Our Editors Reveal: The Listens that Got Us Hooked

From time travel to true crime to tech exposés, these are the listens that jump-started our audio journeys.

There’s something memorable and compellingly nostalgic about the firsts in our lives—from our first schoolyard crush to our first brush with loss and grief to the nerve-wracking liberation of our first apartment, human beings cling to the these experiences as landmarks of journeys into the unknown, with all the novel emotions associated. And for the audio-obsessed among us, it’s all but impossible to forget another first: the first audiobook we’ve ever listened to.

Our editors have quite the impressive libraries, but where did it all begin? I’ve asked them to either think back to their own very first listen or the audiobook that took them from audio amateur to totally Audicted, all the while recommending accessible favorites for new listeners to find a starting point for themselves. From time travel to true crime to tech exposés, these are the listens that got us hooked—and a few of the very best audiobooks for first time listeners.

Kitchen Confidential

"First, a confession: When I began working at Audible, I had never (and I mean never) listened to an audiobook in its entirety. Though I’d listened to my share of podcasts, I just didn’t see how hearing a book could beat curling up with a paperback. Enter Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which is not only the first audiobook I ever listened to, but one of the best—period. As a devotee of Food Network and all iterations of the celebrity chef, I was keenly aware there was something different about Bourdain: a kind of streetwise warmth, a genuine, empathetic sort of kindness, and an ability to connect with those from all walks of life over a dish perhaps entirely unfamiliar to him. So it feels fitting that the late chef who perpetually kept an open mind would be the one to ease me into a new world of listening. And what a journey. Bourdain’s career as a storyteller began here—in an immensely enjoyable, sometimes delectable, sometimes disgusting tell-all of the restaurant world, all told in his singular voice." - Editor Alanna

Disrupted

"Long before more recent start-up practices (I’m looking at you, WeWork and Uber) were exposed, I stumbled on former journalist Dan Lyons’s enthralling exposé on HubSpot, Disrupted. Lyons’s debut memoir was an unputdownable journey through the worst parts of start-up culture: inappropriate hookups, firings masked as “graduations,” and sociopathic 20-something c-suite execs with little respect for their elders. While I wasn’t a business listener at the time, this cautionary tale was a close cousin to my true-crime favorites, and helped open the door to listens centered on (far less toxic) businesses and careers." - Editor Rachael

The Getaway

"At the height of the pandemic last year, I found it so hard to concentrate on almost anything. I started and stopped so many books—many of which I’d been looking forward to for months. Still, when I heard that Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen—the writing duo behind my favorite thriller, The Wife Between Us—created an Audible Original, my ears definitely perked up. Not only did I finish The Getaway, but I did it in one sitting. That creepy, spine-tingling sensation these authors are masters of gripped me from the first chapter, and didn’t let go until I was left breathless after their last word just two hours later. It’s a short listen that packs a powerful punch—and pushed me out of my listening rut." - Editor Margaret

14

"When I first started working here at Audible, I was admittedly more of a podcast listener than a book listener. Being a sci-fi nerd, my fellow editors recommended 14—a fun sci-fi/horror mashup—as a good gateway listen. I loved the story, of course, but more importantly, with this very early listen I struck narrator gold in discovering the incredible Ray Porter. I’ve since listened to countless titles from Ray, and I often choose my next listen based on his name alone. And as a bonus, he’s often the preferred narrator for Peter Clines, the writer of 14, so I've had the chance to relive my first listening experience again and again over the years. Thanks for turning me into a listening nerd, Ray!" - Editor Sam

Razorblade Tears

"For an Audible editor, I’m actually not the best at recommending crowd-pleasers. My taste tends to skew pretty dark, so the audiobook that always springs to mind for me as a great first listen (Caroline Kepnes’s You, a legendary audio experience, purred to spine-tingling perfection by Santino Fontana) is definitely of the not-for-everyone variety. On the other hand, if you too are drawn to edgier fare, I have a newer recommendation I can’t stop talking about. S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears comes with a killer premise: Two men—one white, one Black, both ex-cons with a history of violence—set out to avenge the deaths of their murdered gay sons. But the book overdelivers on even that splashy hook with ultra-real characters, a rip-roaring plot, and an addictive performance from narrator Adam Lazarre-White. If this is your first listen, I predict a second one soon...right after you pick your jaw back up from the floor." - Editor Kat

The Time Traveler's Wife

"When I started at Audible 13 years ago, I was very new to audiobooks and hadn't yet made listening part of my life. A few months in I had a few great listens under my belt (The Penelopiad and Childhood's End are two notable early favorites), but I hadn't yet experienced that kind of "stay up all night reading" feeling that came with an unputdownable book. I just hadn't yet trained my ears. I started The Time Traveler's Wife while my husband and I were on our way to visit friends down in Baltimore, and I all but ignored him for the whole train ride south, only unplugging when I couldn't avoid being social any longer. And then when everyone headed to bed, I forewent sleep and stayed up the whole night listening. It was an (exhausting) revelation. The dual narration was completely immersive and the clever plot kept me riveted. And except for the inevitable sleepiness that ensues, I'm delighted to say that these days I often find myself sucked into a listen like this!" - Editor Emily

Big Magic

"When I started listening to Big Magic, I was deep in a creative funk and barely writing. As I somewhat begrudgingly listened to best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert detail her life, and most importantly, her devotion to her chosen craft, a funny thing happened: I couldn’t help but become deeply and irrevocably inspired. By taking the heaviness out of creativity and allowing listeners to release the idea of the ‘struggling artist’ as the only path to artistic success, Gilbert ultimately frees listeners to see creativity as a friend and a piece of themselves rather than something to be aggressively chased and pinned down. Through her vivid and imaginative writing, Gilbert shows listeners that creating is not only sitting down and painting while classical music plays in the background. Creating is also dancing and ice skating badly in a park and daring to look at life through a colorful lens. This audiobook made me see creativity for what it truly is: magic." - Editor Maddie

Evil Has a Name

"I love true crime. No, you don’t understand—I listen to true crime audiobooks and podcasts while running. Forget music. So when Evil Has a Name was released, my ears quickly perked up since I had some familiarity with its infamous subject, the Golden State Killer. But little did I know that I was in for an audio journey I never thought I’d ever experience. Not only do authors and narrators Jim Clemente and Paul Holes analyze the case with painstaking new details, there’s a subtle but pulse-pounding atmospheric soundtrack playing throughout in the background. There are also interviews with survivors of the Golden State Killer's deranged spree, which makes it all feel especially eerie and intimate. It’s an audio experience that feels unsettlingly informal but is terrifyingly real. I used to think that true crime narratives only worked on TV, but boy was I wrong. Jim Clemente, Paul Holes: thank you." - Editor Luis

Eat, Pray, Love

"My happy place used to be my gym’s hot tub. This was my retreat when I would finish work late at night and wasn’t ready to go back to my tiny shared apartment yet. I would skip dinner (save some money!), walk all the way across midtown, and post up in the hot tub for an evening of relaxation after my workout. This was when I truly came to appreciate audiobooks, specifically when Eat, Pray, Love came into my life. I had been feeling stagnant, low on money and friends, just wanting to get away from it all. In walks Elizabeth Gilbert to tell me about her inspiring, messy travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Sitting in that hot tub with my headphones in and my phone resting on a towel at the edge, I wanted to be nowhere else but inside her story. Once I even stayed so late that management locked me in the pool area and I had to call for help. After Eat, Pray, Love, the door was opened for me to love audio, and I haven’t looked back since. Hot tub or no, at its core, audio is my retreat." - Editor Melissa

Shogun

"When looking for a new novel to try out, I admittedly skew towards lower-commitment reads. With a few notable exceptions, I like my fiction to be as digestible as possible. With this in mind, I have always had a lot of “definitive” novels sitting in my to-do list. Shogun by James Clavell has topped that list for years. This epic adventure, set in feudal Japan, details the trials and tribulations of John Blackthorne, the English captain of a Dutch merchant fleet looking for riches in East Asia. After a freak storm spits Blackthorne and his crew on the shores of Japan, they are caught up in a political mess between feudal lords, Portuguese missionaries and the looming threat of European colonization. In audio form, Clavell’s detailed vision of Japan comes to life, and this beast of historical fiction is much easier to slay. While Shogun is undoubtedly a bit of an investment, I couldn’t be happier with my first listen!" - Editor Seth

Kitchen Confidential

"First, a confession: When I began working at Audible, I had never (and I mean never) listened to an audiobook in its entirety. Though I’d listened to my share of podcasts, I just didn’t see how hearing a book could beat curling up with a paperback. Enter Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which is not only the first audiobook I ever listened to, but one of the best—period. As a devotee of Food Network and all iterations of the celebrity chef, I was keenly aware there was something different about Bourdain: a kind of streetwise warmth, a genuine, empathetic sort of kindness, and an ability to connect with those from all walks of life over a dish perhaps entirely unfamiliar to him. So it feels fitting that the late chef who perpetually kept an open mind would be the one to ease me into a new world of listening. And what a journey. Bourdain’s career as a storyteller began here—in an immensely enjoyable, sometimes delectable, sometimes disgusting tell-all of the restaurant world, all told in his singular voice." - Editor Alanna

Disrupted

"Long before more recent start-up practices (I’m looking at you, WeWork and Uber) were exposed, I stumbled on former journalist Dan Lyons’s enthralling exposé on HubSpot, Disrupted. Lyons’s debut memoir was an unputdownable journey through the worst parts of start-up culture: inappropriate hookups, firings masked as “graduations,” and sociopathic 20-something c-suite execs with little respect for their elders. While I wasn’t a business listener at the time, this cautionary tale was a close cousin to my true-crime favorites, and helped open the door to listens centered on (far less toxic) businesses and careers." - Editor Rachael

The Getaway

"At the height of the pandemic last year, I found it so hard to concentrate on almost anything. I started and stopped so many books—many of which I’d been looking forward to for months. Still, when I heard that Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen—the writing duo behind my favorite thriller, The Wife Between Us—created an Audible Original, my ears definitely perked up. Not only did I finish The Getaway, but I did it in one sitting. That creepy, spine-tingling sensation these authors are masters of gripped me from the first chapter, and didn’t let go until I was left breathless after their last word just two hours later. It’s a short listen that packs a powerful punch—and pushed me out of my listening rut." - Editor Margaret

14

"When I first started working here at Audible, I was admittedly more of a podcast listener than a book listener. Being a sci-fi nerd, my fellow editors recommended 14—a fun sci-fi/horror mashup—as a good gateway listen. I loved the story, of course, but more importantly, with this very early listen I struck narrator gold in discovering the incredible Ray Porter. I’ve since listened to countless titles from Ray, and I often choose my next listen based on his name alone. And as a bonus, he’s often the preferred narrator for Peter Clines, the writer of 14, so I've had the chance to relive my first listening experience again and again over the years. Thanks for turning me into a listening nerd, Ray!" - Editor Sam

Razorblade Tears

"For an Audible editor, I’m actually not the best at recommending crowd-pleasers. My taste tends to skew pretty dark, so the audiobook that always springs to mind for me as a great first listen (Caroline Kepnes’s You, a legendary audio experience, purred to spine-tingling perfection by Santino Fontana) is definitely of the not-for-everyone variety. On the other hand, if you too are drawn to edgier fare, I have a newer recommendation I can’t stop talking about. S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears comes with a killer premise: Two men—one white, one Black, both ex-cons with a history of violence—set out to avenge the deaths of their murdered gay sons. But the book overdelivers on even that splashy hook with ultra-real characters, a rip-roaring plot, and an addictive performance from narrator Adam Lazarre-White. If this is your first listen, I predict a second one soon...right after you pick your jaw back up from the floor." - Editor Kat

The Time Traveler's Wife

"When I started at Audible 13 years ago, I was very new to audiobooks and hadn't yet made listening part of my life. A few months in I had a few great listens under my belt (The Penelopiad and Childhood's End are two notable early favorites), but I hadn't yet experienced that kind of "stay up all night reading" feeling that came with an unputdownable book. I just hadn't yet trained my ears. I started The Time Traveler's Wife while my husband and I were on our way to visit friends down in Baltimore, and I all but ignored him for the whole train ride south, only unplugging when I couldn't avoid being social any longer. And then when everyone headed to bed, I forewent sleep and stayed up the whole night listening. It was an (exhausting) revelation. The dual narration was completely immersive and the clever plot kept me riveted. And except for the inevitable sleepiness that ensues, I'm delighted to say that these days I often find myself sucked into a listen like this!" - Editor Emily

Big Magic

"When I started listening to Big Magic, I was deep in a creative funk and barely writing. As I somewhat begrudgingly listened to best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert detail her life, and most importantly, her devotion to her chosen craft, a funny thing happened: I couldn’t help but become deeply and irrevocably inspired. By taking the heaviness out of creativity and allowing listeners to release the idea of the ‘struggling artist’ as the only path to artistic success, Gilbert ultimately frees listeners to see creativity as a friend and a piece of themselves rather than something to be aggressively chased and pinned down. Through her vivid and imaginative writing, Gilbert shows listeners that creating is not only sitting down and painting while classical music plays in the background. Creating is also dancing and ice skating badly in a park and daring to look at life through a colorful lens. This audiobook made me see creativity for what it truly is: magic." - Editor Maddie

Evil Has a Name

"I love true crime. No, you don’t understand—I listen to true crime audiobooks and podcasts while running. Forget music. So when Evil Has a Name was released, my ears quickly perked up since I had some familiarity with its infamous subject, the Golden State Killer. But little did I know that I was in for an audio journey I never thought I’d ever experience. Not only do authors and narrators Jim Clemente and Paul Holes analyze the case with painstaking new details, there’s a subtle but pulse-pounding atmospheric soundtrack playing throughout in the background. There are also interviews with survivors of the Golden State Killer's deranged spree, which makes it all feel especially eerie and intimate. It’s an audio experience that feels unsettlingly informal but is terrifyingly real. I used to think that true crime narratives only worked on TV, but boy was I wrong. Jim Clemente, Paul Holes: thank you." - Editor Luis

Eat, Pray, Love

"My happy place used to be my gym’s hot tub. This was my retreat when I would finish work late at night and wasn’t ready to go back to my tiny shared apartment yet. I would skip dinner (save some money!), walk all the way across midtown, and post up in the hot tub for an evening of relaxation after my workout. This was when I truly came to appreciate audiobooks, specifically when Eat, Pray, Love came into my life. I had been feeling stagnant, low on money and friends, just wanting to get away from it all. In walks Elizabeth Gilbert to tell me about her inspiring, messy travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Sitting in that hot tub with my headphones in and my phone resting on a towel at the edge, I wanted to be nowhere else but inside her story. Once I even stayed so late that management locked me in the pool area and I had to call for help. After Eat, Pray, Love, the door was opened for me to love audio, and I haven’t looked back since. Hot tub or no, at its core, audio is my retreat." - Editor Melissa

Shogun

"When looking for a new novel to try out, I admittedly skew towards lower-commitment reads. With a few notable exceptions, I like my fiction to be as digestible as possible. With this in mind, I have always had a lot of “definitive” novels sitting in my to-do list. Shogun by James Clavell has topped that list for years. This epic adventure, set in feudal Japan, details the trials and tribulations of John Blackthorne, the English captain of a Dutch merchant fleet looking for riches in East Asia. After a freak storm spits Blackthorne and his crew on the shores of Japan, they are caught up in a political mess between feudal lords, Portuguese missionaries and the looming threat of European colonization. In audio form, Clavell’s detailed vision of Japan comes to life, and this beast of historical fiction is much easier to slay. While Shogun is undoubtedly a bit of an investment, I couldn’t be happier with my first listen!" - Editor Seth

Tags

Up Next

Our Editors Reveal: The Listen that Changed My Life

Welcome to "Our Editors Reveal," a series where the Audible editors spill all our listening-related secrets. In this edition, we reveal the listens that changed our lives: from fiction that left an impression to influential self dev.