Best Audio Books for Road Trips

Road trip audio books should be fast paced, engaging, exciting stories. Here's The Drive's list of the best free audio books and paid selections.

Road trips present about the best time available to cruise through an audio book. An audio book s just the kind of thing you need to pass the miles and fill your head with new ideas and literary adventures. Here we have selected some of what we consider to be the best audio books (some free, some paid) for road trips. Why these books? A few reasons. First, we felt that the audio book must be a page-turner. Exciting! The audio book’s plot must be easy to follow, and have a small cast of easily-understood characters. Humor was prized over intellectualism, mostly, as we felt miles pass the fastest with a laugh. And suspense. We certainly mixed in some thrillers and mystery audio books. Length was also a consideration. We picked books mostly on the long side, since we feel really long books best lend themselves to audio book in general, and on long road trips in particular. Ready to hit the road? Download these audio books first.

Best Free Audio Books

My Man Jeeves, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Thirty-Nine Steps

My Man Jeeves, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Thirty-Nine Steps

, Best Free Audio Books, My Man Jeeves, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Thirty-Nine Steps, Wikipedia

My Man Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse

The amusing tales of Bertie Wooster, a lost vision of the idle rich society gentleman, getting into trouble with aunts, uncles and friends. Troubles are solved by the iconic butler, valet and majordomo Jeeves. Wodehouse’s writing is detailed, imaginative, rich with detail, remarkable in dialog and all around great fun. There’s a reason there’s no real great Jeeves movies: With Wodehouse, the fun is in the writing. Chapter 3, for example, is entitled “Jeeves and the Hard Boiled Egg.”

Total runtime: 5:12

Family/adult: Great family fun, nice and clean

Price: Free Audio Book at Librivox

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

This free audio book is ideal for long, long road trips, since it’s total running time is nearly 50 hours. We’ve found that most road trips go at about 35 MPH including gas breaks and everything else. That makes this book good for the drive from Minneapolis to Miami (1,793 road miles). And what a book is it! The Count of Monte Cristo is a Dumas classic, full of adventure, vivid imagery, humor, drama, wrongful prosecution, adventure on the high seas, rags-to-riches, revenge, valor and at its heart, a love story. An amazing piece of work that once finished, you’ll thank yourself forever.

Total runtime: 49:43

Family/adult: Good for tweens upwards

Price: Free Audio Book at Librivox

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is a 12-story collection of mysteries and your favorite deducing detective, Sherlock Holmes. Each story is about an hour long, great for breaking up monotony on the road. As Drive contributor John Sciarrino points out, whodunnits are great for groups because everyone can play along guessing who did the deed. Also, this is a great Sherlock Holmes starting point, because Sherlock has been in the public domain forever, and there’s plenty more Sherlock free audio books out there to explore.

Total runtime: 10:17

Family/adult: Everyone

Price: Free Audio Book at Librivox

The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan.

This fast-paced thriller was the first of a kind and introduced the concept of “the wrong man” to fiction, a construct that’s been used everywhere from North by Northwest to The Big Lebowski. Set at the onset of World War I, an innocent engineer is caught up in a mess of murders, spies and secret codes whilst being pursued across the countryside.

Total runtime: 4:20

Family/Adult: Mostly adult fare.

Price: Free Audio Book at Librivox

Those are our favorite free audio books. Goodreads has a great list of the 100 most read free audio books right here.

Best Road Trip Audio Books

The Fountainhead, Ready Player One, The Arsenal of Democracy, 11/22/63

The Fountainhead, Ready Player One, The Arsenal of Democracy, 11/22/63

, Amazon

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

Here’s why. It’s long as can be, and chock full of drama and concepts of individuality, the press, ideology, genius, vision, vanity, devastating beauty and despair. A fantastic read set in a sprawling metropolis populated by deep and well drawn characters. It’s Ayn Rand, which means it’s an intellectual powerhouse, and an enduring one. First published in 1943, it reads as contemporary as if it were published the day before yesterday, with concepts and constructs as modern as ever. You could go for “Atlas Shrugged,” another excellent audio book, but I think “The Fountainhead” is the better road trip audio book.

Total runtime: 32:01

Family/adult: Adults and forward-thinking teens

Price: $22 at Audible

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

Sci-fi adventure in a virtual reality environment, jam-packed with ‘80s nostalgia for popular culture and a treasure hunt. “Ready Player One” has been on best-seller lists since its release in 2011 and enjoys enduring popularity and reader affinity. Once you’ve read it, you’ll be a member of a large club of people who just absolutely swear by and love this book. The audio book is a notably excellent read by Will Wheaton, a sci-fi superstar narrator in his own right.

Total runtime: 15:46

Family/adult: Teens and above

Price: $22 at Audible

The Arsenal of Democracy, by A.J. Baime

We’re partial to this book about “FDR, Detroit and an epic quest to arm America at war” for a couple of reasons. First, it’s penned by Drive editor A.J. Baime. Second, it’s got tons of Detroit, Henry Ford, FDR, heavy metal, productions lines, bomber aircraft and illustrates how America won World War II with its capacity for production of war machinery. It’s fascinating historical non-fiction, well suited to miles on the road.

Runtime: 11:22

Family/adult: Best for Dads and Grads

Price: $18 at Audible

11/22/63, by Stephen King

You might have been thoroughly confused or amazed by James Franco in the Hulu adaption of this thriller, but we assure you: the book is longer, better, more jam packed with action, romance, sci-fi and thrills. As a way of making the time pass fast on the road, you don’t get much better than time traveling back to Dallas days before JFK’s assassination. The audio book is expensive, but just one credit if you’re an Audible member. And its defense, it’s a long and wild ride.

Runtime: 30:44

Family/adult: Adult

Price: $37 at Audible

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Humor sci-fi of the highest order, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a vivid journey through time and space, wracked full of sight-gags, lettuce-crisp dialog, popular philosophy and science. It’s like Johnny Dangerously meets 2001, A Space Odyssey. This book is short at just under six hours, but is only the first in a series of five books. So, maybe you read this audio book on the way to Grandmother’s house, and the second, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” on the way back. All are excellent, and if you get through all of these you can go to another whole series of Douglas Adams books (again, excellent) starting with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But start with “the guide.” One last thing, I prefer the whole text as narrated by Stephen Fry over the dramatized versions.

Total runtime: 5:51

Family/adult: Enjoyable for all

Price: $15 at Audible

That’s it for today, but we’re going to keep updating this story as the suggestions come in. Tell us what you’re favorites and suggestions are in the comments below.


Eric Goeres


Eric Goeres is a two-decade industry vet who has led digital publishing teams at Road & Track, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Entertainment Weekly.