Audiobooks for a Family Roadtrip

Audiobooks can be a great way to pass the miles on a road trip, but finding something that everyone can enjoy together can be challenging. Too complex and you’ll lose the younger listeners, too childish and older listeners will quickly tune out. Here’s my attempt at finding that happy medium that everyone can get something out of. Some are on CD, some are downloadable, many are both. Start your engines!

A Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, read by Tim Curry.  Holy Cow, are these books entertaining. While ostensibly written for children, I devoured them as an adult. Tim Curry’s narration will keep everyone rapt for miles. And there are 13 books in the series!

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale. Some of these might be too lengthy for the very youngest listeners, but school-age and up will be swiftly caught up in the adventures of Harry and friends. Jim Dale’s award-winning narration is amazing.

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, read by Mark Hamill. Yes, that Mark Hamill. Turns out he’s an excellent narrator in addition as well as the greatest Jedi the galaxy has ever known. The series tells the story of the Grace children, who move into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate with their mother, only to find it full of faerie problems.

How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, read by David Tennant. Another narrator that parents will know more than kids, Tennant’s narration of this fictional Viking world and the experiences of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III on his journey to Becoming a Hero the Hard Way will entertain one and all.

For a slightly older crowd (middle school & up):

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, BBC Radio plays, from the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, performed by a full cast. Bilbo, Frodo, and friends keep the action going for 13+ hours, and the full cast keeps things lively.

Hatchet and Brian’s Return by Gary Paulsen, read by Peter Coyote. This wilderness survival story about a 13-year-old boy who’s the sole survivor of a plane crash in the wilds of Canada is a longtime favorite with boys and reluctant readers. A fast moving story with plenty of drama.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, read by Stephen Fry. A perfect marriage of material and narrator. Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Hilarity ensues.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton. Futuristic gaming, 80’s nostalgia, and codes to crack – there is something to appeal to a broad age range here and a terrific fast-paced story to boot.


What are some audiobooks you’ve enjoyed as a family? Let us know in the comments!

Audiobook Picks for a Family Road Trip

If you are planning a fun family road trip this summer, or anytime really, it could involve many hours trapped in a vehicle with bored, overtired, and otherwise cranky individuals. Let’s be honest, no matter how fun the trip, there are moments in which the boredom or irritation levels rise. So, instead of fighting over radio stations and whatnot while on the road you might want to listen to an audiobook (or more) to pass the time.

I usually check out a selection of audiobooks for my children to choose from and make them take turns with said selections, before I even start the car if only to avoid arguments later. You can also download audiobooks to listen to via OneClick Digital, Overdrive or Hoopla. The good thing about the digital audiobooks is that if you finish earlier than you expected or do not enjoy the book and want a new one, you can always AIDIO1download a new one anywhere you have internet access. With the digital version you also do not have to worry about due dates or missing discs, which can be a big bonus.

If you are willing to give some family listening a try during a road trip you might need some suggestions. Here are some of my favorite reads and listens that are entertaining for the entire family.

audio3The Bad Beginning and rest of the The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, read by Tim Curryaudio6

Fortunately, the Milk written and performed by Neil Gaiman

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, AUDIO2read by Simon Jones

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg, read by Jill Clayburgh

How to Train Your Dragon (and the rest of the audio5series) by Cressida Cowell, read by Gerard Doyleaudio4

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, read by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, read by Paul BoehmerAUDIOB1

Further suggestions include revisiting some classics like; Because of Winn Dixie, Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, The Wizard of Oz,Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Chronicles of Narnia, The Tale of Despereaux, audiob3Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other favorites. Some newer or unexpected but wonderful listens like; Skulduggery PleasantChasing Vermeer, Little House in the Big Woods,  Savvy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and the rest of the series), Nicholas St. North and the battle of the Nightmare King, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, and Half Moon Investigations might also keep your vehicle full of happy listeners.

Front Row Seating

“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”     – Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2

Back in the 80’s, when we still had a Shakespeare Theater down in Stratford, CT, there was a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that was put on for all the high schools to come and see. Of all the plays, Macbeth seemed like it would be the most interesting, with witches and murder and blood, and big velvety Elizabethan costumes. I was excited – anything for a field trip and a day out of class. Until we got there. Some idiot had decided the best way for 1,500 rowdy high school kids to understand Shakespeare was to imagine it, with a play that had no scenery and no costumes – the entire set was draped in billowing soft blue nylon fabric, like the green-screens of modern movie-making, and the actors all wore tight-fitting outfits of the same blue, as if they’d just escaped from some monochromatic ballet. That was it. It was a total disaster. The audience was so bored and riled you couldn’t hear the dialogue for the catcalls. That is NOT the way to introduce children to Shakespeare.

The good thing is, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to enjoy a good play. Whether you’ve had to suffer through drudging high school productions of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town or been dazzled on Broadway by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan performing Waiting for Godot, a play is not a bad thing. Perhaps your only exposure to waiting-for-godot-ian-mckellen-patrick-stewarttheater has been dragging yourself through Oedipus or Antigone in school, not caring a flying duck about the role of the Chorus in Greek tragedy, just glad you scraped by and passed the test. The real tragedy of teaching plays as literature is that they are meant to be performed, not just read in a monotone like a stumbling seventh-grader who has no idea how to pronounce 15th century British comedies, let alone understand them. When performed, they come alive, like listening to a good movie on the television from the next room over. Even my five year old, with occasional explanations, could follow the movie version of Romeo and Juliet.

drama-collection_FRONT_349x349-300x300So if you’re a theater lover, or just a student struggling to understand Ibsen, Cheshire Library is ready to help! Our newest precious addition is a 25-volume audiobook collection of 250 plays and dramatic adaptions by L.A. Theaterworks. You won’t just hear the play, you’ll feel it, as you were meant to. The plays aren’t just read to you, but fully performed by an all-star cast of more than 1,000 actors you are probably familiar with – George Clooney, Calista Flockhart, Dan Castellaneta, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Dreyfus, Jean Stapleton, John de Lancie (who also wrote one of the Doyle adaptions), and so many, many more. Leonard Nimoy performing War of the Worlds with fellow Star Trek actors? Yeah, that’s in there too. Neil Simon, Chekhov, O’Neill, Miller, Shakespeare, Sophocles – they’re all here, ready to keep you entertained for a solid year of performances. Listen to one or listen to them all – you’ll be glad you did.


8 Reasons to Love Audiobooks (Or Give Them a Try)

Ever notice how your list of books to read never seems to get any shorter? For every title I cross off my list, three more appear, and at this rate it’ll take me at least 20 years to completely finish (I know because I’ve calculated it). I lose precious reading time to obligations like commuting, feeding myself, and keeping my living space somewhat clean. But I recently started listening to audiobooks, and I was able to turn those obligations into perfect opportunities to whittle down my list. I can now go through a book in one day and still get the laundry done!

We have a bunch of books on CD here at the library, but I prefer downloading audiobooks with the OverDrive app on my smartphone. I hook up my phone to my car stereo and don’t have to fumble with CDs while I’m on the highway, and I can keep listening indoors without having to drag a pile of discs with me. Another upside to downloading: no fees! Digital items disappear automatically when the loan period expires so you’ll never get hit with late charges, plus you can’t scratch them up or lose them under a car seat.

Here are some more reasons to love audio:

1) Multitask like a boss. Start up an audiobook and chores will suddenly become much more enjoyable. You can spend an afternoon reorganizing your closets while also tackling titles on your to-read list, like Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair read by Colin Firth. You may even find yourself actually seeking out more chores so you can continue listening!

2) Cut your screen time. After a long workday in front of a computer screen, do you really want to veg out in front of another glowing blue screen? Light mysteries like the books in Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series (A is for Alibi, B is for Body, etc.) offer nice background noise without disrupting your sleep.

3) A good narrator enhances your experience of the book. Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a funny book, but it’s even better when you hear her narration. An adept narrator enhances humor, drama, and other emotions in ways that you can’t replicate when your eyes are zooming across the page. Augusten Burroughs’ memoir Dry had me laughing hysterically one minute, then weeping the next.

4) Long drives seem shorter. It’s tough to stay alert when you’re driving alone, at night, on a really boring road (I’m thinking of you, New Jersey interstate). Picking up something long like The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak will keep your brain engaged and will make any long drive more endurable. Similarly, long workouts on the treadmill are less arduous when you have a plot to engage your mind.

5) Audiobooks are interactive. Have you been on the waitlist for the print copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo? You can download it right now through Hoopla and experience the magic by listening to the audio – while simultaneously tidying up! I’ve also found myself talking out loud to characters in suspenseful audiobooks like Tana French’s The Secret Place.

6) Long, difficult books can be less daunting in audio. Everyone has those “I’d like to read it, but I probably will never get around to it” books. I would never realistically have finished the 917-page behemoth of Roots, but it only took me a couple weeks to reach the end of disc 24.

7) You might actually retain more. There’s a theory that you retain more information when listening because your brain doesn’t have to work as hard at creating imagery. I used to think I would have a problem remembering what happened in audiobooks, but then I remembered all the times I’d looked up from reading a printed book and realized I didn’t remember any of the last six pages. It’s just bound to happen, I think (no pun intended).

8) You’ll realize you’ve been pronouncing a word wrong your entire life. Interminable. Prerogative. Indefatigable. Cache. Aluminum has five syllables?! Oh wait, nevermind, the narrator is British.

Now here’s how to get the audiobooks mentioned:

Do you currently listen to audio books? If not, do you think you’ll give them a try?

Top Audiobook Picks Around the World

Do they even HAVE audiobooks in other countries?  They most certainly do!  Here are the number-one audiobook requests from iTunes around the world, so grab your earphones and go global with these best sellers. Can’t find it? Request it!  We’d be happy to get it for you!

UK Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – Helen Fielding   Bridget Jones has hit middle age, facing the challenges of single parenthood and re-entering the dating world with all its technological traps in this funny and enjoyable sequel.

FranceInferno   Brown takes on Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy as Robert Langdon races through Italy to solve the clues and save the world from a terrorist plot to infect the world in his latest mystery thriller.

CanadaWinners – Danielle Steele    Steele weaves together a tale of loneliness and companionship as a surgeon and her patient’s father are faced with grief and tragedy, and learn to live again.

Ireland The Garden Party and Other Stories – Maeve Binchy.     A collection of short stories by best-selling author Maeve Binchy. Stories included are: The Garden Party read by Niamh Cusack; The Special Sale read by Dervla Kirwan; The Sensible Celebration read by Doreen Hepburn and Dollys Mother read by Stella McCusker.

Portugal The Blood Crows Simon Scarrow    Two thousand years ago, Prefect Cato fights with native tribes to maintain Roman control over Londinium and England. Back in Rome, Emperor Claudius struggles to maintain his empire with or without England.

SwedenThe Alchemist – Paulo Coelho     Santiago, a simple Andalusian shepherd boy, dreams of  finding the greatest worldly treasure ever discovered. From Spain he travels to the markets of Tangiers, across the Egyptian desert,  to a fateful encounter with the mysterious alchemist.

NetherlandsThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon    A moderately autistic boy witnesses a crime, and struggles to make understanding of what he saw.

Greece Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach    The 197o best-seller about the spiritual journey of a seagull, who thinks soaring is a loftier goal in life than eating. A short book of few words, it packs a powerful punch as the seagull learns to realize that sometimes personal goals may not be popular with those around you, but the journey of self-discovery is sometimes the loftiest goal of all.

GermanyThe 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.    In order to avoid his 100th birthday party, Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of his room at the nursing home, heads to the bus stop, steals a suitcase from a fellow passenger and winds up on a strange and sometimes dangerous adventure, which is nothing new to a man with a lot of history under his belt.

DenmarkThe Preacher by Camilla Lackberg     A child stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman.  Soon two more bodies are discovered, and another girl disappears.  Can the constable find the murderer and find the missing girl before it’s too late?