15 terrific audiobooks you can listen to in 6(ish) hours or (much) less

15 terrific audiobooks you can listen to in 6(ish) hours or (much) less

I’m a big fan of audiobooks: they let me “read” while I’m driving, or running, or folding the laundry. They let me get through more pages, more quickly, than I ever could if I was confined to paper and screens.

When it came to audio, I used to subscribe to the-longer-the-better philosophy. If I spent my cash or Audible credit on an audiobook, I wanted to get as much listening enjoyment out of that purchase as possible. But lately, I’ve been looking for shorter reads, on purpose. By deliberately choosing titles that are on the shorter side, I can experience the satisfaction of crossing more books off my To Be Read list, more often.

These 15 audiobooks deliver great reading experiences in 6-ish hours or less—even faster if you listen at 1.25 or 1.5 speed like I sometimes do. And they’re not just good books; they’re also wonderful listening experiences. I hope you enjoy them, and I can’t wait to hear about your favorite shorter audiobooks in comments.

Series: Audiobooks You Can Listen To in 6(ish) Hours or Less
Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway

Author:
At Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, children have a habit of stumbling into other worlds. Imagine Alice in Wonderland, but instead of one wonderland, there are hundreds—and once you visit another world, you'll never be the same. Part fantasy, part mystery, part fairy tale (of the dark and creepy variety). The impressive awards list for this includes Winner 2017 Alex Award, 2017 Hugo, 2017 Locus, 2016 Nebula, Nominated 2017 World Fantasy, 2017 British Fantasy, 2016 Tiptree Honor List. 4 hours 44 minutes. More info →
And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

Author:
This is the world's best-selling mystery—and when I found out the audio version was read by Dan Stevens, I couldn't resist. (Loved it.) Ten strangers are lured to a deserted island, and then they begin dying, one by one, victims of a disturbingly wide range of murders. They share one thing in common: each has something in their past they would prefer to keep hidden. Who is the murderer, and will any of them survive? A good story made even better by Stevens's fantastic narration. 6 hours 1 minute. More info →
Letters to a Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet

You've probably encountered snippets of this compilation somewhere along the way; in less than two hours you can hear the complete work. If you have a creative bone in your body, it's well worth the time to give this a listen at least once, especially because it's read by Dan Stevens. The average rating on the audio version is a phenomenal 4.8. 1 hour 52 minutes. More info →
Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies

Author:
I love Lahiri, and with this audiobook you can cross a Pulitzer winner off your list in just over 6 hours. In this short story collection, Lahiri's characters tenuously navigate the divide between their old world and their new, and taken together, the collection highlights myriad aspects of the immigrant experience. Evocative, bittersweet, and lyrical; the audio narrator's spare narration lets Lahiri's words carry their own weight. 6 hours 15 minutes. More info →
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Author:
In her new work, Brown tackles what she calls our current "spiritual crisis of disconnection." We don't know what it means to belong anymore, or why it matters, or how to experience true connection—and we are suffering for it. She sets out four practices of true belonging, explains how we can practice them in our own lives, and shares heaps of stories so we can see what they look like in practice. A timely read, and a good one. Read by the author. 4 hours 12 minutes. More info →
Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything

Author:
Reading People explains the life-changing insights that can be gained from the most popular personality frameworks, such as Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram, and others and shares specific, practical real-life applications across all facets of life, including love and marriage, productivity, parenting, the workplace, and spiritual life. The author (me!) narrates the audiobook herself. (When I recorded I had no idea this 226-page book would come to less than 5 hours of audio!) 4 hours 34 minutes. More info →
Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Hurston's classic is written in dialect, which is tricky for some readers—unless they choose the audio version. This atmospheric story about expectations, marriage, and unexpected love is richly atmospheric, set in the deep South's Florida Everglades in the 1920s. A classic for a reason, with well-developed characters and a thought-provoking story line. 6 hours 44 minutes. More info →
We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Author:
I didn't hear of this short 1962 novel until a few years ago, since readers with great and diverse tastes kept recommending it. I read this as my "book you can finish in a day" for the Reading Challenge. As expected, it's not exactly scary, but Jackson is sure good at infusing a story with a creepy atmosphere—and the audio version sure makes it come alive. Not so long ago there were seven Blackwoods, but four of them dropped dead from arsenic poisoning several years ago and how that happened remains a mystery. Listen to this during daylight hours: its themes of family secrets, hateful neighbors, and mysterious deaths aren't the stuff of bedtime reading. 5 hours 32 minutes. More info →
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

This is Sheryl Sandberg's deeply personal story about how she learned to use and build resilience to keep going after her husband tragically died in 2015, based on insights from her friend, Wharton psychologist, and co-author Adam Grant. When Option A isn't available, we have to learn to make the most of Option B—and we all are living some form of Option B. The audio version was terrific, but fair warning: I spent half my time listening to it on the verge of tears. Not an easy listen, but I found tons of good information here. 6 hours 14 minutes. More info →
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

I downloaded this audiobook on my husband's recommendation, and WOW was it not what I was expecting! Imagine Why Not Me?, but with politics instead of Hollywood production, and you've got this chatty memoir about right. West Wing fans, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the Obama White House, through the eyes of someone who worked for him for more than ten years. Word is this is like your "gossipy older sister" dishing on what really happens behind the political scenes. Mastromonaco also shares many personal stories about everything from relationships to packing tips to her cats to meeting the Queen. 5 hours 58 minutes. More info →
Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight

From the author of Out of My Mind, a historical work about bravery, prejudice, and the KKK, as experienced through the eyes of a young girl and her little brother in Depression-era North Carolina. Such a good read, you'll want to binge on everything Draper's ever written. 6 hours 46 minutes. More info →
Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me

This is an incredible book, and a timely one. The audio version, read by the author, is fantastic. Coates frames this series of essays as a letter to his son, exploring what it means to be black in America, and how issues involving race have shaped and continue to shape the country in which he lives. Entertainment Weekly: calls it "the latest essential reading in America's social canon." 3 hours 31 minutes. More info →
Sourdough

Sourdough

Author:
A charming, breezy, and completely quirky story from the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Lois is a programmer whose life changes when she falls in love with baking bread ... but then something unexpected happens. If you like happy endings, add this one to your TBR. 6 hours 47 minutes. More info →
News of the World: A Novel

News of the World: A Novel

Author:
I loved this short novel about two unlikely companions because it reminded me of favorites like Lonesome Dove, These Is My Words, and—if you're not into Westerns, take note—The Road. An MMD Book Club pick and National Book Award finalist. 5 hours 51 minutes. More info →
Heartburn

Heartburn

Author:
On my TBR, because I've never read Nora Ephron, and the reviews convinced me that audio is the way to go; Meryl Streep's narration has been called absolutely perfect. This is a largely autobiographical novel about the breakup of a marriage, and I keep hearing it's way funnier than any book on the subject has any right to be. 5 hours 30 minutes. More info →

What are your favorite short audiobooks? What would YOU add to this list? 

P.S. 10 engaging audiobooks read by their authors, and 40 favorite audiobooks for kids.

audiobooks under 6 hours

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41 comments

  1. Brandyn says:

    Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick is my fav celebrity memoir and is 6 hours and 49 seconds. Anna speaks at a normal tempo – don’t speed this up. I was pretty excited when Gretchen mentioned the book on the podcast yesterday.
    Hamilton: The Revolution was wonderful. Just over 6 hours and 2 mins.
    Most of my audio listens are in the mid-range 8-12 hrs.

  2. Missy G. says:

    I’ll be a dissenting opinion on the audio version of Between the World and Me. I listened to this one in my car, and for me, it came across as one long run-on sentence. Unfortunately, I got nothing from it which was quite disappointing as it has been widely lauded. I actually kept it on my TBR because I am hoping that I will get more out the printed book.

    • Laura says:

      I thought the book felt like one long run-on sentence so I was hoping the audio would make it clearer. There were so many important things that the author was saying, but I’d agree that it was hard to follow.

  3. Michelle says:

    I love (love, LOVE) these lists, Anne! Thank you! Sourdough had been one of my favorites this year but I read in print. I’ll definitely put it on my ‘to listen’ list. Right now I’m listening to ‘Dear Fahrenheit 451’. It’s amazing! I think it clocks in at about 8 hours, so a little longer but not much. It’s on Hoopla for those that have access through their libraries. I’m buying it for all the Bibliophiles in my life.

  4. I’m listening to And Then There Were None right now. Loooove it. I actually discovered Dan Stevens’s audiobook narration through his recent recording of Murder on the Orient Express. I was blown away! I hadn’t read any of Christie’s work before but quickly saw why she’s the queen of mysteries. I knew I’d be listening to And Then There Were None next and I’m intrigued so far. Great stories made so much better by Dan Stevens’s narration, as you said! He’s truly a master.

  5. Susan Dennison says:

    In the middle of TC Boyle’s “The Reliving Box and Other Stories.” Quirky and oh, so well narrated. And here’s a shout out to public libraries – you can read FREE audiobooks. Yep, won’t cost you a penny. Many libraries offer the traditional CD disks, but also have options for downloading e-audiobooks to your phone for playing in the car.

  6. Chelsea says:

    This is a great list! Option B was so good! I didn’t listen to it on audiobook, but I could see it being great. I’d love a list of “best audiobooks for a road trip” (if you haven’t done that already). We’ve got a lot of holiday travel coming up, and I’m trying to find something my non-reader husband would like too!

    • Michelle says:

      There are a lot of amazing audiobooks available. Many are very low cost (classics from amazon) or free from your library. It largely depends on what you/your husband is interested in, and if you have young kids in the car listening also. A lot of celebrities have recently narrated books that are really amazing. There’s a great version of Dracula with Alan Cumming (not great for kids perhaps), and Nick Offerman narrates Tom Sawyer. There’s a wonderful version of Treasure Island narrated by Alfred Molena. Non fiction there are some really funny things, but again maybe not for young ones within earshot. Not bad perse, just not G-rated.

  7. Whitney Bak says:

    What a great list! Thank you for sharing—I’ve recently discovered the world of audio books and have been on the hunt for more. I just went onto audible to purchase Stella by Starlight—as this is the second time it’s come up for me today (the first was when I was listening to your latest podcast episode)—AND IT’S ON SALE! For $3.95. Audiobooks can be so pricey so this experience has just made my day. Thanks, Anne!

    My FAVORITE celebrity audiobook to date is Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other concerns.” It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and was the perfect short listen for a Sunday afternoon of meal preps (with prep dish!) and cleaning.

    I’m currently listening to “The Graveyard Book” by Neal Gaiman per the recommendation of you and some other podcasters. It’s ideal spooky for Halloween!

  8. Zoe says:

    As far as listens with my kids – A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd was hands down, the best audio book I’ve heard in years (and I do a LOT of audiobooks!) At first the reader’s southern accent threw me, but 15 minutes in, I realized it was perfect. You will never look at words the same again. Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery is another favorite, not just for the fabulous historical detail, but the reader, actor Michael Kitchen, was the star of Foyle’s War, another fabulous BBC series for all you Dan Stevens fans out there.

  9. Nancy says:

    Thanks for this list. Lately, 100% of my reading has been audiobooks because I’ve been in my car a lot. I listened to your book on my drive to a weekend with my sisters! I left the print version for them to read, but would like to have it back so I can revisit a few sections.

    Now I’m listening, as a companion to The Woman in Cabin 10, to And Then There Were None. I accidentally checked out the BBC production of the play, which is only about 90 minutes long. So, I finished that and now am listening to the Dan Stevens narration of the book.

  10. Annette B Silveira says:

    I love audiobook recommendations, especially when you (and the commenters) tell me which narrators are the best, since I’m pretty new to listening. Keep them coming!

    • Michelle says:

      Anne has several posts about audiobooks. If you search the site you can find them. They were VERY helpful to me when I first started listening to audiobooks. In the comments people always share their favorites. It’s an awesome way to get recommendations from fellow ‘book peeps’!

  11. Jennifer N. says:

    Stella by Starlight on audio was SO GOOD! Right now I’m listening to Lauren Graham’s memoir “Talking as Fast as I can” that she narrates herself. It clocks in at less than 5 hours and it’s been very entertaining thus far. Plus – Gilmore Girls!

    Pro-tip for audio book listeners that don’t want to pay for audible – my local library has quite a selection of audio books available for digital download through the Overdrive app. I get almost all of my audio books this way. (I save the Audible credits for really long books I don’t think I’ll be able to finish in the loan period for the library.)

    • Jennifer N. says:

      I just remembered “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott is also really good, clocking in at 6 hours, 19 minutes. She doesn’t narrate it herself, but I enjoyed the narration all the same.

    • Whitney Bak says:

      Overdrive is a GREAT suggestion! I’ve browsed through this incredible tool, but haven’t yet made the choice to try renting something (why?!). Thanks for the reminder!

      Also Lauren Graham’s memoir is, I think, absolutely perfect for audio. Enjoy! I might have listened to the whole thing in one go…

      • Sheryl Esau says:

        So glad to hear others using their library for audiobooks. I cringe when I hear home much people spend while I get mine free from the library. And, if you listen to the books you get on Overdrive with your regular music app or with the Smart audiobook app I found on the Google Play Store (rather than the overdrive app), they never expire. I have recently enjoyed a few young adult books on Audio – The Hate U Give was great and quick (not sure the length) and I’m currently listening to The Sun is Also a Star, which I was thrilled to find one of the narrators is the same women who read The Hate U Give.

  12. Katie says:

    I loved I Feel Bad About My Neck on audiobook by Nora Ephron and I think that was under 4 hours. (But full disclosure, I am currently listening to Dragonfly in Amber after listening to Outlander. Lots of long audiobooks at the moment!)

  13. Kacie says:

    I have enjoyed a few audio books this year, and most are in the shorter range. Here are some good ones:

    – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I think this was around 8h, but OH MY WORD one of the best books I’ve heard in a long time. Get it in audio, the accents and timing by the author are amazing.

    – Talking as Fast as I can by Lauren Graham
    – The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

    Currently listening to The Home Front narrated by Martin Sheen and others. It is a great audio production.

    Oh, and also listened to a full-cast performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  14. Janell says:

    Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson is short (2 hours, 45 minutes) and was a beautiful listening experience. I also really loved the narrator for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and that one is just over 6 hours.

    On the flip side, I just got Stephen King’s The Stand as my monthly Audible selection so I can “get my money’s worth”–it’s almost 48 hours, eek!

  15. Laura says:

    Their Eyes Were Watching God was amazing on audio!
    These were all short and fun: The Middle Place, Murder on the Orient Express (Dan Stevens), The Bookshop on the Corner (Scottish accent!), The Quiche of Death, Of Mess and Moxie, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Born Standing Up (Steve Martin), Austenland
    Kids’ books can be fabulous (and short) on audio: Matilda, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, 101 Dalmatians

  16. Raquel says:

    I love these lists! Thanks, Anne! A short audiobook I absolutely loved was A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. It packs such a punch for a book that is supposed to be for children and is only 3h59 long. I also loved Bird by Bird, by Anne Lammot (6h19, narrated by the author) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (3h52, narrated by Anne Heathaway). Coraline, by Neil Gaiman is also only 3h36 long!

  17. Roxanne says:

    Anything by Sherman Alexie.
    My favorite is the funny, touching, deceptively simple The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
    The author reads his own work and his tone is just right.

  18. Mary Ann says:

    I listen to a lot of audiobooks and many titles come to mind. So I thought I would recommend a few titles that suit the season without being too scary. The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (6 hrs 30 mins) was absolutely enchanting! A must read if you like folk tales, fairy tales or myths. Northanger Abbey (6 hrs 6 mins) by Jane Austen – need I say more? And then there is Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane (5 hrs 48 mins) or Stardust (6 hrs 27 mins). I’d listen to Gaiman read the phone book! I love, love, love when he narrates his own books. And finally Steven King’s The Dark Tower, although it is closer to 7 hours (7hrs and 20 mins) but it is so worth it.

  19. Linda says:

    The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book Of Love by Jill Conner Browne (and read by the author) clocks in under 5 hours and is an old-fashioned (think 1980’s Southern) hoot and a half.
    And it’s just the start of a multiple book series if it turns out to tickle your funny bone.

  20. I loved Who Thought This Was a Good Idea on audio! Thought Option B was just OK. Maybe would resonate more if I’d gone through a big loss like she did, but thankfully that hasn’t happened to me yet, though I know it will at some point.
    Adding Heartburn to my audio TBR!

  21. Samantha says:

    I’ve gotten into audiobooks more this year than ever. I love that they let me get more reading in while I’m in the car or walking my dogs!!
    I still have trouble finding fiction I like on audio but non fiction and memoirs are my jam!
    I will definitely give this some on this list a try.
    I would also like to recommend My Fight/Your Fight by Ronda Rousey. She narrates and I was engaged the entire time!

  22. SassyApple says:

    I’ve discovered the joy of audiobooks in the last year, and wow, the narrator makes or breaks (even a beloved) book! With that said, I highly recommend any novels narrated by Zara Ramm. If you’re looking for a new series as well, try ‘The Chronicles of Saint Mary’s’ read by her. Also, Stephanie Daniels is a wonderful narrator. Sadly, she has since died, but her work on the Phryne Fisher series is glorious.

  23. My faves on Audio I’ve listened to this year were:
    ~ Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, (Narrated by: Amy Ryan & Michael Stuhlbarg)
    ~ Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (Narrated by: Prentice Onayemi)
    ~ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon (Narrated by: Jeff Woodman)
    I think the narrator makes a difference!

  24. Grace says:

    I have fallen in love with audiobooks this year, I had not listened to one since I was a tween. I wholeheartedly agree with your selection of the audio version of Between the World and Me, I thought it was amazing. A few of the books you listed I read the traditional way and highly recommend people check them out in any way possible. Interpreter of Maladies was one of my favourite reads from las year and I also loved the slow, charming pace of News of the World. I have only one suggestion to add to your list which would be the audio version of A Monster Calls, this is narrated by Jason Isaacs and it is riveting. I freely admit I balled like a baby while listening to this book. Reading People is my current read and I am really enjoying it so far, I have also been obsessed with personality types and it is great to read about your own experiences diving into this type of research.

  25. Pam says:

    Just started Murder on the Orient Express read by Dan Stevens. 6.5 hours
    So good! Gotta “read” the book before I can see the movie. 🙂

  26. Shelley says:

    I just found your blog after listening to READING PEOPLE (fascinating)! I am an avid listener and in search of other enthusiasts! I would add Anne Tyler’s VINEGER GIRL off the top of my head, not sure how long it is, but I think it was short

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