Look, I know that audiobooks are great all year round, but there's something about the holidays that make audiobooks especially important. You can plug in and listen on the plane, bus, or car ride to grandma's house. You can queue one up while you're cooking or washing dishes or wrapping presents, or listen discreetly while you're out shopping. You can even retreat into your audiobook when your relatives begin their yearly cavalcade of invasive questions about your career/love life/financial stability. So here are a few short audiobooks to get you through your next car trip, commute, work out, or other holiday-fueled nightmare.
Of course, you can always listen to a long audiobook if you prefer your auditory reading experiences stretched out over thirty hours or so. But I've come to appreciate the elegance of the short audiobook, for all those awkward four or five or eight hour trips that don't quite warrant a lengthy Russian novel. All of these books can be finished in under 10 hours, making them the perfect choice for a one-shot listen, or for a few dedicated sessions. If you're looking for a great trip companion with low commitment and lots of literary flavor, then check out one of these great audio reads:
'Binti' by Nnedi Okorafor, read by Robin Miles
I started listening to Binti while boarding a plane and let me tell you, that is the way that everyone should listen to Binti. You, too, will feel like you're leaving your home planet behind to go start a new life at space college, armed only with your superior math skills and your jar of red earth. Binti is a lovely, original space adventure that pairs well with hurtling through the sky in a tiny metal rocket.
'Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri, read by Matilda Novak
Of course, if you're in the market for a truly short audiobook, you could always just stick with an audio short story. But once you've hear one of Jhumpa Lahiri's smart, poignant tales of finding love in the face of cultural barriers, you won't want to stop. Interpreter of Maladies is the perfect blend of lovely and bittersweet stories that'll add some sparkle to even the dullest of car trips.
'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson, read by Bernadette Dunne
I can never make up my mind whether horror stories on audiobook are less creepy (you have the comforting voice of a narrator to guide you) or more creepy (you are SURROUNDED by the story and every shadow is a goblin). Regardless, if you like chilling-yet-compact tales, the audiobook of We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a brief, absolutely harrowing journey through the mind of young Merricat Blackwood as she tries to protect her creepy sister and their creepy home together.
'Another Brooklyn' by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Robin Miles
When August runs into a friend from her distant past, she's suddenly inundated by memories of a time in her life when friendship meant everything. It was Brooklyn in the 70's, a time when August and her girls roamed the streets and reveled in their own potential — until they discovered that Other Brooklyn, where ghosts haunt the night and mothers go missing and friendships end too abruptly. This gorgeous coming-of-age story will have you hooked the whole way through.
'Milk and Honey' written and read by Rupi Kaur
Yes, there are audiobooks of poetry, too. In fact, if you're the sort of person who finds themselves forever zoning out and losing the plot of audiobooks, this book of poems might be the perfect solution. It's brief, the poems are lovely and powerful, and there's an emotional journey without a whole lot of complex plot to follow.
'The Poet X' written and read by Elizabeth Acevedo
Speaking of poetry, The Poet X is basically the best of both worlds: a novel about poetry. Slam poetry, to be exact, which makes it maybe even better as a spoken narrative than as a book on the page. Follow the story of young Xiomara Batista as she discovers her own poetic voice, and listen to some freaking awesome slam poems in the process.
'Sadie' by Courtney Summers, read by a full cast
Sometimes you just want to hang with one narrator reading you a sweet story. Other times you want to tune into an entire full cast mounting a whole dang production of a breathtaking, propulsive thriller. Sadie is exactly that. It's a pulse-pounding mystery featuring a Serial-style podcast that'll keep you anxious and guessing (but also highly entertaining) for the whole drive to your parents' place.
'Sing, Unburied, Sing' by Jesmyn Ward, read by a full cast
Sing, Unburied, Sing is an achingly beautiful story about complicated families, inter-generational trauma, growing up, and the feelings of ghosts. It's part magical, part all-too-real, as we follow young Jojo on a journey to pick up his dad from prison. Featuring a full cast of performers, it's the perfect listen for when you'd rather not deal with your own dysfunctional family.
'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' written and read by Neil Gaiman
For the most grueling and soul-crushing of travel plans, only a fairy tale will do. Neil Gaiman is a master of eerie-yet-beautiful, semi-mythical tales, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of his finest. It's a love letter to childhood and to folklore, and it'll whisk you away to a world of quaint English towns and oceans trapped in tiny ponds.
'An American Marriage' by Tayari Jones, read by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis
Celestial and Roy are living the American dream. They're married (of course) and both on track to achieve success in their careers. He's an executive, she's an artist, and they're in love... until Roy is convicted of a crime that Celestial knows he didn't commit, and their perfect lives are torn apart in one horrible miscarriage of justice. This quintessentially American love story is expertly performed, and a powerful listen either alone or with your other half.