The Audible Essentials is our list of 100 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. Updated just in time for our 20th anniversary in 2017, these are the books that stand the test of time: vetted by our listeners and hand-picked by our editors as examples of excellence.

    • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1

    • By: J.K. Rowling
    • Narrated by: Jim Dale
    • Length: 8 hrs and 34 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      46,499
    • Performance
      42,194
    • Story
      42,211

    Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive....

    • Outstanding

    • By Pen Name on 08-08-17
    • By: J.K. Rowling
    • Narrated by: Jim Dale
    • Series: Harry Potter, Book 1
    • Length: 8 hrs and 34 mins
    • Release date: 11-20-15
    • 46,499 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • I grew up with Harry Potter. We were the same age throughout most of the books, and in a way the publication of Book 7 marked the end of my own childhood. This rich world that J.K. Rowling created still feels like home to me, and I don’t know that there will ever be another series that will touch me in the same way. I only recently listened to the books, and it was so special to experience Hogwarts in a new way. Jim Dale’s award-winning performance of the series is impressive and awe-inspiring (and includes a Guinness World Record for the 134 voices he created in The Order of the Phoenix). —Katie, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $29.99

    • A Game of Thrones

    • A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
    • By: George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
    • Length: 33 hrs and 48 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      80,022
    • Performance
      68,473
    • Story
      68,417

    As a preternaturally long winter approaches, good and evil battle for the kingdom of Winterfell...

    • Review of First 5 Books

    • By DCinMI on 09-12-13
    • A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
    • By: George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
    • Series: Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
    • Length: 33 hrs and 48 mins
    • Release date: 12-09-03
    • 80,022 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • In late 2011, George R. R. Martin visited Audible and described the constraints of his former career as a scriptwriter; TV’s episodic structure dictated that every story needed to end neatly after a certain amount of time. The limits on his creativity drove him to novel-writing, where the story can be as big and messy as it wants to be. A Game of Thrones isn’t just an unabridged audiobook, it’s an unabridged imagination. —Christina, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $31.50

    • Born a Crime

    • Stories from a South African Childhood
    • By: Trevor Noah
    • Narrated by: Trevor Noah
    • Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      55,535
    • Performance
      51,661
    • Story
      51,415

    Trevor Noah is the host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where he gleefully provides America with its nightly dose of serrated satire....

    • Great book and perfect narration

    • By Marilyn Armstrong on 12-15-16
    • Stories from a South African Childhood
    • By: Trevor Noah
    • Narrated by: Trevor Noah
    • Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
    • Release date: 11-15-16
    • 55,535 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • If I could recommend only one audiobook in our store, it would—without a doubt—be Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. This is so much more than a celebrity memoir; it’s an unexpectedly heart-wrenching coming-of-age story of Noah’s childhood in apartheid-afflicted South Africa. Noah, forced by circumstance to be a chameleon of cultures, provides rich texture and nuance with his witty and unparalleled delivery (his multilingual abilities ensure that). Tears of despair, victory, and laughter soaked my face each time I listened to this life-changing and surprisingly uplifting story. —Jess, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $24.95

    • The Martian

    • By: Andy Weir
    • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
    • Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      143,012
    • Performance
      131,997
    • Story
      131,858

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars....

    • LOOK BOOBIES

    • By Jim "The Impatient" on 07-07-14
    • By: Andy Weir
    • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
    • Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
    • Release date: 03-22-13
    • 143,012 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • From its humble self-published debut to its adaptation into a blockbuster film, The Martian has pretty much become an all-around sci-fi essential. And yet I can't help but feel that you haven't truly experienced this phenomenon until you've listened to R. C. Bray embody Mark Watney in all his sarcastic, quick-witted glory. When someone asks me how they should experience The Martian for the first time—in book form, film, or audio—my answer is always, always audio. —Sam, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $29.99

    • Ready Player One

    • By: Ernest Cline
    • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
    • Length: 15 hrs and 46 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      117,449
    • Performance
      110,035
    • Story
      109,816

    At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut.....

    • GOING OUTSIDE IS HIGHLY OVER RATED

    • By Jim "The Impatient" on 10-23-15
    • By: Ernest Cline
    • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
    • Length: 15 hrs and 46 mins
    • Release date: 08-16-11
    • 117,449 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • You’d be hard-pressed to find a narrator more apt to perform Ernest Cline’s 80s-pop-culture-reference-heavy adventure than Wil Wheaton, who lends his sci-fi credibility to the imagined video game world in which most of the novel takes place. Leaning heavily on the films and music that helped define a decade, Ready Player One is a satisfying, high-intensity journey full of “impossible” puzzles, innumerable enemies, and the occasional cheat code. —Chris, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $31.50

    • A Man Called Ove

    • By: Fredrik Backman
    • Narrated by: George Newbern
    • Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      52,768
    • Performance
      48,279
    • Story
      48,185

    Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon - the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window....

    • I Laughed and I Cried

    • By Bill on 08-22-15
    • By: Fredrik Backman
    • Narrated by: George Newbern
    • Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins
    • Release date: 08-05-14
    • 52,768 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • When a quiet and lovey work of fiction took over our collective office conscience with the intensity of a blow-your-mind thriller, we knew there was something special going on. For weeks Ove—a sad but uplifting tale about a heartbroken and aging man who is redeemed by the power of friendship—was all we could talk about and recommend. We weren’t expecting it to be so gripping, but this book is just that good. —Emily, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $34.99

    • The Handmaid's Tale: Special Edition

    • By: Margaret Atwood, Valerie Martin - essay
    • Narrated by: Claire Danes, Margaret Atwood, full cast
    • Length: 12 hrs and 12 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      13,901
    • Performance
      12,836
    • Story
      12,784

    After a violent coup in the United States overthrows the Constitution and ushers in a new government regime, the Republic of Gilead imposes subservient roles on all women....

    • Wait! It Mightn't Be What You Think--

    • By Gillian on 04-05-17
    • By: Margaret Atwood, Valerie Martin - essay
    • Narrated by: Claire Danes, Margaret Atwood, full cast
    • Length: 12 hrs and 12 mins
    • Release date: 04-04-17
    • 13,901 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Full disclosure: The Handmaid's Tale is my favorite book. So when it was finally produced in audio, I was ready—like a fan girl clutching a movie ticket on opening night—to be let down. I was worried that no narrator could live up to my expectations, but Claire Danes is perfect. She doesn't act, and she doesn't need to. She recounts. She breathes out Offred’s tale as if she is living it. Resigned, beaten down, traveling through hell by putting one step ahead of the other. —Emily, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $29.95

    • Outlander

    • Outlander, Book 1
    • By: Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated by: Davina Porter
    • Length: 32 hrs and 43 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      44,389
    • Performance
      36,242
    • Story
      36,115

    This stunning blend of historical romance and time traveling adventure has captured the hearts of millions of readers around the world....

    • The Time Travel VS Romance Quandary

    • By Sara on 09-10-14
    • Outlander, Book 1
    • By: Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated by: Davina Porter
    • Series: Outlander, Book 1
    • Length: 32 hrs and 43 mins
    • Release date: 07-14-06
    • 44,389 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Outlander. Just the single word conveys so many things to fans: epic love story. Sexy accents. Time travel. Adventure. And one cannot think of Diana Gabaldon’s series without also thinking of its narrator, Davina Porter. Across hundreds and hundreds of hours of audio, she has remained consistent in her performance of Claire, Jamie, and 18th century highlanders galore. If you’re new to the series settle in for the long haul: Davina and her accents are addicting. —Katie, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $34.99

    • Gone Girl

    • A Novel
    • By: Gillian Flynn
    • Narrated by: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
    • Length: 19 hrs and 11 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      44,337
    • Performance
      39,371
    • Story
      39,451

    Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River....

    • Demented, twisted, sick and I loved it!

    • By Theodore on 01-20-13
    • A Novel
    • By: Gillian Flynn
    • Narrated by: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
    • Length: 19 hrs and 11 mins
    • Release date: 06-05-12
    • 44,337 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Gone Girl is a disturbingly satisfying book that will forever stick in the back of my mind. Phenomenally popular in print and even better in audio, it’s the kind of thriller everyone should listen to, even if you don't think of yourself as a fan of the genre. Narrators Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne (my new favorites) bring Amy and Nick Dunne to life, placing Gone Girl at the top on my list of the best multi-narrator performances out there. —Tricia, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $33.60

    • Bossypants

    • By: Tina Fey
    • Narrated by: Tina Fey
    • Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      43,777
    • Performance
      36,205
    • Story
      36,053

    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 Tells It Like It Is

    • By Sher from Provo on 11-06-11
    • By: Tina Fey
    • Narrated by: Tina Fey
    • Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins
    • Release date: 04-05-11
    • 43,777 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Witty, finely crafted, and meant to be heard, Tina Fey’s Bossypants set the bar (notably, quite high) on what we’ve come to expect from a celebrity comedian’s memoir. Fey knows how to deliver a good punchline—and does so hilariously throughout this half-memoir, half-stand-up routine. From her days in the Second City comedy troupe, to Saturday Night Live, to Hollywood, these stories will leave you in stitches, while offering an intimate glimpse into what it took for Fey to rise to the top. —Jess, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $30.79

    • Steve Jobs

    • By: Walter Isaacson
    • Narrated by: Dylan Baker
    • Length: 25 hrs and 19 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      21,364
    • Performance
      18,759
    • Story
      18,725

    From the author of the best-selling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, this is the exclusive biography of Steve Jobs....

    • Interesting man

    • By Jeanne on 11-13-11
    • By: Walter Isaacson
    • Narrated by: Dylan Baker
    • Length: 25 hrs and 19 mins
    • Release date: 10-24-11
    • 21,364 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Dylan Baker’s narration of Steve Jobs is wonderful—heartfelt, factual, and brisk, just like the prose. When he realized he might die shortly, Steve Jobs called upon Walter Isaacson to record the real truth of Jobs’s life for the Jobs children. Isaacson manages to sketch Jobs as a mere mortal and also a titan of tech. Isaacson and Baker both use irony gently and to great effect in the portrayal of a once-in-a-lifetime visionary with outsize flaws. —Christina, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $34.99

    • We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

    • Bobiverse, Book 1
    • By: Dennis E. Taylor
    • Narrated by: Ray Porter
    • Length: 9 hrs and 30 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      45,236
    • Performance
      42,522
    • Story
      42,456

    Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure....

    • Ignore the Publisher's Summary! This is Amazing!

    • By PW on 04-12-17
    • Bobiverse, Book 1
    • By: Dennis E. Taylor
    • Narrated by: Ray Porter
    • Series: Bobiverse, Book 1
    • Length: 9 hrs and 30 mins
    • Release date: 09-20-16
    • 45,236 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • If you’re going to spend eternity traveling the universe, you may as well do it with narrator Ray Porter. Anything you need, he’s got. He’s eminently likable as the story’s level-headed, problem-solving hero, Bob, a sentient space probe sent into the void on humanity’s behalf. At the same time, Porter shows off a mind-boggling array of other personalities and voices as Bob’s ever-multiplying and increasingly distinct clones—and makes you care about each and every one. —David, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $19.95

    • 11-22-63

    • A Novel
    • By: Stephen King
    • Narrated by: Craig Wasson
    • Length: 30 hrs and 44 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      42,235
    • Performance
      38,284
    • Story
      38,206

    On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Maybe Jake Epping can....

    • I Owe Stephen King An Apology

    • By Kelly on 04-16-12
    • A Novel
    • By: Stephen King
    • Narrated by: Craig Wasson
    • Length: 30 hrs and 44 mins
    • Release date: 11-08-11
    • 42,235 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Stephen King is a master storyteller in his genre, and 11-22-63 is one of those rare gems of a book that has a little something for everybody—history, action, mystery, sci-fi, horror, and romance. Despite the range of literary interests on our team, every editor who has listened has absolutely loved it. With a masterful, untiring performance from Craig Wasson, this book will forever be one of my most recommended in audio. —Sam, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $52.50

    • Unbroken

    • A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
    • By: Laura Hillenbrand
    • Narrated by: Edward Herrmann
    • Length: 14 hrs
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      36,028
    • Performance
      29,145
    • Story
      29,218

    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....

    • Indescribable

    • By Janice on 12-01-10
    • A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
    • By: Laura Hillenbrand
    • Narrated by: Edward Herrmann
    • Length: 14 hrs
    • Release date: 11-16-10
    • 36,028 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • “Unbelievable” is a common reaction to Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s true story of the life of Louis Zamperini, whose journey home after being shot down in the Pacific theater of World War II is filled with one more seemingly impossible circumstance after another. Narrator Edward Herrmann brings gravitas and empathy in equal measure, from Louis’s time as a track star to his survival in a life raft, and from his time spent in a prison camp to his eventual journey home. Louis’s ingenuity and strength of character is a true inspiration, and Herrmann’s performance makes this one impossible to turn off. —Chris, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $35.93

    • To Kill a Mockingbird

    • By: Harper Lee
    • Narrated by: Sissy Spacek
    • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      20,550
    • Performance
      18,541
    • Story
      18,496

    Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south - and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred....

    • A gift to be treasured

    • By Marci on 07-09-14
    • By: Harper Lee
    • Narrated by: Sissy Spacek
    • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
    • Release date: 07-08-14
    • 20,550 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Sissy Spacek’s clear-as-a-bell Southern lilt immediately places you in young Scout Finch’s world, primed and ready for Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story of Southern injustice and what it means to exercise a moral imperative to seek justice. Just as the book remains a perennial best seller, this audiobook is worth revisiting again and again. —Abby, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $30.79

    • The Help

    • By: Kathryn Stockett
    • Narrated by: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and others
    • Length: 18 hrs and 19 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      35,037
    • Performance
      21,152
    • Story
      21,172

    Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step....

    • What a great surprise!

    • By Jan on 12-02-09
    • By: Kathryn Stockett
    • Narrated by: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell
    • Length: 18 hrs and 19 mins
    • Release date: 01-28-09
    • 35,037 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • The Help was the first book I listened to when I started working at Audible, so there is some nostalgia to my selecting it as an essential. At the same time, I picked it because it was the book everyone told me I just had to experience in audio. And it’s true: The Help, with stand-out performances by Bahni Turpin, Jenna Lamia, and Octavia Spencer, brilliantly showcases the power of a well-cast, multi-voice performance. It stands as one of the best examples of audio truly elevating an already-powerful book. —Tricia, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $38.50

    • Invisible Man

    • A Novel
    • By: Ralph Ellison
    • Narrated by: Joe Morton
    • Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      5,032
    • Performance
      4,553
    • Story
      4,549

    Ralph Elllison's Invisible Man is a monumental novel, one that can well be called an epic of 20th-century African-American life....

    • Masterfully written; perfectly narrated

    • By Imhokhai on 03-04-13
    • A Novel
    • By: Ralph Ellison
    • Narrated by: Joe Morton
    • Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
    • Release date: 12-21-10
    • 5,032 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Ralph Ellison’s novel is literally essential to Audible; our founder and CEO, Don Katz, studied with Ellison, and Ellison’s observations about American literature as an oral, vernacular form inspired Don’s ruminations about the rightful place of spoken-word entertainment in our society. Joe Morton’s performance matches the lyricism and improvisation of the text. This audiobook is a paradox: a story about isolation that—thoughtfully savored—can unite our society now. —Christina, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $33.60

    • The Nightingale

    • By: Kristin Hannah
    • Narrated by: Polly Stone
    • Length: 17 hrs and 26 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      35,982
    • Performance
      32,567
    • Story
      32,519

    An epic love story and family drama set at the dawn of World War II....

    • Heroic & Harrowing Work Of Fiction

    • By Sara on 08-21-15
    • By: Kristin Hannah
    • Narrated by: Polly Stone
    • Length: 17 hrs and 26 mins
    • Release date: 02-03-15
    • 35,982 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • I have a weakness for books that make me ugly cry, and in my family The Nightingale has achieved legend status. As I sobbed, my husband had to remind me that the book wasn’t real. Kristin Hannah’s moving and heart-wrenching WWII epic follows two sisters as they fight against the Nazis in very different, but equally important ways. The Nightingale was Audible’s Best Book of 2015, and it remains one of my favorite books of all time. —Katie, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $31.49

    • The Name of the Wind

    • Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1
    • By: Patrick Rothfuss
    • Narrated by: Nick Podehl
    • Length: 27 hrs and 56 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      47,125
    • Performance
      42,439
    • Story
      42,558

    A tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend....

    • Great Debut or Average experienced writer

    • By Jim "The Impatient" on 08-11-12
    • Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1
    • By: Patrick Rothfuss
    • Narrated by: Nick Podehl
    • Series: KingKiller Chronicles, Book 1
    • Length: 27 hrs and 56 mins
    • Release date: 05-15-09
    • 47,125 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • It’s incredible when you consider that this debut series, which consists of just two books (so far), made Patrick Rothfuss a household name, placing him on a list of fantasy masters that includes George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and more. But one listen will make that fact seem obvious—The Kingkiller Chronicles is everything that epic fantasy should be, and beloved series narrator Nick Podehl only builds upon that experience. —Sam, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $31.49

    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    • The Millennium Series, Book 1
    • By: Stieg Larsson
    • Narrated by: Simon Vance
    • Length: 16 hrs and 19 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      31,854
    • Performance
      17,822
    • Story
      17,894

    Our Mysteries and Thrillers winner and pick for Audiobook of the Year, 2008....

    • COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN

    • By Pamela M on 03-02-09
    • The Millennium Series, Book 1
    • By: Stieg Larsson
    • Narrated by: Simon Vance
    • Series: Millennium Series, Book 1
    • Length: 16 hrs and 19 mins
    • Release date: 09-16-08
    • 31,854 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Sure, this is a great book with a phenomenal heroine, but set that aside—this is a truly special listen. Simon Vance’s delivery is that of a journalist letting you in on an incredible story over a beer, a perfect match for the author and material. He creates a range of subtly delineated voices for characters from all over Europe. And the way he pronounces Swedish names and places is so perfect, you’ll find yourself absentmindedly repeating them to yourself weeks after you finish listening. —David, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $24.50

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