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The Audible Essentials is our list of 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. These are the books that stand the test of time, vetted by our listeners and hand-picked by our editors as examples of excellence.

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

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Charles Duhigg
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    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.

  • Middlesex

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jeffrey Eugenides
    • Narrated By Kristoffer Tabori

    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.

    Ella says: "Not exactly what I expected"

    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.

  • Bossypants

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Tina Fey
    • Narrated By Tina Fey

    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

  • The Great Gatsby

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Narrated By Jake Gyllenhaal
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel of the Roaring Twenties is beloved by generations of readers and stands as his crowning work. This new audio edition, authorized by the Fitzgerald estate, is narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain). Gyllenhaal's performance is a faithful delivery in the voice of Nick Carraway, the Midwesterner turned New York bond salesman, who rents a small house next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby....

    Darwin8u says: "Simple, Beautiful, and Exquisitely Textured"

    New Addition!
    Why we think it's Essential: The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly an American classic, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s superb narration as Nick Carraway takes it to a whole new level. Fitzgerald’s elegant yet simple prose stands the test of time, and Gyllenhaal treats it with the utmost respect, allowing the vivid descriptions of mansions, landmarks, and 1920s New York to flow at just the right pace. While ultimately tragic, The Great Gatsby is full of light and beautiful moments that kindle nostalgia for the Roaring Twenties. —Chris
  • Gone Girl: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Gillian Flynn
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    It is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. 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. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media - as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents - the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter - but is he really a killer?

    Theodore says: "Demented, twisted, sick and I loved it!"

    New Addition!
    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. Perfectly suited for audio, narrators Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne (my new favorites) bring Amy and Nick Dunne to life, placing Gone Girl top on my list of the best multi-narrator performances out there. —Tricia
  • The Pillars of the Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (40 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Ken Follett
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    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...of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame...and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

    Gina says: "Epic story to be read by all!"

    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

    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....

    Evelyn says: "Excellent listen"

    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

    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 Lee Reneau 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: Outlander, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    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....

    Sara says: "The Time Travel VS Romance Quandary"

    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 [TV Tie-In]

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow's best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.

    Jody R. Nathan says: "Charming mystery, romance and epic"

    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.

  • Outliers: The Story of Success

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Narrated By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" - the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.

    Robert W says: "Intriguing but the research is questionable"

    New Addition!
    Why we think it's Essential: I have always been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s work. I love how he takes almost mundane questions, and answers them with keen insight, real-world examples, and anecdotes. Outliers posits, "what makes successful people different?" It’s such a compelling and brilliant work, that I found myself exclaiming "…ohhhh" every few chapters. —Laura
  • The Fault in Our Stars

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By John Green
    • Narrated By Kate Rudd
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    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.

    AudioAddict says: "Wonderful Poignant Story"

    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

    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.

    Doggy Bird says: "Excellent performance of Graham Greene classic"

    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

    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.

    R. Cotton says: "Hope there is a sequel!"

    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

  • Water for Elephants

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

    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.

    Theodore says: "This is what Audiobook should be..."

    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

    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.

    Amanda says: "An Unexpected Gift."

    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

    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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