If you’ve started listening to audiobooks in the past year, you are in good company—listenership increased dramatically from 2017 to 2018, and I expect to go up from there. That means if you’re struggling to figure out which audiobook to listen to next, you’re in good company.
A favorite way to answer this question that plagues every reader (and listener) is to choose a LONG audiobook—one that comes in at around twenty hours, or perhaps much more. Decide once, and you can happily listen for a good long time, without needing to visit your library website or peruse an app. And if you’re paying for those audiobook credits through a service like Audible or Libro.fm (where one credit = one book), an extra-long audiobook helps you get the most value out of those credits.
Today I’m sharing my favorite, very long audiobooks. I snuck in two that are a little less than twenty hours because I LOVED them. You’ll see below which ones those are. And I included one I’m eager to read but haven’t yet. Tell me your thoughts in comments?
"Happy families are all alike;" begins this classic Russian novel, "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Fun fact: William Faulkner called this novel "the best ever written." Numerous translations exist; if I had to choose one I'd go with Constance Garnett's, if only because it's narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who calls this her favorite novel and said performing it was one of the greatest accomplishments of her work life. 35 hours 35 minutes. More info →
This second installment in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series stands just fine on its own. This time the plot revolves around detective Cassie Maddox, who takes on a downright creepy undercover assignment to figure out whodunit. She’s a pro who knows how to keep her distance, but this time she gets herself in too deep. Warning: this psychological thriller has great characters, F-bombs galore, and was utterly unputdownable. 22 hours 17 minutes. More info →
This is Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, and in his opinion, his finest work. ("I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.") An epic tale of the Trasks and Hamiltons, two families doomed to reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel’s rivalry across generations. This story has it all: love, poverty, wealth, war, betrayal, abandonment, murder. Set in California’s dusty Salinas Valley, Steinbeck examines class, identity, and what happens when we are denied love. 25 hours 23 minutes. More info →
Bring up this title by the esteemed Haruki Murakami and readers will often say, “it’s long but it’s so worth it.” Set in 1984 Tokyo, a woman enters a parallel universe, while a ghostwriter takes on a project that’s not what it seems. The two storylines converge over the course of the year, exploring fantasy, self-discovery, religion, love, and loneliness. The translation itself has been highly praised. 46 hours 45 minutes. More info →
As she tells it, Gabaldon intended to write a realistic historical novel, but a modern woman kept inserting herself into the story! She decided to leave her for the time being—it's hard enough to write a novel, she'd edit her out later—but would YOU edit out Claire? I didn't think so. You could happily lose yourself in this series, totaling 300+ hours on audio, which delivers serious bang for the audiobook buck. Davina Porter narrates, and she is freaking fantastic. Heads up for racy content and graphic torture scenes: I made liberal use of my fast-forward button. 32 hours 38 minutes. More info →
Told in seven segments, set every seven years, this novel spans one Irish boy's entire lifetime. This is the story of one specific life, and also the story of Ireland itself, as it grows and evolves over the same time period. If you loved A Prayer for Owen Meany, think about giving this one a try. Set in Ireland in the 1950s, it follows Cyril, a gay man, over the course of his life through all the ups and downs, starting with his unconventional adoptive parents and the way he comes to understand his sexuality is viewed as a threat by his country. He makes sizable mistakes and runs from them, setting him up to ultimately become a better man but his actions still have consequences for him and others. This exploration and the resulting character growth will have you cheering for Cyril, as much as you want to shake him. 21 hours 10 minutes. More info →
Set in India in 1975, the story follows four strangers who are forced to share a small apartment after the government declares a state emergency. In the process, they create a found family, moving from wariness and distrust to friendship and love. A Fine Balance reminds us of what the human spirit is capable of, no matter how trying times may be. 24 hours 24 minutes. More info →
Eliot’s hefty masterpiece combines her "study of provincial life" with a close look at several young couples who fall (or think they fall) in love. Who will find lasting happiness, and who won't, and why? By focusing on the narrow disappointments and particular joys of this small community, Eliot cuts to the heart of human nature. A novel about love, happiness, and second chances. I personally loved the version narrated by Juliet Stevenson. 31 hours 33 minutes. More info →
An essential read about a slice of forgotten American history detailing the decades-long migration of almost six million Black people from the South to the North and West, hoping for a better life. Wilkerson focuses on the stories of three individuals, giving us both an intimate portrayal and Big Picture view of what they experienced and how this changed the country. Spines & Vines and Kate Olson Reads have chosen this for an Instagram buddy read for Black History Month, kicking off January 28, if you want to read along and discuss. 22 hours 43 minutes. More info →
This is my favorite Kate Morton novel. In 1933, a young child disappeared without a trace. In 2003, a disgraced young detective stumbles upon the cold case and soon discovers its ties to one of England's oldest and most celebrated mystery writer (think Agatha Christie). I absolutely loved reading a mystery novel about a mystery novelist: the pages are filled with fascinating references to the fictional author's writing process and working life. 21 hours 24 minutes. More info →
This one's on my TBR, because it's been highly recommended by readers with great taste. Also because the publisher calls it "an intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A. S. Byatt’s Possession and Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book. From Library Journal: "This astonishing third novel from Kadish introduces readers to the 17th-century Anglo-Jewish world with not only excellent scholarship but also fine storytelling. The riveting narrative and well-honed characters will earn a place in readers' hearts." 23 hours 19 minutes. More info →
This is THE definitive biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, author of Washington: A Life. Many readers know it as the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. This well-written biography reads like a novel, the fascinating life story of a fascinating man. 35 hours 38 minutes. More info →
In 1967 Nigeria, the Igbo people of the East seceded to form their own nation of Biafra, inciting a bloody three-year civil war followed. This novel from the author of the wonderful Americanah tells the story of that conflict, known as the Biafran War—an event largely forgotten outside Nigeria—through the eyes of five diverse characters: a university professor, his privileged girlfriend, their servant boy, her twin sister, and her British journalist boyfriend. This is a story that will stay with you. The audio version is fantastic. 18 hours 10 minutes. More info →
Couture, romance, and ... espionage. If you love Casablanca, try this novel set during the Spanish Civil War. I've recommended this nonstop. Sira Quiroga works her way from dressmaker’s assistant to a premier couturier, putting her in contact with the wealthy and powerful. When the British government asks her to spy for them as World War II gears up, she agrees, stitching secret messages into the hems of dresses. 21 hours 44 minutes. More info →
This big, fat, Pulitzer-winning novel was on my radar for years before I finally picked it up. It's not the kind of book I expected to love: the story revolves around a 3000 mile cattle drive from a dusty Texas border town to the unsettled lands of Montana in the 1880s, and features a motley cast of characters including illustrious captains, notorious outlaws, ex-slaves, Texas Rangers, sheriffs, and more. Yet I enjoyed it sooo much—all 36 hours and 11 minutes of it. More info →
If you’ve watched the TV show, it’s the perfect time to experience the source material. Reminiscent of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Harkness seamlessly blends a rich historical backdrop with a world where witches, vampires, daemons, and unaware humans dwell. Harkness explores what happens when a witch and vampire fall in love—against the Convention's rules—with staggering implications for the supernatural realm. The rich characterization and a multilayered plot only continues with the rest of the trilogy. 23 hours 59 minutes. More info →
This enthralling story spanning four generations is based on real events, and offers a fascinating look at both one family's history and the history of the American West. I loved the structure, which invites the reader to come alongside the narrator and examine what makes a friendship or a marriage work—and what may cause it to fail. 22 hours 9 minutes. More info →
Meredith surprised me by raving about this on episode 11 of What Should I Read Next, because I'd always thought of it as a dry, dusty classic. Since then I've discovered lots of her fellow readers who adore it. They describe it as a darn good story, about a man thrown into prison for a crime he didn't commit and his quest for retribution. 43 hours 52 minutes. More info →
The story begins with a murder, and the lonely, introspective narrator devotes the rest of the novel to telling the reader about his role in it, and how he seemingly got away with it. The setting is a small Vermont college, the characters members of an isolated, eccentric circle of classics majors, who murder one of their own. Strongly reminiscent of The Likeness in setting, Crime and Punishment in plot, and Brideshead Revisited in tone. I finally read this, and now I understand why opinions differ widely on Tartt's debut novel: it's a compelling—and chilling—tale, but there's not a single likable character. Tartt narrates the audio book herself. 22 hours 3 minutes. More info →
Michelle Obama’s memoir is breaking literary records and it’s easy to see why. The former First Lady recounts growing up on the South Side of Chicago, meeting her husband Barack, and exactly what it’s like to watch your husband run for and then win the presidency. She doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of her story, such as miscarriage and the racism she’s encountered over the years, and reflects on how her experiences have shaped her and the woman she’s still becoming. A moving, inspiring, engaging read. 19 hours 3 minutes. More info →
How do you feel about long audiobooks? What favorites would you add to this list? Tell us about them in comments!