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The Audible Essentials is our list of absolute must-listens. Hours were spent deliberating which books should (and shouldn't) make the cut. Ultimately, the final list was chosen to represent a wide range of genres, compelling stories, and can't-miss performances. These are the books that stand the test of time, vetted by our listeners and hand-picked by our editors as examples of excellence.


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  • Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs: Jane Jameson, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Molly Harper
    • Narrated By Amanda Ronconi
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5608)
    Performance
    (4318)
    Story
    (4326)

    Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge. When children's librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired by her beastly boss and handed $25 in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that's sure to become Half Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she's mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead.

    Sandra Ross says: "Laugh-out Loud Funny"


    Why we think it's Essential: The Molly Harper/Amanda Ronconi pairing has become the stuff of Audible legend, and it all started with this book. If you ever feel like the vampire romance genre has all gotten a little bit too serious and swooning for its own good, this is the perfect antidote. The kick-off to the delightfully quirky and laugh-out-loud funny Nice Girls... series, as well as an equally popular spin-off series, this book has been a non-stop hit with our listeners. —Emily

  • Dead Until Dark: Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery #1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs)
    • By Charlaine Harris
    • Narrated By Johanna Parker
    Overall
    (7530)
    Performance
    (4057)
    Story
    (4091)

    Vampires have officially "come out of the coffin", and Miss Sookie can't wait for one to come her way.

    Pamela says: "That Vampire Said ...."


    Why we think it's Essential: For audiobook fans, Johanna Parker was the beloved voice of Sookie Stackhouse long before Anna Paquin and True Blood came around. Johanna has a way of bringing the denizens of Bon Temps, Louisiana, to vivid life (or, in some cases, after-life). There’s no greater compliment about her performance than this: even listeners who have discovered the audiobooks after watching the TV show rave that she nails these books. —Steve

  • Catch-22

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Joseph Heller
    • Narrated By Jay O. Sanders
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2100)
    Performance
    (1161)
    Story
    (1176)

    Catch-22 is set in the closing months of World War II, in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy. Its hero is a bombardier named Yossarian, who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn't even met keep trying to kill him. (He has decided to live forever, even if he has to die in the attempt.)

    Phil says: "Phenominal Reading - Story and Damn Funny"


    Why we think it's Essential: Nearly 50 years after it changed the American lexicon, Catch-22 is as biting and relevant in its satire of war and bureaucracy as when it was first published. Jay O. Sanders delivers a near-perfect performance. He uses his naturally deep, vaguely military tone to wring every bit of irony from Heller's prose, while bringing the cast of characters to life with some of the funniest performances I've heard on audio. —Ed W.

  • The Old Man and the Sea

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Ernest Hemingway
    • Narrated By Donald Sutherland
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1442)
    Performance
    (842)
    Story
    (844)

    The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway's most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal, a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss.

    Dave says: "Truly a Classic"


    Why we think it's Essential: Hemingway's short, evocative sentences have never worked better than in this novella written at the twilight of his career. Donald Sutherland achieves an astonishing performance as old man Santiago, in this story of failure, reckless determination, and victory. –Corey

  • Dune

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Frank Herbert
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9795)
    Performance
    (5466)
    Story
    (5542)

    Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud'dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream.

    Joshua says: "Wonderful production!"


    Why we think it's Essential: This full-cast recording of Dune succeeds in every way the now-infamous movie version failed. The alien landscapes emerge in your imagination, while the complex plot lines and complicated relationships gain clarity. Through the talents of a marvelous voice cast, which includes Scott Brick and Simon Vance, Dune sheds the daunting burden of its epic richness - and becomes a powerful story of personal conflict and heroism. —Steve

  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs)
    • By Laura Hillenbrand
    • Narrated By Edward Herrmann
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12354)
    Performance
    (8272)
    Story
    (8311)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Seabiscuit was a runaway success, and Hillenbrand’s done it again with another true-life account about beating unbelievable odds. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.....

    Annie M. says: "Hillenbrand could make even laundry fascinating!"


    Why we think it's Essential: Whether your listening preferences usually point you to history tomes, adventure thrillers, or fiction with well-developed characters, Unbroken will hook you...and won’t let go. Laura Hillenbrand, previously of Seabiscuit fame, tells the fascinating story of Louis Zamperini – troubled youth, Olympic athlete, airman, and survivor – and you won’t believe how interested you’ll become in even the tiniest of details of his life. Much of that interest is thanks to narrator Edward Herrmann, who elevates this tremendous example of narrative nonfiction to masterful storytelling. —Diana D.

  • The Kite Runner

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Khaled Hosseini
    • Narrated By Khaled Hosseini
    Overall
    (6704)
    Performance
    (2013)
    Story
    (2030)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Never before has an author’s narration of his fiction been so important to fully grasping the book’s impact and global implications. Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of its monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them.

    Joseph says: "A storyteller's story"


    Why we think it's Essential: We've learned the hard way that authors don't always make great narrators, but Khaled Hosseini is remarkably gifted in both roles. I have listened to the The Kite Runner again and again to be transported to Hosseini's Afghanistan and can appreciate it all the more because of his authentic pronunciations. —Diana D.

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Zora Neale Hurston
    • Narrated By Ruby Dee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (964)
    Performance
    (511)
    Story
    (507)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel begs to be read aloud, and Ruby Dee answers the challenge with utter perfection, capturing the wide range of characters and their diverse accents with grace and power. Their Eyes Were Watching God is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern Black woman in the 1930s, whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to 70 years.

    Leslie says: "a pleasure"


    Why we think it's Essential: I loved this book when I read it, but it wasn't until I listened to Ruby Dee's performance that I realized how much I had missed. Hurston's book is filled with rural Florida dialect and vernacular that is hard to appreciate on the printed page, but becomes poetry in this glorious recording. Dee paints each character vividly with her rich and velvety voice. —Beth

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By John Irving
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3693)
    Performance
    (2604)
    Story
    (2608)

    Of all of John Irving's books, this is the one that lends itself best to audio. In print, Owen Meany's dialogue is set in capital letters; for this production, Irving himself selected Joe Barrett to deliver Meany's difficult voice as intended. In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying.

    Alan says: "Outstanding"


    Why we think it's Essential: Reading John Irving's great novel had such a profound impact on me that I was afraid to try the audio. Meany's peculiar character and his equally peculiar voice, enriched by the author's vivid descriptions, placed a unique timbre in my mind that I doubted a narrator could replicate, or at least do justice to. I needn't have worried. Joe Barrett performs Irving's unconventional story of spiritual crises and the vagaries of fate as if his career depended on it. What emerges is an original audio interpretation that exceeds my own experience as a reader, and apparently pleased Mr. Irving, too, who praised Barrett for perfectly capturing Meany's impish squall. —Corey

  • Steve Jobs

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Walter Isaacson
    • Narrated By Dylan Baker
    Overall
    (11662)
    Performance
    (10098)
    Story
    (10074)

    Based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

    Chris says: "Good Biography, Fine narrator"


    Why we think it's Essential: Much has been written about Apple’s late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, but Walter Isaacson’s definitive bio is the only one authorized by Jobs himself. Based on interviews with Jobs and the people closest to him – including his wife and kids – this is an honest, revealing look at one of the greatest innovators of our time (and revolutionaries in the way we listen to books). —Diana M.

  • The Eye of the World: Book One of The Wheel of Time

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Robert Jordan
    • Narrated By Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
    Overall
    (9372)
    Performance
    (5416)
    Story
    (5463)

    When their village is attacked by trollocs, monsters thought to be only legends, three young men, Rand, Matt, and Perrin, flee in the company of the Lady Moiraine, a sinister visitor of unsuspected powers. Thus begins an epic adventure set in a world of wonders and horror, where what was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

    Greg says: "This Series Rocks"


    New Addition!
    Why we think it's Essential: Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series is epic – or, I should say, EPIC. If you started with the series opener, The Eye of the World, and listened 24/7 non-stop, it would take you three full weeks to reach the end. But what a journey it is! To my mind, Jordan was the Tolkien of the late 20th Century and a world-builder supreme. If you’re a fan of richly-detailed epic fantasy – and of the fantastic voices of Michael Kramer and Kate Reading – this is a listening experience you will not regret. —Steve
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Rachel Joyce
    • Narrated By Jim Broadbent
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3102)
    Performance
    (2765)
    Story
    (2771)

    Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack is a letter addressed to Harold from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person.

    FanB14 says: "Wonderful Walkabout"


    Why we think it's Essential: Why did I love this book so much? The answer to that question is as complicated as trying to explain why you love a particular person. Because that’s what this book is – an entire life encapsulated and explored through the thoughts and encounters of a man on an unexpected journey. The story slowly grows and unfolds until the full picture is before you – blooming and beautiful and completely irreplaceable. Jim Broadbent’s narration is so utterly real it breaks your heart. —Emily

  • The Secret Life of Bees

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Sue Monk Kidd
    • Narrated By Jenna Lamia
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1398)
    Performance
    (920)
    Story
    (913)

    Sue Monk Kidd's ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed.

    Laura says: "It's hard to stop listening..."


    Why we think it's Essential: Two words: Jenna Lamia. Sometimes Southern accents can seem forced; or even worse, characterizations of young protagonists can be too precocious – two reasons why I didn't listen to The Secret Life of Bees until just recently. But Jenna Lamia's performance of this best seller is pitch-perfect. Equally as convincing as 14-year-old Lily Owens, her wry caretaker Rosaleen, and the Calendar Sisters of Black Madonna Honey, Lamia steals the show. —Diana D.

  • 11-22-63: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Craig Wasson
    Overall
    (18187)
    Performance
    (16183)
    Story
    (16142)

    On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King - who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer - takes listeners on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.

    Kelly says: "I Owe Stephen King An Apology"


    Why we think it's Essential: On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? In his critically-acclaimed epic, Stephen King – who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer – takes listeners on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it. Named Audible’s Best Book of 2011, 11-22-63 easily holds its own among King’s earlier classics, and Craig Wasson, handpicked by King to narrate, is nothing short of amazing: he has a fine actor's gift for performing the novel's wide range of characters, emotions, and action with great authenticity. ..

  • The Namesake

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Jhumpa Lahiri
    • Narrated By Sarita Choudhury
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (980)
    Performance
    (301)
    Story
    (304)

    The Namesake follows the Ganguli family through its journey from Calcutta to Cambridge to the Boston suburbs. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.

    Diana - Audible says: "My favorite book - in print and audio"


    Why we think it's Essential: Jhumpa Lahiri's command of language is absolutely stunning. She can, in just a few phases, accomplish a poignancy and authenticity that others rarely achieve in hours of storytelling. I didn't think anything could possibly elevate my opinion of Lahiri's debut novel...and then I listened to Sarita Choudhury's graceful reading. Her mix of American and Indian accents is perfectly suited for this beautiful story about the delicate balance between cultures and generations. —Diana D.

  • The Devil in the White City

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Erik Larson
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4525)
    Performance
    (2213)
    Story
    (2239)

    In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Also available abridged.

    D says: "A Rich Read!"


    Why we think it's Essential: A master storyteller and veteran thriller narrator join forces to create this riveting true account of Chicago’s famous World Fair. But behind its Gilded Age of architectural feats and electrical innovation, lies a murderer waiting in the wings. True crime, history, and thriller fans are in for a treat. —Diana M.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The Millennium Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Stieg Larsson
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23430)
    Performance
    (10038)
    Story
    (10111)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: How do you one-up a book that’s already a global literary phenomenon? Hire Simon Vance to (flawlessly) interpret the loves, lives, and murders of Sweden’s cold and secret-filled world. A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue. It's about the disappearance 40 years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden.

    Pamela Murphy says: "COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN"


    Why we think it's Essential: Not many books have earned the kind of fans that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its two follow up novels have. Obsessive and evangelistic in their zeal, people who love the Millennium Trilogy only have one complaint – that there aren’t any more novels coming since Stieg Larsson tragically passed away shortly after completing the manuscripts. Simon Vance, an Audible favorite, narrates this series that appeals to listeners of all types. —Emily

  • The Company: A Novel of the CIA

    • UNABRIDGED (41 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Robert Littell
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (5074)
    Performance
    (2173)
    Story
    (2166)

    "If Robert Littell didn't invent the American spy novel," says Tom Clancy, "he should have." In this spectacular Cold-War-as-Alice-in-Wonderland epic, Littell, "the American le Carre," takes us down the rabbit hole and into the labyrinthine world of espionage that has been the CIA for the last half-century. "Ostensibly a single novel, The Company can also be listened to as an anthology of cracking good spy stories," says (Publishers Weekly).

    Cynthia says: "Hang on to your Hat"


    Why we think it's Essential: Think of Mario Puzo doing a spy novel and you get a sense of the scope Littell achieves.Spanning over 40 years of CIA history, The Company is a multi-generational saga of men and women trying to do right in a world where deceit is a tool of the trade.Narrator-extraordinaire Scott Brick gives individuality to a large cast of characters, keeping the listener connected to them from The Bay of Pigs to the Reagan White House. —Ed W.

  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Rob Lowe
    • Narrated By Rob Lowe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3453)
    Performance
    (2751)
    Story
    (2739)

    A teen idol at 15, an international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at 20, and one of Hollywood's top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences. Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last 25 years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.

    N. Belle says: "Great Book and Great Story"


    Why we think it's Essential: It’s a bit of a joke around the office – but, as they say, all jokes are rooted in the truth, right? – that when you listen to Rob Lowe’s reading of his memoir, you feel like you’re dating Rob Lowe. Or, at the very least, as the title will have you believe, he is your best friend. That’s how intimate the performance is, that’s how smart and funny and charming the writing is. You want to hang out with him as much as you can, and you never know which fascinating character will make a cameo next, which just adds to the fun. Heartfelt and genuine – touching on the good, the bad, and the ugly of a life in Hollywood – Stories I Only Tell My Friends is hands-down the best celebrity memoir we’ve ever ..

  • The Modern Scholar: Six Months That Changed the World: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Margaret MacMillan
    Overall
    (229)
    Performance
    (128)
    Story
    (128)

    The world will never see another peace conference like the one which took place in Paris in 1919. For six months, the world's major leaders - including Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States, David Lloyd George, prime minister of Great Britain, and Georges Clemenceau, prime minister of France - met to discuss the peace settlements which were to end World War One.

    Jon says: "Best Audible Title Yet"


    Why we think it's Essential: Professor Macmillan speaks with authority about the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and illustrates how we are still living today with the consequences of decisions made there. It's not often that something changes the way you view life, but that's the greatest achievement of this lecture: its ability to get you thinking about cause and effect – how large and small events that happened almost 90 years ago can shape the world for decades to come. –Corey

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