This year Compass Book Ratings is the beneficiary of my horrible commute! With many hours on the road, I finally broke down and purchased an Audible subscription for the year. The upside is that I had access to a lot of audiobooks that my library didn’t carry so we have a great list this year. Although the below recommendations are grouped by age, I think almost all of the titles are fabulous enough to charm an eight-year-old or an eighty-eight-year old. You may just find yourself adding another roadtrip to your summer just so you can listen to all of the titles.
Have a wonderful and safe road trip this summer…and happy listening! You won’t be disappointed.
To see full content review, please click on the book’s cover.
Elementary and Tween Listeners
Length: 4 hours 42 minutes
This is an award-winning middle grade historical fiction novel. With a stellar reader (we wouldn’t recommend it otherwise), it follows a 13-year-old protagonist who turns 14 in the course of the book, so it definitely has some upward appeal into the middle grades. Set during the Great Depression and following a family from Mexico, this is perfect for that Southern California road trip through the Central Valley on your way to Disneyland.
Length: 8 hours and 41 minutes
This, too, is historical fiction set in colonial times BUT with fantasy elements such as fantastical creatures (can you say, bearwolf?!) and a flying ship. Most of the cast is male and the reader does well with those voices (he is okay for the one female character). With a cross-country quest and chase, this is a book for adventurers!
Length: 5 hours 18 minutes
I adored this book! The reader was perfection matched with spot-on Western vernacular. The next road trip I take my 75 year-old father on, we are listening to this book. This is the story of a boy and his horse and his journey to manhood. Ideal for a roadtrip in the West this summer. There is NEVER a dull moment in this adventure, and if you want to share true grit at a middle grade level, then pick up this title.
Length: 6 hours 20 minutes
Loved! Loved the reader–especially his characterization Dawkins. What list wouldn’t be complete without a fantasy/adventure selection. There is humor and action galore. This is also a book with upward appeal for teens.
Length: 8 hours 15 minutes
If you don’t fall in love with Esme and Teo, then I just don’t know how to help you. It cracked-me up the way the reader voiced them. With both a female and male protagonist, this book will have wide appeal. And, although there are two readers, they don’t voice the two main characters exactly; rather they voice a grandson and grandfather in this flashback story telling. I looked forward to listening to it every day on my commute. This is magical story-telling at its best.
Length: 11 hours 41 minutes
This book felt like a mash-up of an Agatha Christie novel with a flavor of The Secret Benedict Society. Set at Christmas-time this is an adventure and mystery complete with sabotage and a twist you won’t see coming. There is some game/role playing within the story so young listeners that like that will especially be able to relate. The reader is respectable, but the start is a little slow. Give it some time and it will gain steam and you will be pleased.
Length: 10 hours 23 minutes
Consummate fantasy author Brandon Sanderson gives a truly unique fantasy with steampunk overtones to this middle grade novel. If you want original, it is here. There is even a mystery that would appeal to mystery lovers. The reader, Michael Kramer, is the same reader of Sanderson’s adult fantasy series, Mistborn, but he does a great job for this younger audience. Strong female and male characters give wide-appeal.
Length: 5 hours 5 minutes
This author has an uncanny way of writing about my life and my family’s life. Let’s just say, when it comes to contemporary young adult fiction, he nails it. This is a story with a lot of humor in it that will resonate with teens. It is from the first-person perspective and the reader’s voice is an ideal match to the protagonist’s personality. Characters are in high school so this definitely is good for slightly older and perhaps skeptical listeners.
Length: 7 hours 7 minutes
This is the high-octane adventure on the list that fires it up from page one. Think Bourne for teens and you are there. Stellar reader that matches the protagonist well. The first in a series so there is more if you are driving all the way across the United States.
Length: 10 hours 5 minutes
I kept finding the flashbacks intriguing as I tried to piece together the backstory. It wasn’t until halfway through this book that I figured out it was the second book in a series! Nevertheless, I was able to follow along just swell with the breadcrumbs the author had left. This is a spy-alternate history-steampunk flavored story. The reader has a strong English accent, as the female protagonist is from England. Accents can sometimes be too much, but it worked for this book. There is also a smidgen of romance along the way.
Length: 15 hours 18 minutes
Stellar reader for this young adult sci-fi novel that is chock-full of humor and swift pacing. The protagonist and his friends are hilarious. Great teen listen with its action and dialogue. It is too hard to pick a favorite from this list, but this one definitely is a contender. Solid guy read/listen choice, too.
Length: 10 hours 25 minutes
Okay, this is really a fantasy written for the fantasy market–not a targeted young adult creation. But, hey, believe it or not, 25 years ago there didn’t used to be a specific young adult demographic. You read kids books and then you graduated to the adult section of the library, but most teens found themselves in the science fiction and fantasy section because they were, well, so awesome. This is that kind of book. The primary character is a young boy (so even elementary kids might find appeal here) and with many children in the book, the woman voicing the narration works well. She is particularly good at the voice of the queen’s poisoner. There is a complicated political situation and this story is all about the intrigue with the fantasy being a light-touch at this point. The first in a series, which I fully intend to continue reading/listening to.
Adult Listeners (and whoever else is in the car)
Length: 13 hours 1 minute
This book is not written in first person, but there is a kinship with the reader that makes the listener feel as if he is Paul, the protagonist. Totally interesting with some laugh-out-loud moments when Tesla is voiced, this is a historical fiction novel teens might also enjoy. It definitely has a science bent as it follows the rivalry between Tesla, Edison, and Westinghouse.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams
Length: 10 hours 12 minutes
This non-fiction work is voiced by three readers: author Douglas Abrams and two other readers voicing the comments of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This format makes it more intriguing to listen to and also keeps it crystal clear what thought belong to who. This is a philosophical book that all ages could benefit from. I found it better to listen to it in segments so I had time to digest and think, rather than just plowing straight through.