The Best Vacation Listens for the Dwindling Days of Summer

Though we’re swiftly approaching summer’s end, there’s always time for just one more holiday. Whether you’re looking for a Labor Day weekend listen or something special for your September getaway, here are just a few of our favorite audiobooks to take along on vacation.

Warm days and lazy afternoons—there’s nothing like summer vacation. And unwinding on the deck, beside the pool, or on the beach with a good audiobook is simply one of life’s greatest pleasures. As autumn rapidly approaches, we’ve been trying to squeeze in just a little bit more summer before the leaves begin to brown. From the long Labor Day weekend to early September excursions to leisurely time spent relaxing at home, there’s still plenty of time for enjoying a vacation—and finding the perfect listen to accompany you!

There are so many audiobook lovers going on all sorts of vacations. You might be heading to the mountains, to the beach, or new-to-you cities. You also have to travel to your vacation spot of choice, which means hours spent in the car on road trips or waiting in train or airport terminals. But what audiobook should you take along? With so many different audiobooks to choose from, it can be impossible to know where to begin.

To help you out, we’ve compiled audiobooks perfect for a range of listeners and types of vacations—including staycations!—so whatever your plans, there’s sure to be an audiobook here for you.

To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse

Summer vacation presents the perfect time to catch up on some classics or revisit an old favorite. Whatever category this story falls into for you, Nicole Kidman’s narration of To the Lighthouse offers listeners a stellar way to experience this beloved novel, which follows the Ramsay family and some of their friends as they vacation at the seashore. Mrs. Ramsay is a vision of motherhood, an angel of the house, and an early 20th-century maternal ideal. But after that idyllic summer, the family’s fate takes a turn, changing their lives forever. Kidman’s narration of Virginia Woolf’s prose is a masterclass in audiobook performance.

With Teeth

With Teeth

Sometimes you just want to sit in a lounge chair and listen to a novel about families whose members constantly make the wrong decisions, complete with an unreliable narrator that has deluded themselves into a false sense of reality. Because what better way to spend your vacation than with family drama that isn’t yours? If that sounds like you, then With Teeth is the audiobook you’ve been waiting for! From the first few minutes, this story is completely engrossing. Sammie and her wife, Monika, appear to have it all: a loving relationship, a lovely house in central Florida, and a beautiful son named Samson. But look a little closer, and you’ll notice things are far from perfect. Samson exhibits violent behavior, even going so far as to bite people, and while Monika tries to ignore these imperfections, Sammie tries to be the perfect mom, constantly failing and self-medicating with alcohol. Kristen Sieh’s brilliant narration adds layers of depth to Sammie’s perspective as the viewpoint character.

The Arsonists' City

The Arsonists' City

Perfect for family saga lovers who thrive on settling in for a long audiobook, The Arsonists’ City tells the story of a Syrian-Lebanese family that emigrated to America and settled in California. When Idris, the patriarch, decides to sell their family home in Beirut, his wife, Mazna, calls their three adult children, begging them to make the trip back to Beirut and help her convince their father not to sell the house. Interspersed between these chapters in the present, the novel jumps back to when Idris and Mazna first meet, showing the early days of their relationship. This moving story connects a family through the decades as secrets come to light and each family member must reckon with their past. Leila Buck’s narration transports you as we follow the family’s journey around the world and across the decades.

Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones

Vacation can be a great chance to catch up on award winners and buzzy authors your friends can’t stop talking about. You know, those books you’ve had on your nightstand for—well, far too long. Back in 2013, Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for her second novel, Salvage the Bones. The day Esch’s youngest brother was born is the same day Esch loses her mother forever. Years later, Esch watches her brother’s pit bull give birth and can’t help but think about her own pregnancy. Is that what it will be like for her? She and her sibling live in a ramshackle house in the Mississippi delta, and Hurricane Katrina is days away from making landfall. Obsessed with Greek mythology, Esch looks to these stories to help her understand a role she’s unsure she can fill. Full of gorgeous prose and unforgettable characters, Salvage the Bones is the novel perfect for listeners looking for strong literary fiction. January LaVoy captures the atmosphere of this audiobook so beautifully.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Act Your Age, Eve Brown

There’s just something about a romance novel that hits that perfect sweet spot for vacation listening. Eve Brown has just quit her latest career, again. When her wealthy parents tell her she needs to get her act together, she drives off and finds herself at an adorable bed and breakfast in a small English village. There she stumbles into a job interview with Jacob, the curmudgeonly—but very attractive—owner. When Eve gets the job as the inn’s chef, she wonders if she’ll be able to stick it out or quit yet another career path. This adorable love story featuring two autistic characters is sure to pull at your heart strings. Ione Butler narrates the audiobook with the right amount of British snark and warmth.

The House on the Water

The House on the Water

If you’re looking for the perfect vacation thriller but don’t have the time to commit to a full-length novel, The House on the Water is for you! This riveting novella follows five middle-age vacation goers who’ve just arrived at a beach house. Every year, Caroline and her best friend, Esme, get away for a week, reconnecting and catching up. Now in their late 40s, Caroline prepares to comfort Esme over her recent divorce. But when Esme dies under suspicious circumstances, the group begins to dissolve into finger-pointing and whispered accusations behind closed doors. Taylor Schilling’s performance nails the protagonist’s unique narrative voice, perfectly capturing her personality and building suspense for the dramatic conclusion.

Firekeeper's Daughter

Firekeeper's Daughter

Perfect for teens and adults alike, Firekeeper’s Daughter is the young adult mystery seemingly written just for vacation listening. From the first few minutes, this novel captures your attention as we meet Daunis Fontaine, an Anishinaabe 18-year-old with a white mother and an Ojibwe father. Being biracial often makes Daunis feel as if she’s straddling two worlds, never quite fitting in either community. But when her best friend is murdered, Daunis finds herself recruited by the FBI to investigate the rise in drug dealing in the area, particularly on the Ojibwe reservation. Isabella Star LeBlanc performs the audiobook beautifully, capturing both the intense and tender moments of the novel with equal skill.

Party of Two

Party of Two

Is there anything more exciting than a secret romance? Olivia Munroe had never really thought about it until she finds herself falling for Senator Max Powell. They meet at a hotel bar, but Olivia has no idea of this hunk's public profile. When she finally realizes who Max is, she can’t believe what she’s gotten herself into. So begins their romance, complete with hiding from the paparazzi in disguises and public relations scandals. Fast-paced and hilarious, this is the perfect book to unwind with on a warm summer night. All-star narrator Janina Edwards performs this audiobook with her usual skill and finesse.

Midsummer's Mayhem

Midsummer's Mayhem

Summer vacations often involve long road trips with the entire family in the car for hours at a time. Keep the kids entertained with an audiobook, like Midsummer's Mayhem. Equal parts Shakespearean retelling and an ode to baked goods, this adorable listen features Mimi, a biracial Indian American girl who loves baking. In fact, when her local bakery hosts a baking competition for the kids in town, she’s determined to win. But what starts out as a friendly competition turns into something a little more magical when weird things begin to happen to Mimi and her family. Can Mimi figure out who is behind her family’s unusual behavior—and bake a prize-winning treat? Accomplished narrator Ariana Delawari makes this captivating audiobook even more delightful with her spot-on performance.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

As we all know, kids have a rather unique sense of humor and are endlessly fascinated by how things work. No one knows this better than Caitlin Doughty, a mortician who’s received countless questions from kids throughout her career. In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty answers their questions about the mysteries of what happens to our bodies when we die. Her responses are factually accurate but also incredibly funny, so this listen is sure to entertain the whole family. Doughty narrates her audiobook, giving a perfectly balanced performance to this science-driven comedy full of dark humor.

Empire of Pain

Empire of Pain

For some audiobook lovers, there’s nothing like relaxing on vacation with a nice, long work of nonfiction, and one of this year’s blockbuster titles is Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe. While the Sackler family has historically loved to put their name on famous buildings around the world, they don’t have their name on the business that made them their fortune: Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactured OxyContin. The Sacklers have always shied away from admitting their role in America’s current opioid crisis, but Keefe lays out his evidence, illustrating point by point why the Sacklers should be held responsible for their involvement. And Keefe is a master storyteller, making this hefty audiobook fly by like a thriller, and his incredible narration makes the chapters of Empire of Pain feel like a marathon-worthy podcast.

Black Girl Unlimited

Black Girl Unlimited

Echo's story starts with this single fact: she is a wizard from the East Side. Though surrounded by the suffering of addiction and poverty, her neighborhood flows with magic. Echo starts attending a school on the West Side, which is located in a more affluent neighborhood. This starts her daily journey of moving from one world to another, leaving her magical home for one alien to her. Echo Brown’s fantastical work of autobiographical fiction blurs the lines between reality and the fantastical, creating something wholly unique and beautiful along the way. Brown reads her own story, adding that extra bit of magic that happens when an author narrates a work that's deeply personal.

Sissy

Sissy

For a lighthearted yet touching audiobook great for a lazy afternoon sitting on the porch with a glass of lemonade (or something stronger, if you're so inclined), check out Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story. Author Jacob Tobia is a nonbinary trans writer from the South and full of witty one-liners. They share their experience growing up as a gender-noncomforming kid obsessed with being a future diva and performer. As Tobia’s story unfolds, they describe their experience at Duke University and with being nonbinary in a place that didn’t accept their gender or choice of gender expression. Tobia narrates the audiobook, giving a brilliant performance that makes Sissy a one-of-a-kind listening pleasure.


Kendra Winchester is the co-founder and executive director of Reading Women, a podcast with Lit Hub Radio, and writes about audiobooks as a Senior Contributor for Book Riot.

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