Jackie and I have long been lovers of audiobooks. It’s probably my favorite book format. But recently we’ve had multiple people asking us where to start with audiobooks, which led us to the big question. What are the best audiobooks of all time?
And what a question it is! There are so many amazing audiobooks, so where do we begin?
We decided to pick a few of the best audiobooks of all time by genre so that you have plenty of options in the category you like to read the most.
While most any book can be an audiobook, some books are truly best when listened to. We tried to include as many must-listen audiobooks as we could on the list below.
*The best audiobooks post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
The Best Audiobooks of All Time
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #1)
How do we love Outlander? We cannot count the ways. There is a reason this is one of my favorite books of all time.
This epic story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate being reunited after the war. When Claire touches one of the standing stones, she is transported to 1743.
This is when the real story begins. In order to stay safe as an English woman in Scotland, she must depend on Jamie Frasier for protection. This book is definitely at the top of our list of best audiobooks of all time but you will love it equally if you love historical fiction, magical realism, romance, or witches.
March 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
This best book of 2019 pick needs to be listened to, not read. Seriously, I think this might be one of the best audiobooks of all time.
I expect it to sweep the Audies this year for sure because full cast audiobooks can really take the story to the next level. The book is laid out in chronological order about the making of a band in the 70s, but the story is told in interview style from a dozen sources.
The audio version has a different narrator for each character and the performances the actors give are stupendous. I was overcome with emotion numerous times while I was listening.
This celebrity fiction story about the rise and fall of one of the hottest bands was so utterly fabulous – it’s pure sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll in all the best ways. This is one of the novels about music that isn’t for the faint of heart and is a feel-good book you will not want to miss.
When it comes to the best audiobooks of all time, it’s hard to beat Jim Dale’s amazing performance reading the Harry Potter series. He narrates some 400+ characters over the course of the series, each with a different voice.
This is the book that introduces us to Harry, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger; our fearless trio. We also meet the other favorite beloved and detested characters that make the Harry Potter book series so special. After all, what would Hogwarts be without Hagrid, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape, and Draco Malfoy?
Harry Potter shows up on our list of books like Percy Jackson too! And if you love Harry as we do, check out our 17 Books like Harry Potter for Kids Obsessed with Magic or 21 Adult Books Similar to Harry Potter for Fans of Magic.
Best Fantasy Audiobooks
As full cast audiobooks go, this book about music is the best one I have ever listened to. This magical realism book is also one of my favorite books of all time. It is narrated by “music” who is telling the story of a magician named Frankie Presto.
There are multiple people who narrate this book and it is more like a play. I could listen to this contemporary fiction book over and over so it no wonder that it is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved this book and bought a copy which I lent to an unnamed person who loved it and did not return it. My second copy has met the same fate. Third time’s a charm?
Strange, but probably one of the most imaginative novels I have ever experienced. It’s about the night that Abraham Lincoln buried his son and takes place entirely in the cemetery.
I listened to this full cast audiobook which was great because it used 166 voices including David Sedaris, Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, Kat Dennings, and Don Cheadle among others. As ghost books go, this one is not to be missed! it’s truly one of the best fantasy audiobooks ever! If you are looking for a book for fall, this pick is fantastic.
To say that I was excited about Erin Morgenstern‘s new book might be the understatement of the year. How to describe this book that is an ode to storytelling…..it’s a love story to books, a fantasy within a love story within a fairy tale.
The writing is beautiful- Erin’s signature style of vivid imagery left me completely captivated. I truly loved every minute of this book. It was pointless to predict the story. So, I let it take me away with the lyrical prose. It made our best books of 2019 list and I recommend it to anyone that loved The Night Circus. It’s one of the best fantasy audiobooks as well. If you love magical realism books, this pick is for you.
If you are looking for more of the best fantasy audiobooks, we created the Ultimate List of Fantasy for Adults and the Ultimate List of YA fantasy!
Best Romance Audiobooks
Don’t be fooled by the beachy vibe of this novel’s cover. Emezi has astounded once again with a searing novel about grief and the messy business of moving on after the death of a spouse.
Set against the lush backdrop of the Caribbean island, this contemporary fiction story finds Feyi traveling to stay with Nasir, whom she is sort-of dating while exhibiting her artwork. But when she meets his father, famed chef Alim, her interests are torn.
As she tries to heal away from her life in Brooklyn, her life becomes messier than she could have imagined. I loved Emezi’s raw prose about grief and was thoroughly entertained by the story they wove. I totally get why this Audie Awards 2023 nominee is considered one of the best audiobooks of 2022. It’s one of the best romance audiobooks I’ve ever listened to!
Bee is a brilliant and unconventional scientist who lives by a strict code “what would Marie Curie Do?” She even has a secret Twitter account to help other female scientists in a male-dominated workplace.
When she is offered her dream job at Nasa, she cannot wait to start until she realized that she is not the lead scientist. She is the co-lead with her work nemesis Levi Ward. To make matters worse, he seems to be sabotaging everything that she tries to do. Could there be a better pick for enemies-to-lovers books?
Ali Hazelwood does an amazing job of writing office romances while still including the struggles that women have to deal with on a daily basis. This book was a clear choice for Books Like The Love Hypothesis. It’s one of our picks for best romance audiobooks!
Do you believe Harry (from When Harry Met Sally) when he said “women and men can’t be friends.” ?
We are sure that he’s wrong, but one of our favorite tropes is friends to lovers. People We Met on Vacation is the latest beach read from Emily Henry and it’s addicting.
Poppy has been best friends with Alex since a car ride home from college a decade ago. Since then, they’ve gone on vacation together every year until 2 years ago when it all came crashing down.
Will they recover their friendship with one more trip or will their relationship be irrevocably ruined? This is the perfect beach, poolside read, or vacation read. You should be sure to add it to your best romance audiobooks list.
If you are looking for more of the best romance audiobooks, we created the Ultimate List of Romances carefully divided by sub-genre so you can find your next favorite read.
Best Fiction Audiobooks
May 2022 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
I haven’t read a novel with as much heart as this one in quite some time.
Elderly, recently widowed Tova loves her job cleaning the aquarium in town in the quiet of the night, especially because of her fondness for Marcellus, the octopus. She finds solace in the aquarium as it makes her feel closer to her son, Erik – a marine life lover – who disappeared on a boat when he was 18.
But when she hurts herself and is unable to return to work at full capacity, she grows close with her replacement, Cameron, a young man who newly arrived in town looking for his birth mother.
Meanwhile, Marcellus knows what really happened to Erik and he wants to help Tova find the closure she needs. His narration is interspersed with Tova and Cameron’s for a story that is compelling, heartwarming, and utterly unique.
I will be shoving this book into the hands of everyone who asks for a book recommendation because it’s my favorite book of 2022 and my pick as one of the best audiobooks of 2022. This is easily one of the best fiction audiobooks ever!
Music is big in my house so this contemporary fiction book spoke to me. Frank is a man who helps everyone with their problems by giving them the music they need from his little music shop. It sells only vinyl.
When a woman faints outside his shop, Frank realizes he can’t hear the music she needs. His life changes forever. This book about music is a similar feel to Little Paris Bookshop/Perfume Collector. There is a playlist on Spotify that goes with this book. So sit back, read, listen, and enjoy.
October 2019 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
Ann Patchett has done it again with this tale of sibling devotion. Danny and Maeve are victims of an abandoned mother and father who all but ignores them.
Danny narrates the coming-of-age story of their lives as it ties into The Dutch House – a storied mansion that their father purchased in Elkins Park. This home is the blessing and curse of their lives.
The sign of their father’s success and what ultimately breaks up their family. The siblings gather together on Thanksgiving in this emotional and complex family saga book that is a perfect fall book. It is on our best of 2019 list for sure.
If you are looking for more of the best fiction audiobooks, we created the Ultimate List of Contemporary Fiction carefully divided by sub-genre.
Best Nonfiction Audiobooks
November 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Pick
I am so happy that I finally read this book. Michelle Obama is a brilliant woman who has such an incredible story to tell. I was intrigued listening to her life and her upbringing.
I listened to this book and was so happy to hear the story read by Obama herself. Obama is a brilliant woman and it was a pleasure to hear her story told in her voice. There is something about her voice that is so calming and soothing. This is one of the best non-fiction audiobooks about women in politics.
This is one of the best nonfiction audiobooks because many of the writers themselves do the reading! With essays on sugar, capitalism, music, healthcare, and even traffic, I learned so much about how much of American society is built around racist ideals.
I’m still reeling from the revelations and truths woven throughout Prince Harry’s narrative. His candor in taking us from the death of his mother to the death of Queen was refreshingly real and often poetic, no doubt thanks to the incredible skills of his ghostwriter.
I was struck by how much I had believed the press’s story of his life; accurate or not. To think that an entire family’s stories could be so fabricated or twisted into untruth was astonishing.
In revealing his own truths, however, he illuminated the dreadful antics of his family. Wills, Charles, Camilla, and the courtiers do not come out of this book without tarnish – and with good reason. There is so much to talk about, this is our book club book for next month.
At the end of the day, it’s hard not to judge everyone for lack of compassion but it’s a generational cycle that needs to be broken. I felt proud to see Harry putting in the work to make sure his own children don’t go through what he did.
This is a must for fans of books about the royal family and stories about royalty. This book is one of the best nonfiction audiobooks because of the way he narrates the story.
If you are looking for more of the best nonfiction audiobooks, we created the Ultimate List of Non-Fiction Books.
Best Historical Fiction Audiobooks
I will admit when I saw the description of this book, I was not sold. A trusted individual, who has never steered me wrong in the past, gave me an advanced copy so, I took the leap. And wow, am I glad I did. I read this book and then recommended it to everyone I knew.
This 70s book has that spark, that special something that makes it extra. It is no surprise that we chose this as our favorite of 2018.
We have an entire post dedicated to this book and how to host a book club around it which makes it a perfect book for book clubs! If you love this book, check out our list of 13 books like Where the Crawdads Sing. IT’s one of our favorite books ever and one of the best audiobooks of all time.
This is the closest of the books like Daisy Jones and The Six. It’s told in an interview format and is about a band from the 70s. The comparison makes sense… and yet…
This 70s book is wonderful in its own right! No comparison is needed. It looks at sexism and racism in the music industry during this time period and is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. It is a total must-listen making it one of the best historical fiction audiobooks ever. This is one of the full-cast audiobooks that we included in our Ultimate List of Feel-Good Books to Brighten your Day
Based on the true story of New York socialite, Caroline Ferriday, this fictionalized account of the war is told from three perspectives.
The novel alternates between Caroline in New York, Kasia, a Polish prisoner, at Ravensbruck, and Herta, the only female doctor at that same camp.
Herta’s perspective, she was a real doctor at Ravensbruck, was particularly fascinating to read. Hearing her thoughts left a deep impact since authors rarely write from the perspective of the Nazi party members. That perspective makes this novel unique among these books about WWII and makes it one of the best historical fiction audiobooks.
If you are looking for more of the best historical fiction audiobooks, we do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction carefully divided by time period.
Best Sci-Fi Audiobooks
Let’s be honest, I would read anything that TJ Klune writes. House on the Cerulean Sea was my Best Book of 2020 and Under the Whispering Door was my Best of 2021. It is safe to say that you will find this book from the list of spring 2023 book releases on a best-of-post!
In a forest, safe and hidden, live a human and three robots. When an unfamiliar android reveals a dark shared past of hunting humans, they are no longer safe. This book is a lot sadder that Klune’s other adult books but has his signature sense of humanity making it a great choice for our list of the best sci-fi audiobooks.
I don’t know how to begin to describe this book. This is NOTHING like All The Light We Cannot See and yet, I absolutely loved it. It is part historical fiction, part sci-fi, and absolutely amazing.
The book is set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, Five hundred years later in a library in Idaho and in a spaceship traveling to a new planet sometime in the near future. Even while trying to describe this book, it does not seem to go together and yet, the story of Cloud Cuckoo Land (a story within the Novel) acts as the glue that brings the characters together. The end result is an amazing sci-fi book with a very powerful message.
This is not an easy read but is well worth it.
Best Thriller Audiobooks
Don’t you feel that some books are just meant to be listened to and not read? The full cast of narrators is what makes Saint X one of the best thriller audiobooks.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Saint X. I think I was suspecting a thriller or a mystery because the story opens with an 18-year-old girl who dies on her tropical vacation with her family. Her then-7-year-old sister, Claire, is our narrator. Now in her 20s, after a chance meeting with someone connected to the case, Claire is trying to figure out exactly what happened all those years ago.
The story is also peppered with accounts from a few other key people in the case. Each one of these players is a different narrator which just made the entire production feel real. But it doesn’t quite fit into one genre. It’s also a book about the relationship between sisters, even those separated for years, and was perfect for our list of books about sisters. The other part of the story that I love is the subtle commentary on race and class that are woven throughout.
Everything that you think you know in this book is just an assumption. You can assume that you are wrong. I cannot say much about this book because I do not want to spoil anything but, it is such a perfect domestic thriller.
Warning: do not start it if you don’t have time to finish it. Nellie is so excited about her upcoming wedding that is just days away. She cannot shake the feeling that someone is following her. The unreliable narrator is why it’s one of our picks for best thriller audiobooks.
His and Hers is the best psychological thriller I have read this year. There are two sides to every story and this one had me guessing until the last page. I had to go back and re-read.
Anna Andrews works at the BBC and has her dream job as an anchor until she doesn’t and she will do anything to get it back. When she has to return to her hometown to cover murders that are centered around her, nothing could complicate the situation more…..until her ex-husband is the lead investigator.
Oh, and he knows the first victim as well. This book is a puzzle that isn’t complete until the last page. It’s one of our best books of 2020 picks.
If you are looking for more of the best thriller audiobooks, we created The Ultimate List of Best Thriller Books carefully divided by sub-genre. These will definitely keep you on your toes.
Best Mystery Audiobooks
January 2022 Good Morning America Pick
Molly works as a maid in a grand hotel and gets joy from leaving things orderly and pristine. Molly struggles with reading social cues and has had even more trouble since her gran can no longer help.
When Molly finds a dead body in a room at the hotel, she becomes a prime suspect and will need all her friends to help her.
I loved the description of this book and I hoped it would live up to my expectations. I did that and more. I loved every minute of this feel-good book from the list of best mystery audiobooks. Definitely add this one to books for book clubs to read.
I was utterly charmed by this unique murder mystery! The premise is great – a detective duo has been given a stack of correspondence (text and emails) and asked to read through and determine who was murdered, why, and who was wrongly accused.
Of course we readers get to come along for the ride – reading their post-it notes or texts to each other as they try to solve the mystery. I was desperately trying to solve it along with them but I was stumped!
The ending was truly shocking and the many twists and turns had me flying through the story. I read part of it and listened to part. Both formats make for a wonderful experience! This is one I’ll be recommending this pick from the best mystery audiobooks list for years to come!
The first in the series of Chief Inspector Gamache. I fell in LOVE with the Inspector, the town of Three Pines, and its residents. Louise Penny CAN WRITE.
The mystery was great (and I didn’t solve it) but what got me the most was Penny’s writing style and reflections on the human psyche. This first Louise Penny book has the detective searching a piece of art for clues.
This is one of the best detective books and detective series I have ever read. You will fall in love with Three Pines and the people who live there. The wonderful community in this series is the best of what feel-good novels should be.
The narrator brings all the voices to life making it a shoo-in for our list of the best mystery audiobooks. Be sure to check out Louise Penny Books in Order: Complete Guide to Inspector Gamache
For more of the best mystery audiobooks, we created The Ultimate List of Mysteries carefully divided by sub-genre so you can find your next favorite read.
Best Middle Grade and YA Audiobooks
Three tales in one, this realistic fiction story is told in alternating chapters by three narrators. The stories feature Josef, a Jewish refugee fleeing WWII Germany, Isabel a Cuban girl on her way to Miami in 1994, and Mahmoud a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Germany in 2015. The chapters rotate between the three characters and their stories do connect at the end in a meaningful and moving way.
The characters are all about 13-years-old but shoulder burdens that would be hard for an adult to handle. Gratz accurately portrays each child’s struggle with both grace and clarity – not shying away from difficult emotions and even death. If you love this YA historical fiction book, we have a list of Powerful WWII Books for Kids.
I listened to this feel-good book and it was unreal. I want my son to read this so badly but, I also want him to listen to it as well. The full-cast audiobook plays music so it is a full sensory experience, making it one of the best audiobooks ever.
The story is three tales woven together in one with a magical harmonica at the center. The story follows a harmonica as it lands in the hands of Freidrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California set during WWII.
Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, this is one of the novels about music that is amazing for middle-grade and adults alike. We even included it on our list of Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds. This is a magical realism book everyone should read.
This fantastic and incredibly relevant young adult novel tackles the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr is straddling a line between two worlds. She attends a prestigious prep school where she is one of 2 black children in her grade but she lives in a poor neighborhood 40 minutes down the road.
She switches her personality so that she can fit in wherever she is, never truly being her whole self. When she witnesses her unarmed childhood best friend get killed by a policeman her entire life changes.
She needs to decide what to tell and to whom because her words can have dire consequences for her family and her community. It’s a truly wonderful coming-of-age story from thought-provoking books set in high school that all young adults should read.
What do you think the best audiobooks of all time are?
Looking for ways to listen to the best audiobooks? This might be just the list you need!
Looking for the best audiobooks for listening with kids? We’ve got you!