Reading before bed is one of life's great luxuries, but it’s not always the easiest activity. Aside from the ever-present risk of dropping your book on your face at night — everyone’s been there, right? — there’s always the chance that you’ll disrupt your sleep schedule with the blue light from your eReader screen. This is where audiobooks come in. For those of you who want to fall asleep listening to an audiobook, Bustle has pulled together a list of 20 great options.
So what makes an audiobook a good choice for bedtime listening? Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than picking back up with an audiobook, only to realize that you lost the plot — quite literally — by falling asleep during your last listening sesh. So, although some folks may enjoy listening to novels before bed, we tend to think that nonfiction makes for a better choice.
That goes double for nonfiction about calming subjects like plants, outer space, and even the act of sleeping itself. That’s not to say that those subjects are boring, or that it’s OK to ignore them by literally sleeping through them. (Trust us, we mean no disrespect to the books on this list.) It’s just that those books offer the most relaxing cadences and subjects to maximize your sleep comfort.
Below, the 20 best audiobooks to fall asleep to.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 Bedtime Stories for Stressed-Out Adults: Tales to Soothe Tired Souls
From kid-friendly fairytales to classic stories from your favorite 19th- and 20th-century authors,
Bedtime Stories for Stressed-Out Adults offers bite-sized fiction perfect for readers who crave novels, but don’t want to miss out on key plot details while they’re snoozing. 2 Black Girl, Call Home
One of 2021’s most acclaimed poetry collections, Jasmine Mans’
Black Girl, Call Home is a coming-of-age novel-in-verse that examines the experiences of young, queer, Black women in the United States. 3 Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space
NASA’s release of audio from a black hole, with Janna Levin’s Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, a book that chronicles a half-century of astronomical pursuits — specifically, the 50 long years spent trying to record the sound of gravitational waves. 4 Build Yourself a Boat
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award, Camonghne Felix’s
Build Yourself a Boat centers Black womanhood, examining what life was like for Black women during Trump’s presidency. 5 The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred
In this insightful collection of scientific ephemera, physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein offers readers a quick and dirty primer on particle physics, discrimination in the hard sciences, how melanin works, and how
Star Trek can inform our personal politics today. 6 Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
Octavia’s Brood co-editor adrienne maree brown comes this self-help book that draws inspiration from the works of sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler. Like any good self-help book, Emergent Strategy offers strategies for personal improvement, but brown also provides readers with a toolkit for improving their communities and the world at large. 7 The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
If you’re the kind of person who finds themselves worrying about how the world might end — whether someday far,
far into the future or in your own lifetime — you owe it to yourself to pick up Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), which examines five potential avenues for the universe’s annihilation. 8 The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature
J. Drew Lanham pulls at threads of his family history in
The Home Place, tracing the lives of the Lanhams of Edgefield, South Carolina, with careful consideration for his own childhood, when he discovered his love of nature. 9 How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler
What would happen if you found yourself trapped in a different time, without the modern conveniences that make your life, well, modern? In
How to Invent Everything, Ryan North teaches readers how their most precious technologies came to be — and how they could reinvent them if the need were ever to arise. 10 The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars
Voted one of 2020’s best books by NPR,
The Economist, Newsweek, and others, Jo Marchant’s The Human Cosmos traces 20 millennia of human history, paying particular attention to humanity’s relationship to the heavenly bodies, and how that relationship has shaped society as a whole. 11 An Inventory of Losses
How do we remember the things we have collectively lost? Judith Schalansky’s
An Inventory of Losses takes a long, poignant look at how we remember — and eulogize — the things we’re forced to leave behind, from works of art to animals, places, and other things lost to time. 12 Just As I Am
The world lost a titan of acting when Cicely Tyson passed away in 2021 at the age of 96. Her bestselling memoir, published just two days before her death, retraces her long and lauded life, from her experiences growing up in East Harlem as the child of West Indian immigrants, to her breakout roles in
Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, to her lifelong spiritual journey. 13 The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Restless Age
It’s never too late to learn how to make the right decision. In
The Optimist’s Telescope, Obama administration senior advisor Bina Venkataraman breaks down neuroscience to explain why we make poor decisions, and offers readers easy-to-use strategies for making better choices. 14 Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century
Jazz is truly an American art form — and perhaps the most influential one our country’s ever produced. In
Playing Changes, Jazz critic Nate Chinen revisits the musicians and movements that shaped the sounds we appreciate today, both in America and around the world. 15 The Source of Self-Regard
In three eulogies — for the victims of 9/11, Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin — Toni Morrison reflects on diversity and difference, African American influences on mainstream culture, and the power of her literary legacy.
16 This Is Your Mind on Plants
When we talk about our relationship to nature, what comes to mind for you? Is it forest bathing and grounding? Gardening and houseplants-as-decor? What about mind-altering drugs? In
This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan examines humanity’s often-fraught relationship with plant-made compounds like opium, caffeine, and mescaline. 17 Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape
Trace is a touching and eye-opening examination of the people of North America: indigenous tribes, white colonizers, enslaved Africans, Ellis Island immigrants, and the inheritors of those myriad legacies. 18 Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty
Exacting and insightful, Bahar Orang’s
Where Things Touch attempts to catalog how people experience beauty. What determines what’s considered beautiful, and how do those concepts of beauty translate to the Other — the queer, the medicalized, the old, and the young? 19 Why We Swim
Humans swim for pleasure and exercise, and — less often in the modern world — for travel and survival. There’s little doubt that swimming is a near-universal experience, yet people’s reasons for swimming are as unique as they are. Bonnie Tsui explores the history of this relaxing — and often dangerous — activity in
Why We Swim. 20 Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
No one can say we aren’t living in difficult times. Income inequality, human rights abuses, climate change, and Covid-19 compound the emotional impact of common tragedies, such as lost jobs and the deaths of loved ones. In
Wintering, Katherine May offers readers strategies for recovering from trauma by willingly withdrawing from public life.
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This article was originally published on
November 2, 2018