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.

    • Her Royal Spyness

    • By: Rhys Bowen
    • Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren
    • Length: 8 hrs and 9 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      8,781
    • Performance
      7,763
    • Story
      7,742

    Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932....

    • Happy addition to a difficult genre

    • By Alice on 08-16-10
    • By: Rhys Bowen
    • Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren
    • Series: Royal Spyness, Book 1
    • Length: 8 hrs and 9 mins
    • Release date: 08-03-10
    • 8,781 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • In this lighthearted gem of a cozy mystery, Rhys Bowen delivers a charming combination of intrigue and romance blended with a touch of humor. She has created an interesting cast of characters and those personalities (a down-on-her-luck royal, a lovable cockney grandfather, a devilishly lovable Irish gent) come alive through Katherine Kellgren's narration—which, if I didn’t know better, I’d think was multi-cast. Fair warning: once you start this series, you won’t be able to stop. —Jess, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $21.95

    • Matilda

    • By: Roald Dahl
    • Narrated by: Kate Winslet
    • Length: 4 hrs and 18 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      2,175
    • Performance
      1,931
    • Story
      1,935

    Matilda is exceptional. But Matilda's parents think she's a nuisance, and at school she faces Miss Trunchbull, a terror of a headmistress....

    • Another Winner

    • By Jim "The Impatient" on 12-21-16
    • By: Roald Dahl
    • Narrated by: Kate Winslet
    • Length: 4 hrs and 18 mins
    • Release date: 06-13-13
    • 2,175 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • As a book-loving parent, I instinctively gravitate to anarchic five-year-old Matilda—a girl who prefers Steinbeck to screens and is as mischievous as she is precociously in love with the written word. Roughly a billion words have been written on how to raise a happy child, but so few on how to raise a spunky bibliophile—and even fewer delivered via the inimitable, shape-shifting voice of Kate Winslet, who fully embodies the villains and heroes in this Roald Dahl classic. —Courtney, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $21.00

    • Code Name Verity

    • By: Elizabeth Wein
    • Narrated by: Morven Christie, Lucy Gaskell
    • Length: 10 hrs and 7 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      6,468
    • Performance
      5,929
    • Story
      5,915

    Code Name Verity is a compelling, emotionally rich story with universal themes of friendship and loyalty, heroism and bravery....

    • Haunting, Beautiful, Exquisite, Special Book

    • By Suzn F on 07-21-13
    • By: Elizabeth Wein
    • Narrated by: Morven Christie, Lucy Gaskell
    • Series: Code Name Verity, Book 1
    • Length: 10 hrs and 7 mins
    • Release date: 06-06-12
    • 6,468 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Code Name Verity is my guilt book. No, not my guilty pleasure—it’s the book I will make anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet feel guilty about. The stunning dual narration tells two sides of a heart-wrenching story of heroism and friendship during World War II. Surprises and revelations abound in this unmissable listen that turned me into a weeping puddle while folding laundry, but trust me it was well worth it. —Emily, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $17.47

    • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    • By: Maya Angelou
    • Narrated by: Maya Angelou
    • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      2,113
    • Performance
      1,896
    • Story
      1,901

    Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a modern American classic....

    • Go for Mom and Me and Mom

    • By SydSavvy on 10-20-14
    • By: Maya Angelou
    • Narrated by: Maya Angelou
    • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
    • Release date: 01-04-11
    • 2,113 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, written and performed by Maya Angelou, is the reason why I love when authors narrate their own work. No one else could make this eye-opening and devastating modern classic have such a profound impact. —Laura, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $28.00

    • A Prayer for Owen Meany

    • By: John Irving
    • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
    • Length: 26 hrs and 53 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      6,884
    • Performance
      5,540
    • Story
      5,547

    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.....

    • The Best ever audio book

    • By Esther on 05-29-11
    • By: John Irving
    • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
    • Length: 26 hrs and 53 mins
    • Release date: 08-11-09
    • 6,884 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • From what I understand, Irving was initially reluctant to bring his book into audio, believing his ambitious novel could not be adequately produced in the format. Then, as fate would have it, he met Joe Barrett and hand-picked the narrator to read. The result is extraordinary. To hear Barrett shift from his deep, sandpaper voice as the book’s primary narrator to Meaney’s shrill, yet, delicate timbre, is truly mesmerizing. —Doug, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs

    • Half-Moon Hollow, Book 1
    • By: Molly Harper
    • Narrated by: Amanda Ronconi
    • Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      7,921
    • Performance
      6,501
    • Story
      6,508

    Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge....

    • Laugh-out Loud Funny

    • By Sandra Ross on 03-25-10
    • Half-Moon Hollow, Book 1
    • By: Molly Harper
    • Narrated by: Amanda Ronconi
    • Series: Half-Moon Hollow, Book 1
    • Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
    • Release date: 02-19-10
    • 7,921 ratings
    • 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. In fact, Ronconi has become so essential to the lifeblood (pun intended) of this vampire romance series, that it was no surprise when Harper dedicated one of her recent books to her narrator. The kick-off to the delightfully quirky Nice Girls series, as well as an equally popular spin-off series, this book has been a non-stop hit with our listeners for nearly a decade, with no signs of waning. —Jess, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $19.60

    • The River of Doubt

    • Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
    • By: Candice Millard
    • Narrated by: Paul Michael
    • Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      3,906
    • Performance
      2,713
    • Story
      2,725

    The River of Doubt brings alive extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived....

    • River of Doubt

    • By Steve1290 on 11-12-05
    • Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
    • By: Candice Millard
    • Narrated by: Paul Michael
    • Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
    • Release date: 10-21-05
    • 3,906 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • This audiobook makes me shake my head and ask, “Who knew?!” (I’ve listened to it three times—never gets old.) Candice Millard maps a little-known time in Roosevelt’s life (after the defeat of 1912), and Paul Michael’s immersive performance makes the period come alive as an adventure story, a work of history, and an armchair exploration of the Amazon’s flora and fauna. Bully for him! —Christina, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $31.93

    • Beloved

    • By: Toni Morrison
    • Narrated by: Toni Morrison
    • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,220
    • Performance
      920
    • Story
      914

    Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby....

    • Perhaps best read on paper

    • By Cathy on 07-29-06
    • By: Toni Morrison
    • Narrated by: Toni Morrison
    • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
    • Release date: 05-22-06
    • 1,220 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • My hard copy of Beloved is bursting at the seams with sticky notes, so when I first heard Toni Morrison through my earbuds, I nearly gasped. All of the lines sound like a first line: they hook you in and haunt you for some time after. Embedded in Morrison’s lyricism are powerful truths about the horrors of American slavery. Morrison explores how humanity in the face of oppression could turn an unspeakable act into a defiant display of autonomy. The character of Baby Suggs seeks to prove that there are fates worse than death. —Rachael, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $35.93

    • Just Kids

    • By: Patti Smith
    • Narrated by: Patti Smith
    • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      2,630
    • Performance
      2,349
    • Story
      2,333

    Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy....

    • Does no one any favors

    • By joanilla45 on 10-26-12
    • By: Patti Smith
    • Narrated by: Patti Smith
    • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
    • Release date: 07-26-11
    • 2,630 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • If you’ve ever heard me talk about how much I love audiobook memoirs, there’s a good chance you’ve also heard me talk about Just Kids. It was the first time an audiobook gave me that spine-tingly feeling of hanging out with someone famous while they chatted me up about their life story. Even though I’m not a huge Patti Smith fan, I still fell in love with her story, which is the mark of a truly great memoir. There’s a good reason this won so many awards the year it came out. —Rachel, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $30.79

    • In Harm's Way

    • The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
    • By: Doug Stanton
    • Narrated by: Mark Boyett
    • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,967
    • Performance
      1,844
    • Story
      1,839

    Interweaving the stories of three survivors - the captain, the ship's doctor, and a young marine - journalist Doug Stanton has brought this astonishing human drama to life....

    • Captivating

    • By Clarence Sparks on 10-22-16
    • The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
    • By: Doug Stanton
    • Narrated by: Mark Boyett
    • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
    • Release date: 09-27-16
    • 1,967 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Maybe you learned about the U.S.S. Indianapolis from Quint’s monologue in the movie Jaws. The real story has a richer World War II historical context (sorry, Jaws!). Mark Boyett’s Audie Award-winning performance is inexorably suspenseful, from the Indianapolis’s mission to deliver the atomic bomb, throughout the ship’s sinking (and no one in the Navy knew! Or was trying to rescue the sailors!), and even during Captain McVey’s court-martial back on land. A must-listen for history buffs! —Christina, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $24.95

    • Love in the Time of Cholera

    • By: Gabriel García Márquez
    • Narrated by: Armando Durán
    • Length: 15 hrs and 46 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,671
    • Performance
      1,465
    • Story
      1,479

    From the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people's lives together for more than half a century....

    • Timeless Romance, brought to life by Armando Duràn

    • By Anne on 09-05-13
    • By: Gabriel García Márquez
    • Narrated by: Armando Durán
    • Length: 15 hrs and 46 mins
    • Release date: 08-27-13
    • 1,671 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Gabriel García Márquez is a master of magical realism, and Love in the Time of Cholera is a fever dream of unrivaled prose. As you fall into the grips of Márquez’s delightfully disorienting plot structures and rich, deeply enamoring characters, you experience the same infatuation Márquez has with the world of human fault and desire. To hear this book as it is offered so intimately by narrator Armando Durán is to fall victim to an ailment you won’t want cured. —Michael, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $23.07

    • The Remains of the Day

    • By: Kazuo Ishiguro
    • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
    • Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      2,506
    • Performance
      2,278
    • Story
      2,270

    The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world in postwar England....

    • An excellent audio book performance

    • By Julie Leto on 08-03-14
    • By: Kazuo Ishiguro
    • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
    • Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
    • Release date: 06-29-12
    • 2,506 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Even before Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize, this tale of a life lived “in service” and the regret of roads not taken was essential listening. Simon Prebble conveys the arc of the story as well as the beauty of the language, and even the very subtle wit that animates Stevens’s point of view. It’s almost as if the actor’s voice dons a livery but the passionate heart of the story beats underneath each word. —Christina, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $24.49

    • Heartburn

    • By: Nora Ephron
    • Narrated by: Meryl Streep
    • Length: 5 hrs and 30 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,705
    • Performance
      1,534
    • Story
      1,525

    Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes....

    • Just a treasure

    • By Marci on 07-10-13
    • By: Nora Ephron
    • Narrated by: Meryl Streep
    • Length: 5 hrs and 30 mins
    • Release date: 07-09-13
    • 1,705 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Heartburn is such a perfect audiobook that it nearly ruined all other audiobooks for me. Take one of the best screenwriters of all time (Nora Ephron), add one of Hollywood’s most Oscar-decorated actresses (Meryl Streep), and you get a combo that can’t be beat. It doesn’t hurt that Heartburn is somehow both viciously funny and heartwarmingly vulnerable. My life’s mission is for everyone to know about this truly essential audiobook. —Rachel, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $24.50

    • You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

    • A Memoir
    • By: Sherman Alexie
    • Narrated by: Sherman Alexie
    • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      766
    • Performance
      711
    • Story
      706

    When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: He wrote....

    • A Painful Gift

    • By Maija on 08-01-17
    • A Memoir
    • By: Sherman Alexie
    • Narrated by: Sherman Alexie
    • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
    • Release date: 06-13-17
    • 766 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Sherman Alexie’s beautifully painful account of his childhood and life on his reservation will have you alternately laughing and crying at the humanity of it all. And hearing his voice full of raw emotion, particularly when he talks about his complicated relationship with his late mother, creates a level of intimacy that is so pure and wonderfully poignant I sometimes felt like a voyeur, afraid of being caught listening in. —Abby, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $29.65

    • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

    • By: Benjamin Alire Saenz
    • Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
    • Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      2,731
    • Performance
      2,556
    • Story
      2,553

    A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz....

    • One of the best novels I've listened to in years.

    • By Amazon Customer on 10-27-13
    • By: Benjamin Alire Saenz
    • Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
    • Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
    • Release date: 04-09-13
    • 2,731 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • High school student Ari likes to keep to himself—until he meets Dante, the bubbly new teen in town. Dante slowly wins Ari over with his infectious charm, but after one of them is gravely injured, their friendship grows more complicated. Lin-Manuel Miranda performs the audio, which is incredible, and I won’t rest until everyone on the planet has listened to it. P.S. Get ready for Lin-Manuel Miranda to make you ugly cry. —Rachel, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $20.99

    • The Namesake

    • By: Jhumpa Lahiri
    • Narrated by: Sarita Choudhury
    • Length: 10 hrs and 5 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,622
    • Performance
      863
    • Story
      871

    The Namesake follows the Ganguli family through its journey from Calcutta to Cambridge to the Boston suburbs.

    • My favorite book - in print and audio

    • By Diana - Audible on 04-16-12
    • By: Jhumpa Lahiri
    • Narrated by: Sarita Choudhury
    • Length: 10 hrs and 5 mins
    • Release date: 09-26-03
    • 1,622 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • When I recommend my all-time favorite novel to anyone who’ll listen to me gush, I always warn them that “not a lot happens” in the book. But it doesn’t matter—Jhumpa Lahiri is that good. She can make the everyday actions of a young man finding his way in the world captivating with her simply gorgeous prose. This is a novel about real life—about love and family, culture and assimilation—and is just a beautiful story well-told by Lahiri and narrator Sarita Choudhury, who offers the perfect blend of Indian and American accents in her performance. —Diana, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $27.93

    • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    • By: Junot Díaz
    • Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo
    • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      647
    • Performance
      614
    • Story
      612

    Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd....

    • Beautiful and devastating

    • By Jennifer Winters on 03-08-17
    • By: Junot Díaz
    • Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo
    • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
    • Release date: 12-20-16
    • 647 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • Junot Díaz’s prose is already animated on the page—but when I first heard the talented Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Moana) perform The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I couldn’t help but wonder if Díaz designed this work for audio. As Miranda narrates in the first person as Oscar’s friend, Yunior, the colorful language, teen angst, identity crisis–fueled awkwardness, and cringeworthy adolescent male attempts to “get a girl” seamlessly come together to produce undeniably human characters. —Rachael, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $31.50

    • Little Princes

    • One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
    • By: Conor Grennan
    • Narrated by: Conor Grennan
    • Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,624
    • Performance
      1,383
    • Story
      1,391

    In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a trip around the globe, a journey that began with a stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children's Home....

    • Hope there is a sequel!

    • By R. Cotton on 02-19-11
    • One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
    • By: Conor Grennan
    • Narrated by: Conor Grennan
    • Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
    • Release date: 01-25-11
    • 1,624 ratings
    • 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, and discovers his own life’s path along the way. 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, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $30.79

    • Yes, Chef

    • A Memoir
    • By: Marcus Samuelsson
    • Narrated by: Marcus Samuelsson
    • Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      1,093
    • Performance
      960
    • Story
      957

    It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner....

    • A fun and inspiring civics lesson

    • By loix on 06-27-12
    • A Memoir
    • By: Marcus Samuelsson
    • Narrated by: Marcus Samuelsson
    • Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
    • Release date: 06-26-12
    • 1,093 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • While the descriptions of food and all of its pleasures in this memoir are just lovely, Marcus Samuelsson's storytelling abilities and his brutal honesty are even more impressive. Samuelsson's background and story are unique, and his passion and determination refreshing. But by far, the best part of this memoir is the fact that Samuelsson himself narrates it, speaking in the many different languages he's learned from all the kitchens he's been in. —Diana, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $28.00

    • The Blood of Flowers

    • By: Anita Amirrezvani
    • Narrated by: Shohreh Aghdashloo
    • Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      2,067
    • Performance
      1,438
    • Story
      1,431

    In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. Then her beloved father dies....

    • I loved this book!

    • By Shaddi on 06-30-07
    • By: Anita Amirrezvani
    • Narrated by: Shohreh Aghdashloo
    • Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
    • Release date: 05-24-07
    • 2,067 ratings
    • Why We Think It's Essential
    • I knew Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo from her Oscar-nominated performance in The House of Sand and Fog, and hoped for another star turn in her narration of Anita Amirrezvani's debut novel—I wasn't disappointed. Aghdashloo's deep, raspy voice is absolutely haunting, whether describing the (surprisingly) fascinating intricacies of rug-making or re-telling the Iranian folktales that are woven into the story. A colorful, lush tale that remains on my all-time favorite list. —Diana, Audible Editor

    Regular price: $17.09

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