were young. Back then my only option was to browse my amazing, well stocked library. One year we managed over 100 listens running errands and occasional road trips.
    I am glad to hear that Davina Porter is still in the business because her narration of Mr. Revere and I is a standout. Also, for kids, check out The Tale of Despereaux narrated by Graeme Malcolm if you want to hear dead-on accents in a variety of European tongues.
    My bonus child (6 years old) has been deprived but he is listening to Price Caspian on my ipad courtesy of Overdrive thanks to your post!
    Dickens is fabulous and my kids

  42. Sarah Vaughan says:

    Love, love, love Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is definitely an amazing audiobook. I can’t wait to listen to the entire HP series as well.

  43. Erin says:

    I have discovered that I love memoirs narrated by their authors: Tina Fey’s Bossypants was amazing, and I enjoyed Amy Poehler’s book as well. I’m almost done with Alan Cumming’s Not My Father’s Son, and aside from the gorgeous accent, he’s a terrific narrator and storyteller as well.

    I also like “fluff” fiction (things that don’t make me think too hard), and sometimes longer non-fiction books like travelogues and such.

    Audiobooks definitely make my lengthy commute much more tolerable, and Audible is worth its weight in gold!

  44. SarahL says:

    First, my favorite audiobook narrator is not Jim Dale. It’s Brendan Fraser. Yes, the campy actor! He narrated the Inkheart trilogy and Dragon Rider, all four children’s books by Cornelia Funke. I’ve never heard anything like it. He is pretty much anfull cast all by himself. Go. Check it out!!

    Second, from your list of potentials, “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore” was one of my surprise favorites from last year. It picked it up on a whim from the Employee Picks shelf at the library, and I loved it. It was interesting, mysterious, and ultimately hopeful.

  45. Maryalene says:

    Audiobooks are like ebooks for me. I really want to like them, but in practice I can’t seem to make them work. Maybe this will help. Thanks for the tips!

  46. Kristy says:

    My first audio book was “Orphan Train” by Christine Baker Kline. It was a purchase I made for a long drive but I had to finish it at home which often felt strange lying in bed at night, lights off and headphones in. My husband thought it was very funny! Would recommend the book and will try another audiobook soon. I just used the 30 days free option and then cancelled.

  47. Kate says:

    I love audiobooks! I use Audible and Overdrive, OneClick, CDS through my public library. You are absolutely right about great narration and the impact on story. My favorite books to listen to usually have characters with a variety of accents.

    My favorites for this reason are:
    The Winter Sea and The Firebird – both by Susanna Kearsley
    The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm – both by Robert Galbraith
    The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters
    Or anything written by Liane Moriarty

    Another favorite series (that I sat in the car when I arrived at my destination because I couldn’t wait to hear what happened) is The Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima. It’s young adult epic high fantasy and it will suck you in!

    For non-fiction, I love listening to Malcolm Gladwell and Oliver Sacks read their books.

  48. Brittany says:

    My favorite narration of an audio book is by Luke Daniels for the Iron Druid Chronicles which is a wonderful fantasy series. He separates the characters so well. Audible is my favorite way to listen but I do well with the overdrive app as well. I didn’t know about the sales, I’ll have to check those out!

  49. Becky says:

    Thanks to the commenter above who mentioned Hoopla! We have free access to Hoopla through our library but I didn’t realize there were audiobooks available there! I signed up for it awhile ago and was disappointed by the movie/tv selection (I was hoping it would replace our Netflix membership but no) and I’ve never gone back to the Hoopla site since. My Overdrive hold list is always full so it’ll be great to have another avenue for free books. I just downloaded the Hoopla app and already see a couple audiobooks I’m interested in!

    I use Overdrive all the time for borrowing kindle books but not very often for audiobooks (unless it’s something immediately available). There’s usually a decent wait time to get Overdrive books and I don’t want to have to wait all over again for the ebook version because the audiobook version didn’t work for me. So to play it safe I rarely put holds on audiobooks.

    I don’t have a great track record for picking interesting audiobooks…(my most recent audiobook fails were Team of Rivals and The Book Thief. I couldn’t stand either one as an audiobook–I gave up within 10-15 minutes of listening! So now I’m reading Team of Rivals as an ebook from Overdrive and I’ll get to The Book Thief ebook one of these days). Also, as a SAHM I don’t have much opportunity to listen to audiobooks that aren’t appropriate for kids’ ears. The one time in my life I did manage to listen to several audiobooks by myself was when our dishwasher was broken; I’d put in earbuds and listen while I was washing dishes!

    I agree that the Little House audiobooks are amazing. We’ve gotten them a couple of times on CD from the library. As a family we also enjoy Hank the Cowdog (so funny!)

  50. Courtney says:

    Anne- thanks for this comprehensive list! I have been wanting to jump into the world of audiobooks now that I’m getting a free 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there during exercising, laundry folding, make-up applying activities during the day. I can’t yet justify the cost of Audible to my husband, but I am going to try Overdrive. I wondered if there was a library app, but hadn’t looked into it yet! A quick search turns up at least 10 books available that I have been wanting to read… excited to try it!

  51. Kendra says:

    I just finished To Kill a Mockingbird read by Sissy Spacek and I really enjoyed it. I just love her voice and accent(?).
    I also enjoyed Cuckoo’s Calling on audio.
    I listen to audiobooks on walks as well and it’s funny how now certain places in my neighborhood trigger memories of whatever parts of the stories I was listening to when I
    last walked there.
    I was listening to the Reading Revival podcast yesterday and she has an episode for parents who don’t like to read aloud and how one mom uses audiobooks so that her children still get to experience the joy of listening to good stories. She bought used iPods off craigslist for her kids. I hadn’t considered that. I do enjoy reading to my kids but I like this idea for some nights or road trips.
    Also, our library is just beginning to carry playaways with several picture books on them along with the actual books. Although they aren’t sure how the plastic bags that contain them will hold up, I’m excited that this is an option.

  52. Nolo says:

    Thanks for all the info. Just wanted to pass on that Audible no longer has the Harry Potter series, if they ever did. From their customer service, “We do not have a contact with Harry Potter’s publisher to get their books on Audible.”

  53. Christie says:

    i would put in my suggestion for the YA Jacky Faber series read by the fabulous Katherine Kellgren. I read the books first and when I put in the first CD, it was so Jacky come to life. Eagerly awaiting our local Overdrive to get the last in the series.

  54. Traci says:

    Have you tried Scribd? I love Audible, and will likely always be a member, but Scribd had a special last Christmas, so I decided to try them out also. I got 6 months of unlimited books for $25, so was definitely worth trying. The normal price is $8.99 per month (unlimited). They have tons of audiobooks now as well as ebooks. A negative is that due to being a subscription service for reading an unlimited number of books, you don’t actually own the books. Also, their app doesn’t work on my iPod touch (may work on the newest version), so I use my Android phone. Scribd’s audiobook selection is nowhere near the volume of Audible, however, I’ve found plenty that I’m interested in.

  55. DanielleD says:

    I laughed out loud when I read your comment on Jayber Crow!! We read it for a book club recently (my suggestion. Eeek!!) I tarried too long and tried to devour it on Audible. Big mistake. By the end I was like, ENOUGH ALREADY!! I keep meaning to go back and read it slowly. But on your suggestion, maybe i’ll just re-listen to it.

  56. iseepassword says:

    My daughter likes to follow along in the paper book. She’s in second grade and reading the second HP book. Following along while listening to the audiobook, she’s getting through it faster than she would reading alone, thanks!

  57. Valerie says:

    Hi Anne,
    I’m wondering what your system is for your kids to listen to audiobooks on their own. I love to listen together, but there are certain instances (quiet time or kids listening to different books) that might require headphones. You’ve mentioned a CD player, but what about all the books that require a device to download to? My kids are too young to have a phone, perhaps an inexpensive Mp3 player (that would be used ONLY for listening to audiobooks) that you can easily download to is a good option? Again, just curious what your approach is in this area. Thank you!

  58. James says:

    Audible are combined with the FairPlay DRM protection, so in generally you can only play them via the Audible Manager, some MP3 players won’t be supported. Last year, when I try to put the Audible audiobooks on my MP3 player, I have to use the DRmare Audio Converter to help me remove DRM.

  59. Great tips for beginners who enjoy audiobooks. another think you need to know is that Audible audiobooks are protected with DRM. In order to remove DRM from audible audiobooks, you can also use DRmare Audio Converter to help you get rid of the DRM protection.

  60. My library doesn’t use Overdrive, but two other services called Hoopla and RBDigital for audiobooks. I love both of these! The only drawbacks are that if I’m listening in the car, depending on the book, I can’t hear everything if I turn it all the way up (so I often only use these services when I’m using earbuds and cleaning/walking!) and that there is no option to renew. It’s returned after the services designated renewal date.

  61. Cynthia says:

    I was able to “chat” w Audible and they told me how to order books in my phone and then they show up right on Your phone – I just go through Safari or sometimes it actually works from email links!

  62. Cynthia says:

    Oh and anyone new to audio – the suggestion- Sweetness st the Bottom of the Pie – is so wonderful- British reader – and you’ll fall in love w Flavia Du Luce

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