Audible Essentials | Audible.com
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In 2007, we created the Audible Essentials list of absolute must-listens. Hours were spent deliberating which books should (and shouldn't) make the cut. Ultimately, the final list was chosen and represented a wide range of genres, compelling stories, and can't-miss performances.

In recent years, a few more books have risen to this elite status, and we’re thrilled to now share with you our updated collection of Audible Essentials. These are the books that stand the test of time, vetted by our listeners and hand-picked by our editors as examples of excellence.

Don't forget to check out our Audible Essentials: Honorable Mentions or the must-listens from your favorite genres: Mystery Essentials, Thriller Essentials, Sci-Fi Essentials, Romance Essentials, and Teen Essentials.


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  • The Lion's Game

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Nelson DeMille
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (4282)
    Performance
    (1589)
    Story
    (1590)

    To survive in a game with no rules at all, John Corey must invent a strategy that includes no luck at all. He and the Anti-Terrorist Task Force must stop "The Lion," an alleged Libyan terrorist with the instincts of a wild animal, the bloodlust of a carnivore, and the boldness and speed of a cat of prey. And listen to Mayday, by DeMille and Thomas Block, the most terrifyingly realistic air disaster thriller of all time.

    CoCo says: "Excellent and engaging"


    Why we think it's Essential: DeMille proves himself at the height of his game with The Lion's Game. This one has it all: action, suspense, humor, romance, captivating characters, a seriously bad bad-guy, and an endearingly bad good-guy. Scott Brick's perfect narration raises the stakes to a higher level. A master of pacing, Brick's measured delivery makes the suspense behind the serpentine plot come alive. My stomach was tied in knots and I loved every minute of it. –Corey

  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Charles Duhigg
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    Overall
    (4094)
    Performance
    (3449)
    Story
    (3416)

    At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

    Mehra says: "Nice! A guide on how to change"


    Why we think it's Essential: Change is hard, or is it? In The Power of Habit, New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg examines just how people and institutions undergo transformation: by changing habits. Narrator Mike Chamberlain (Moonwalking with Einstein) brings just the right mix of objectivity and conviction for a fascinating, life-changing look on how to change. —Diana M.

  • Chronicles: Volume One

    • ABRIDGED (5 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Bob Dylan
    • Narrated By Sean Penn
    Overall
    (389)
    Performance
    (99)
    Story
    (103)

    Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One explores the critical junctions in his life and career. Through Dylan's eyes and open mind, we see Greenwich Village, circa 1961, when he first arrives in Manhattan. Dylan's New York is a magical city of possibilities: smoky, nightlong parties; literary awakenings; transient loves and unbreakable friendships. Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough.

    Gerry A. Brown says: "Positively 4th Street"


    Why we think it's Essential: Sean Penn reading Bob Dylan's memoirs. It doesn't get any better than this. Dylan mixes his life with his music, his thoughts with his lyrics, and Sean Penn puts us right inside his head. Dylan and Penn are a perfect combination, spanning two generations of celebrity, making us feel the weight and breadth of life for Dylan and the people who have hung on his every word and note. —Chris D.

  • Middlesex

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jeffrey Eugenides
    • Narrated By Kristoffer Tabori
    Overall
    (5710)
    Performance
    (1924)
    Story
    (1942)

    In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop physically - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

    Chris says: "Great Pulitzer Winning novel!"


    Why we think it's Essential: A Pulitzer Prize guarantees a great story; an Audie Award guarantees a captivating narration - Middlesex has both, plus Oprah's stamp of approval to boot. But for this essentials list, it's the Audie that carries the most weight, and Kristoffer Tabori is most deserving of this prize. He makes this generation-spanning saga an effortless listen, using unique characterizations to seamlessly weave the past and the present. Absolutely captivating. —Diana D.

  • Light in August

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By William Faulkner
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    Overall
    (44)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (17)

    An Oprah's Book Club Selection regarded as one of Faulkner's greatest and most accessible novels, Light in August is a timeless and riveting story of determination, tragedy, and hope. In Faulkner's iconic Yoknapatawpha County, race, sex, and religion collide around three memorable characters searching desperately for human connection and their own identities.

    Robert Stevens says: "Superb reading of an excellent work"


    Why we think it's Essential: Faulkner’s classic is always going to be an essential work of American literature but award-winning actor and narrator Will Patton elevates it to become an essential work of American listening. His accent is smooth, rich, and gloomy, and transports you straight into the heart of the prohibition-era deep South. His narration helps us to penetrate the mystery of Faulkner (even literature students will acknowledge it’s a tricky read) and get to the heart of this multi-layered masterpiece. —Emily

  • Bossypants

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Tina Fey
    • Narrated By Tina Fey
    Overall
    (15863)
    Performance
    (11843)
    Story
    (11775)

    Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey's story can be told....

    Warren says: "Tina Fey broke my new SUV"


    Why we think it's Essential: Witty, finely-crafted, and meant to be heard, Bossypants is one of my favorite audiobooks of all time. Tina Fey knows how to deliver a good punch-line – and does so hilariously throughout her memoir. Her self-deprecating humor shines through, and this half-memoir, half-stand-up routine left me laughing for all in the subway car to hear. From her days in the Second City comedy troupe, to Saturday Night Live, to Hollywood, Fey's stories and memories will leave you in stitches. —Jess

  • Casino Royale

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Ian Fleming
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1155)
    Performance
    (632)
    Story
    (635)

    Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome, chillingly ruthless, and licensed to kill. This, the first of Ian Fleming's tales of secret agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called "Le Chiffre" by ruining him at the Baccarat table, forcing his Soviet spymasters to "retire" him. It seems that lady luck has sided with 007 when Le Chiffre hits a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules.

    Pork C. Fish says: "Ouch!"


    Why we think it's Essential: Listening to Casino Royale is like peeling away the shell of a cultural icon and returning to the good, exotic thrillers that gave it birth. As captured by narrator Simon Vance, Bond is as suave, British, and ultra-competent as you'd expect, but he's also startlingly vulnerable, falling victim to both his enemies and his own doubts. With a wry, knowing delivery, Vance excels at capturing the tension in Fleming's prose: he wrings Bond's torture for every last, excruciating squirm. —Ed W.

  • The Pillars of the Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (40 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Ken Follett
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11981)
    Performance
    (4412)
    Story
    (4442)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Got 40 hours to kill? You’ll find the time when you start listening to Lee’s take on Follett’s epic – and widely celebrated – novel of 12th-century England. The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known...of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul...and of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame....

    Judith says: "Couldn't Take My Buds Out"


    Why we think it's Essential: Ken Follett’s sprawling masterpiece has a little bit of everything for everyone; suspense, action, love, history and intrigue. With Follett’s plot twists and John Lee’s superb performance, you will not only be shocked 40 hours went by, you will be wishing for more. —Tyler

  • Alas, Babylon

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Pat Frank
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3554)
    Performance
    (2564)
    Story
    (2565)

    This true modern masterpiece is built around the two fateful words that make up the title and herald the end - “Alas, Babylon.” When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness....

    Noe says: "Outstanding story of post-apocalyse."


    Why we think it's Essential: Pat Frank's post-apocalyptic novel about a cold war that's finally boiled over into a nuclear doomsday over is over 50 years old, but it still feels entirely fresh. The post apocalyptic world asks: Without our job, our social status, and our possessions what would we have left? Alas, Babylon answers unequivocally: our sense of duty to our fellow man, our bonds of love with family and friends, and, above all, our will to survive. Will Patton is electrifying as narrator, and his thunderous delivery of the novel's titular cry will remain with you long after you finish. —Michael

  • Inkheart

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Cornelia Funke
    • Narrated By Lynn Redgrave
    Overall
    (1723)
    Performance
    (568)
    Story
    (574)

    Imagine it were possible to bring the characters from a book to life. Not like when you listen to an audiobook with such enchantment that the characters seem to jump off the pages and into your bedroom...but for real. Imagine they could actually climb out of the pages and into our world. Then imagine if those characters brought their world into ours.

    Cynthia says: "EXCELLENT!!"


    Why we think it's Essential: Inkheart is a magical book about the power of stories, so it's especially appropriate to hear it read by a magical storyteller: Lynn Redgrave. She has a way of wrapping her voice around words that is just riveting. Almost too riveting - if you listen while driving, be sure not to lose yourself and forget about the road. —Steve

  • Outlander

    • UNABRIDGED (33 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13491)
    Performance
    (7971)
    Story
    (7826)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: An all-time Audible favorite that mixes historic fiction, adventure, and romance with one of the most fascinating literary devices: time travel. Outlander introduces an exhilarating world of heroism and breathtaking thrills as one woman is torn between past and present, passion and love. In 1945, former combat nurse Claire Randall returns from World War II and joins her husband for a second honeymoon. But their blissful reunion is shattered....

    Lulu says: "The Reason for the Existence of Audio Books"


    Why we think it's Essential: Mix equal parts historic fiction, adventure, and romance. Add a dash of time travel. Blend with pitch-perfect narration. And you'll understand why Outlander is an all-time favorite among Audible listeners. Whether she's giving voice to the former World War II nurse Claire or the 18th Century Scottish warrior Jamie, Davina Porter brings a magical intimacy to this epic tale. —Steve

  • American Gods

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4947)
    Performance
    (1847)
    Story
    (1858)

    For the three years Shadow spent in prison, all he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But days before his release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place.

    Joseph says: "Amazing, powerful book about America."


    Why we think it's Essential: In an era before both iPod and printing press, people told tales of the gods around the firepit. With American Gods, master storyteller Gaiman taps that mythic vein for a genre-defying modern-day tale of gods, both ancient and new, warring under our very noses. Giving voice to Gaiman's words, George Guidall brings out both the energy and emotion of this surprisingly human tale. His characterization of the much-more-than-a-conman Mr. Wednesday is masterful. —Ed W.

  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Narrated By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4122)
    Performance
    (1817)
    Story
    (1819)

    In The Tipping Point, New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell looks at why major changes in society happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a few fare-beaters and graffiti artists fuel a subway crime wave, or a satisfied customer fill the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment when they take off, when they reach their critical mass, is the Tipping Point.

    David says: "Makes sense to me."


    Why we think it's Essential: Like the best social dynamics professor you never had, Malcolm Gladwell deconstructs a wide range of phenomena (from the reduction of crime in New York to the rise of Sesame Street) to deliver a fascinating understanding of how social epidemics spread. And while author/narrators are often a mixed blessing, Gladwell is so friendly and well-paced that I was actually disappointed when The Tipping Point was over. —Ed W.

  • The Fault in Our Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By John Green
    • Narrated By Kate Rudd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5752)
    Performance
    (5251)
    Story
    (5284)

    Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

    RaisinNut says: "A story about LIFE, not death..."


    Why we think it's Essential: It doesn’t matter that John Green’s target audience is teenagers – his characters are smart, honest, and funny no matter how old you are, and the universal themes captured in this book are, well, universal. Terminal cancer may not be the most uplifting of plotlines, but don’t let that stop you from listening to this wonderful story. Narrator Kate Rudd is most impressive in handling all of the male and female characters – young and old, American and Dutch alike – and is definitely a rising (no pun intended) star. —Diana D.

  • The End of the Affair

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Graham Greene
    • Narrated By Colin Firth
    Overall
    (2180)
    Performance
    (2005)
    Story
    (1998)

    Graham Greene’s evocative analysis of the love of self, the love of another, and the love of God is an English classic that has been translated for the stage, the screen, and even the opera house. Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man) turns in an authentic and stirring performance for this distinguished audio release.

    Emily - Audible says: "Colin Firth Kills It"


    Why we think it's Essential: The End of the Affair is somehow the antithesis and the definition of a love story, and Colin Firth’s performance is truly exceptional. Colin captures the story's intensity in his delivery – the emotion in each sentence is nearly tangible - yet he doesn’t "over-do" it. This is so much more than a love (and hate) story – it’s a reflection on what brings happiness and sadness into this life, and what one might sacrifice for a chance at happiness in the next. —Jess

  • Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Conor Grennan
    • Narrated By Conor Grennan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (463)
    Performance
    (314)
    Story
    (323)

    In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children's Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal. Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children.

    Angela says: "Amazing experience + Inspiring tale"


    Why we think it's Essential: Conor Grennan stopped over in Nepal to volunteer for a few months as part of a round-the-world trip, but he never expected to be stopped in his tracks so completely. After learning that the “orphans” he worked with were not orphans at all but trafficked children, he sets about re-uniting them with their families. This is one of the most remarkable stories you will ever hear, and Grennan - self-deprecating and totally charming - is the only person who could narrate his amazing journey. —Emily

  • The Kitchen House: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Kathleen Grissom
    • Narrated By Orlagh Cassidy, Bahni Turpin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6414)
    Performance
    (4425)
    Story
    (4414)

    Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction.

    B.J. says: "Good, but with reservations"


    Why we think it's Essential: The Kitchen House is the only book in recent memory that kept me up nearly until the sun rose. The book focuses on the lives of two women: Lavinia, who arrives from Ireland at seven years old and becomes an indentured servant on a Virginia plantation, and Belle, the slave who takes care of her. It’s a story about survival, love, and the power of friendship; the characters have each etched a place in my heart. A definite tear-jerker, and an impressive debut novel. —Jess

  • Water for Elephants

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Sara Gruen
    • Narrated By David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12676)
    Performance
    (5141)
    Story
    (5202)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

    Kindle Customer says: "Great Narration!!"


    Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Mark Haddon
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3684)
    Performance
    (1443)
    Story
    (1459)

    Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition similar to autism. He doesn't like to be touched or meet new people, he cannot make small talk, and he hates the colors brown and yellow. He is a math whiz with a very logical brain who loves solving puzzles that have definite answers.

    Robert says: "Endearing. Pathos, humor, reality, and insight."


    Why we think it's Essential: In this fascinating look into a unique mind, Jeff Woodman becomes Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome.Never before have I felt so much like I was experiencing the world from someone else's perspective. Christopher's frustrations, social anxieties, and logic felt like my own in this powerful performance. —Diana D.

  • The Maltese Falcon

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Dashiell Hammett
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    Overall
    (760)
    Performance
    (290)
    Story
    (287)

    Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade is hired to locate a client's sister by tailing the sister's companion. Spade's partner Miles Archer takes on the assignment, and quickly both Archer and the man he was shadowing are murdered. As Spade pursues the mystery of his partner's death, he is drawn into a circle of colorful characters, and they are all after a legendary statuette of a falcon that had long ago been made for King Charles of Spain. Encrusted with jewels, it is worth a fortune.

    Jim says: "A little overacted"


    Why we think it's Essential: This audiobook did the near-impossible and made me forget Humphrey Bogart. William Dufris' rich characterizations made Hammett's dialogue crackle, shifting effortlessly from Sam Spade's edgy confidence to Joel Cairo's counterfeit menace to Brigid O'Shaughnessy's misleading vulnerability. More importantly, Dupris' expressive tone focused me on Hammett's elegantly economic prose, reminding me why this is the seminal work of hard-boiled fiction. —Ed W.

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