Audiobooks are a pretty glorious invention for the busy person. Reading actual text means sitting down and focusing purely on the text. That’s an amazing experience, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, between work, exams, getting to the gym, the grocery store, laundry, cooking dinner, putting the kids to bed, and whatever else you do day to day, it’s not so easy to find time to actually sit down with a book.
That’s where audiobooks come in. Now, you can get some of those more mundane tasks done with and finally get to that giant TBR list you’ve been adding to steadily over the years. But, not every book is good for multi-tasking, not if you actually want to pay attention to the book and not burn the pancakes.
What you want is that sweet spot type of book — a book that will be exciting, but not so exciting that you drop a bowl of cake batter out of a sudden need to grab the edge of your seat. You want it to be engrossing, but not so engrossing that you accidentally put a fork in the garbage disposal and a handful of potato peels in the utensil drawer. You want it to be interesting, but not so detailed that you keep running into trees and street signs because you’re having to rewind every 30 seconds to remember the heroine’s fourth cousin’s aunt’s boyfriend who just came back into play. And you certainly don’t want to spend 36 hours listening to a book only to find that you actually don’t remember anything about it, so it has to be interesting enough to capture your attention but not steal it away completely.
These 10 books are juuust right for when you need to multi-task.
1. The Passage by Justin Cronin
It’s a fast-paced adventure full of vampires that’ll get your blood pumping, but it’s in a different enough world that you won’t be flipping out over every shadow and scampering you hear during your nightly run and end up falling off the treadmill.
2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
The world Butler creates in Parable of the Sower is rough. The story draws you into the plight of its small cast of characters as they navigate an American wasteland and struggle to survive all the horrors it has to throw at you. But, don’t worry, this isn’t The Road; you won’t find yourself randomly frozen with deep anxiety or in shocked trauma. The ideas are largely the focus in this post-apocalyptic tale.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
It’s finally here! The entire Harry Potter series is now available on Audible. Since you’ve already probably read it, you can listen to all your favorite characters go grow up and adventure their way into adulthood all over again, and if you miss something here or there, I’m sure your encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Potter can fill in the blanks.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Speaking of books you’ve already read… You know you’ve already read Pride and Prejudice a thousand times, or, at the very least, you’ve watched all of the movie adaptations a zillion times. So, there’s no way you’re going to miss any important plot points. So, why not listen to the beautiful narration by Rosamund Pike (who played Jane Bennett in the 2005 film) while you address all 200 of those thank you cards to your wedding guest by hand?
5. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Not every book you audio while you work has to be all breathless adventure and magic. Well… The Buried Giant does have both of those things, but in a much subtler, quieter, slower paced story. Set in the time of King Arthur, The Buried Giant follows the story of an old couple as they search for their son and their lost memories and incidentally end up a party to the adventures of a young warrior and his apprentice. It’s very different from your average medieval adventure of swords and dragons.
6. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s years in Paris make for riveting reading (especially if you have a wine glass nearby). Featuring a cast of famous literary figures like Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, you can’t help but lit nerd squee every time he mentions these icons casually. Hemingway’s characteristic straight-forward writing makes it easy to digest, yet still beautiful, so you can still focus. The hunger pains and delicious meals he describes make it a pretty perfect companion for cooking dinner.
7. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
It’s got everything a modern book nerd could want — vampires, witches, magic, time travel, and a couple of nerdy heroes. In fact, it’s such a fun, addicting read that it’ll have you itching to know what happens next. So you might want to save this one for some chore you hate doing. Before you know it, you’ll be eager to get to the gym, do the laundry, finish re-tiling the bathroom floor.
8. Gulp by Mary Roach
Non-fiction doesn’t have to be dense and difficult. Mary Roach’s approach to science is fun, straight-foward, even a little snarky and, in the case of Gulp, somewhat disgusting. An exploration of the digestive track, from the mouth to… well, the other end, it probably isn’t the best choice for your walk to lunch or while cooking dinner, but if you’ve got a whole stack of fifth grade biology exams to grade or something, you might actually learn something more interesting about human anatomy with this audiobook and get a few laughs while you're at it.
9. Mr. g by Alan Lightman
A fun, short book that basically makes you feel like the whole universe is your play pen. Mr. g is a narration of God as he creates worlds and living creatures, trying to perfect the art of life and philosophizing about what that means along the way. It’s a fun way to play with big ideas and will certainly keep you entertained while you tend to less… difficult tasks.
10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Really any Neil Gaiman book makes for a great multi-tasking listen, except maybe American Gods, the character cast of which might be a little difficult to pay attention to while you try to focus on something else. Otherwise, Gaiman has a great number of books that are simple, magical delights, especially the ones meant for a younger audience. Listening to Gaiman (who often narrates his own books) will make you feel like you’re back in the days of fantastical bed time stories. What better way to pass the time while you’re engaged in all the serious little tasks of adulthood?