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Best Audiobooks for the Family Road Trip 2021

Summer 2020 was not quite what we all hoped for, but the summer of 2021 is showing promise–especially for the road trip. Assembling this year’s list, there seems to be an unconscious bias for escapist fiction. Gee, wonder why? So, here are our hand-picked selections curated for story, reader, and the lower side of the content scale (5 or less in all three categories). Enjoy and drive safe!

To see full literary and content review, please click on book covers below.

Recommendations for Elementary Ages and Tweens

Peter and the Starcatchers, Book Cover

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Genre: Fantasy

8 hours 40 minutes

Fabulous adventure coupled with a fabulous reader! This one is definitely a two thumbs up and almost guaranteed to be a great listen not only for the younger group in the car, but for the older people, too. There is lots of action so it zips right along.


Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, Book Cover

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley

Genre: Mystery

4 hours 23 minutes

This audiobook had me hooked with a mere five minutes of listening time–and that doesn’t happen often. The set-up is expert and you will just have to keep listening to solve the mystery. Crackerjack reader, too.


Pay Attention, Carter Jones - Book Cover

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

5 hours 10 minutes

This audiobook made the list particularly for the audiobook execution. (I am a lover of Gary D. Schmidt and this is a good book, but I think he has other stronger books in this genre.) Mr. Schmidt’s way of writing the 12 to 14-year-old male protagonist is truly art and that style, in the hands of the right reader, is gold.


The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy

6 hours 35 minutes

So, first, this book is hilarious. Second, Maurice, the cat, drips with sarcasm and the reader nails it. While this is technically a middle grade book, the driver of the car may actually enjoy it more than the younger listeners. I may just listen to it again–just because I can.


The Magic Misfits, Book Cover

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

Genre: Fiction (with a dash of a magic)

4 hours 13 minutes

This is a great middle grade story but the reader is the author which is always magic. Add to the fact that the author is the actor Neil Patrick Harris….well, do I need to say anything more? Brilliant storytelling and reader.


Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book Cover

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Genre: Fantasy

12 hours 40 minutes

Going on a really long trip? Take this one because it is pretty hefty–and the first in the series so there is plenty more to extend your listening. Young listeners who like Harry Potter would probably enjoy this series also as it has similar elements.


Recommendations for Young Adults

The Royal Ranger, Book Cover

The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

13 hours 55 minutes

This book’s title and numbering system is a little confusing. It was originally published as Book 1 in a new series, but then it looks like they decided to just fold it into the original Ranger Apprentice Series. That said, this book can be picked up without reading the other books and becoming lost. The protagonist is 16 years old and a strong female character. This is a listen that would totally work with younger kids in the car, too.


Skyward, Book Cover

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Science Fiction

15 hours 28 minutes


Nice to have a sci-fi option! Great young adult book with a great reader. What more to is there to say? (This isn’t a cooking blog so we won’t go on-and-on. Just listen to it.)

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Genre: Fantasy

10 hours 1 minute

I kind of consider this series my most recent YA “find”. This is one of the few audiobooks this year on our list that has multiple readers. The chapters of the book rotate among three protagonists: Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda. There is a unique reader for each. An excellent job was done in matching the protagonist to their reader’s voice. So good.


Changeling by Molly Harper

Genre: Fantasy

8 hours 21 minutes


Delightful from first word to last. The reader has a British-style accent that compliments the protagonist’s dry wit and sarcasm. This is fantastic escapist fiction.

Bonus Recommendation:

Treasure Island 2020 was a podcast I discovered recently. Think old-fashioned radio show with multiple actors, music, and sound effects. This is a spin on the beloved adventure novel Treasure Island. Read the original and then take this podcast on your road trip.

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!

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