Need A Getaway? Try These 11 Transportive Fantasy & Sci-Fi Audiobooks

by Charlotte Ahlin
Ani Dimi/Stocksy

People love to wring their hands over the various possible formats in which to consume literary media. Should we only be reading hardcover, leather-bound books that have been lovingly hand-scribed by a team of sleepless monks? Should we burn all of our paper books and give into our e-reader overlords? Should we start downloading megabytes of book knowledge directly into our brains? The truth is, of course, that how you read doesn't matter nearly so much as the fact that you read. Every reading method has its own benefits. And one of the benefits of audiobooks is that you don't have to listen to anyone else around you wheezing or coughing on the subway. Here are a few of the best audiobooks for transporting you to an entirely different world, because sometimes you need a break from reality.

Audiobooks are especially great for those moments when a hand-held book would be impractical. They're perfect for going to the gym, commuting, running errands, cooking food, cleaning your house, and basically any other chore that you desperately wish you had some sort of mental escape from. So when you're ready to trade in your treadmill for an absorbing world of dragons, space flights, whimsy, and wonder, here are some of the best books for getting the job done:

'The Goblin Emperor' by Katherine Addison, read by Kyle McCarley

In a world of dazzlingly complex court intrigue and wild steampunk design, a half-goblin boy finds himself unexpectedly in line for the throne. He's lived in exile from the court for his entire life. But now that his father and half-brothers have died in a tragic "accident," this unschooled outsider is about to be sucked into a world of impeccable manners and terrifying plots.

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'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles

The Fifth Season doesn't exactly transport you to the nicest of worlds. In fact, the Stillness is already being shattered by earthquakes and torn apart by political factions at the start of the novel. But Jemisin's award-winning world building is just so absorbing that you'll want to traverse her harrowing landscape all the same, as our heroine hunts down what's left of her fractured family.

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'A Darker Shade of Magic' by V. E. Schwab, read by Steven Crossley

Kell is an ambassador from Red London. He travels to White London, where bloody regimes frequently change hands, and to dull Grey London, where there's no magic left at all. He never goes to Black London. No one does. But of course, a chance encounter sets Kell on a strange journey, and you'll join him in hopping between supremely imaginative Londons as he tries to save every one of our worlds.

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'The Way of Kings' by Brandon Sanderson, read by Kate Reading

In the world of Roshar, everything is build to withstand rough weather. Violent storms are a fact of life, sweeping across the land and destroying everything in their wake. It's been years since the fall of the fabled Knights Radiant, and a handful of individuals are finally beginning to understand the truth of their ruined world. If you're looking for a complex, utterly unique realm of magic and pitched battle, then this is the all-absorbing fantasy novel for you.

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'Silver Silence' by Nalini Singh, read by Angela Dawe

On the other hand, kings and wars and complicated systems of magic aren't everyone's cup of tea. If you're looking to travel to another world that's just a bit steamier, try Silver Silence. The story follows Silver Mercant, the controlled and precise director of a worldwide emergency response network. She's not exactly looking to spice up her life. But then she meets Valentin Nikolaev, a wild card and possibly also a shape-shifting bear, who's prepared to climb buildings and take on the rest of the world to be with her.

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'A Crown of Wishes' by Roshani Chokshi, read by Priya Ayyar

Gauri is a princess with nothing left to lose. Taken prisoner by her enemies, she faces exile and possibly death. Vikram is a prince set to become a powerless, puppet king. He may be Gauri's sworn nemesis, but he's also her only hope if she's ever going to win her kingdom back. Together, the two young royals risk everything in the Tournament of Wishes: whoever wins this trial of strength and wit will be allowed one wish... if they can survive.

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'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman, read by a full cast

Of course, if you're really trying to escape reality entirely, then you're going to need a wild Neil Gaiman mystery read by a full cast. American Gods is a sprawling epic that captures all the mythical weirdness that modern America has to offer. Ex-con Shadow Moon and his new employer, Mr. Wednesday, are out to interfere with a war of divine proportions, while stopping at a lot of tourist traps along the way.

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'Binti' by Nnedi Okorafor, read by Robin Miles

You can listen to the whole of Binti in one sitting, and travel several hundred light-years (or something like that) across the galaxy in just a couple of hours. The story of Binti's eventful trip from her home on Earth to her new university on another planet is filled with beautiful world-building details and vivid descriptions of cities, aliens, and living space ships, perfect for a transportive journey of the mind.

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'Space Opera' by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Heath Miller

Humankind has finally discovered life beyond our own solar system, and that means that we are now eligible for the Metagalactic Grand Prix. It's sort of like a beauty pageant meets a gladiatorial contest, but mostly it's a singing competition. The stakes are very high. And unfortunately for the human race, our chosen representative is the one hit wonder band Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes... and now the survival of the human race depends on how hard they can rock.

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'Strange the Dreamer' by Laini Taylor, read by Steve West

Lazlo Strange is a war orphan, a junior librarian, and a dreamer. The trouble is, his particular dreams are impossibly connected to dead goddesses and the long-lost city of Weep. Lazlo is mostly resigned to living a life of unsolved mystery, until a stranger called the Godslayer arrives with one rare opportunity for Lazlo. This is his big chance to find Weep, understand his dreams, and quite possibly get himself in way over his head.

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'The Girl from Everywhere' by Heidi Heilig, read by Kim Mai Guest

Nix has grown up on her father's ship, which is perfectly capable of carrying them to any place, at any time (no matter if that place is mythical or not). Nix has seen nineteenth century China and the legendary land of One Thousand and One Nights and just about every other place there is. But now her father has one specific spot in mind: 1868 Honolulu. That's where Nix's mother is. And getting there is going to risk Nix's very existence—if they get this wrong, she could very well have not been born at all.

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