Relaxing and reading a book can be one of life’s most simple pleasures, but in our fast-paced world, few people have the time to digest more than a few pages a day, if that. The popularization of podcasts has allowed us to listen to the news and learn about fascinating interests on the go; the best audiobooks of all time do the same for listeners, from bringing fantasy worlds to life with incredible narration to coaching us on how to live our best lives.

If you want to get more reading done this summer but are reluctant to sit down with a hard copy, download something from our list and listen at your own pace while you enjoy a stroll. We’ve included stories from Black authors, incredibly poignant women and spiritual leaders working to empower people across the globe with their words. Let us know which one of the best audiobooks you’ll be tapping into first!

Best Audiobooks by Black Authors

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s story is one like no other, and he tells it perfectly in 2016’s Born a Crime. The memoir finds the South African reflecting on growing up during the apartheid era, beginning with his mother throwing him from a van to potentially save his life from gangsters. As he narrates, Noah uses English, Xhosa and Zulu, which ultimately won him the Audie Award for Best Male Narrator in 2018.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Angelou’s writing style is one of a kind, but hearing her tell her stories is an experience every book lover deserves. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings reflects on the author’s childhood in a small Southern town where she was attacked by a man “many times her age,” leaving her with lifelong consequences to deal with. Many years later, while in sunny San Francisco, Angelou develops more compassion for herself and others through life experience, her strong spirit and the ideas of other great creatives.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down brought in plenty of accolades for Jason Reynolds, including the Newbery and Printz Honors as well as one from Coretta King Scott. The crime drama is about Will, whose older brother, Shawn, was shot and killed, leaving his sibling devastated. Unfortunately, as a Black man in America, Will struggles to healthily process his trauma as his neighborhood looks down on crying, snitching and seeking revenge.

Finding Me by Viola Davis

In 2023, Viola Davis took home a Grammy Award for Spoken Word Album thanks to her Finding Me memoir, cementing its spot on our round-up of the best audiobooks of all time. “In my book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life-changing decision to stop running forever,” the 58-year-old wrote in her synopsis. “I wrote this for anyone running through life untethered, desperate and clawing their way through murky memories, trying to get to some form of self-love.”

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Morrison’s writing isn’t always easy to digest, but her examination of slavery and other pressing topics in 1987’s Beloved is definitely required reading. The novel won Morrison the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the year after it arrived for her portrayal of Sethe – a woman who escaped slavery and settled down in Ohio, where she continues to feel the impacts of her past trauma, along with the spirit of her late baby.

Best Audiobooks From Female Creatives

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

The lives of Indigenous Latina women are brought to the forefront in Sabrina & Corina – a collection of short stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. As the synopsis puts it, it’s “a moving narrative of unrelenting feminine power and an exploration of the universal experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home.” Several voices narrate the audiobook, including Roxana Ortega and Kyla Garcia.

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Did you know that one of the most popular Amazon Prime Video shows from 2023, Daisy Jones & The Six, is actually based on a book of the same name? Taylor Jenkins Reid released her story in 2019, following a 70s band who all give individual interviews leading up to their final show before splitting up. The author has confirmed her work is fiction, though she did take inspiration from Fleetwood Mac – particularly Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s tumultuous relationship.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Americanah in 2013, but it remains a favorite for anyone who enjoys romance reading. Oprah Magazine described it as an “expansive, epic love story” which introduced us to Ifemelu and Obinze. The Nigerian duo is departing their military-ruled country for a better life; the former heads to America, where she learns what it means to be Black for the first time and though the latter hopped to join her, he winds up living undocumented in London.

Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

If you’re on any sort of healing journey, Brené Brown’s work might be of immense value to you. The Southern creative narrates Atlas of the Heart and her distinctly warm accent while she teaches you a thing or two about yourself and mankind. “If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear. This is the framework for meaningful connection,” Brown writes at one point in her book.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck gave amazing performances in the film rendition of Gone Girl, but anyone who read the original book knows that it’s an experience worth taking in all on its own. Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne narrate the New York Times No. 1 bestseller, which spans nearly 20 hours – most of which will have you on the edge of your seat.

Other Must-Hear Audiobooks

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If you’re curious about the best audiobooks but aren’t quite ready to invest in your own collection yet, you can find a full reading of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist above for free on YouTube. The inspiring story is about an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago, who travels from Spain to the Egyptian pyramids, seeking out buried treasure. “What starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a meditation on the treasures found within,” the synopsis teases.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The first book in Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy is The Fellowship of the Ring, followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King. If you can’t commit to reading the lengthy, action-packed books yourself, listening to Rob Inglis narrate them can be the perfect way to drift off to sleep. In the opening story, we see the worlds of good and evil collide as hobbits, elves and wizards seek to create balance in the universe.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

The late Anthony Bourdain’s talent for writing was nearly as beautiful as the dishes he spent years cooking in kitchens across America; listening to him reflect on that period in Kitchen Confidential might satisfy you just as much as your favorite meal. The book came out in 2000 but it remains a juicy read to this day as Bourdain dishes on the wild life in the “culinary underbelly.” Even if you’ve never worked in a kitchen, the TV star’s storytelling skills will make you feel as though you’re working the line alongside him.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is another figure who can help guide you through any sort of spiritual journey, particularly in The Power of Now, which is described as “a guide to enlightenment.” As he narrates, Tolle teaches us about the false identity that we attach to because of our ego, as well as how we can spend more of our time in the present moment, where all of our power exists.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

It can be hard enough to keep up with your assigned readings at school or the latest projects you’re actually tackling at work, let alone reading/learning for pleasure. This is exactly why books like Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything exist – so that the more curious among us can still expand their minds without having to do much more than read a few pages a day. Richard Matthews came on deck to narrate the story, beautifully blending humor with scientific fact to create one of the best audiobooks.