If you’re going on a road trip with your family this summer, gear yourself up for listening to whiny kids, bored teenagers and a few too many rounds of “99 Bottles of (whatever) on the Wall.” Or, you could just take one of these audiobook recommendations from seasoned librarian Carla Zollinger.
Zollinger has worked for the Provo City Library for more than 15 years and is currently the manager of the Adult & Teen Services department. She is an eclectic and veracious reader and an audiobook aficionado. Here are her recommendations:
For younger audiences:
“Ella Enchanted,” by Gail Carson Levine, read by Eden Riegel (5 hrs. 42 min.)
“Because of the movie, many people are aware of this spin on Cinderella,” Zollinger said. “But the book is so much better than the movie and the audio version is truly enchanting.”
“The Graveyard Book,” by Neil Gaiman, read by the author (7 hrs. 30 min.)
“This Newberry Award winner tells about a little boy raised by ghosts in a small graveyard and may particularly appeal to young boys,” Zollinger said. “The great thing about Neil Gaiman is that he is a fantastic writer who is also a fantastic reader. He narrates most of his books and does an excellent job with each.”
“Book of a Thousand Days,” by Shannon Hale, read by Chelsea Mixon and the Full Cast family (7 hrs. 30 min.)
“Shannon Hale’s books are all easy audio recommendations,” Zollinger said. “Her pacing is quick and engaging and her stories can be enjoyed by a wide audience. In this novel, Dashti and Lady Saren escape a tower prison to find true love and high adventure.”
“Hero,” by Mike Lupica, read by Dan Bittner (5 hrs.)
Zollinger describes “Hero” as a “highly entertaining children’s story about 14-year-old Billy who undergoes exciting changes as he becomes a superhero expected to battle the world’s evils.”
For families with older kids and teens:
“Life as We Knew It,” by Susan Beth Pfeffer, read by Emily Bauer (9 hrs.)
How would your family survive if a meteor were to hit the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions? Through her journal, sixteen-year-old Miranda tells what her family did when a global crisis threw society into chaos.
“This is not only a great story, but it’s also a great opener for family discussions about emergency preparedness,” Zollinger said.
“Amulet of Samarkand,” by Jonathan Stroud, read by Simon Jones (13 hrs.)
A young magician’s apprentice summons a snarky, manipulative djinn instructing him to steal a powerful magical relic.
“The djinn, Bartimaeus, completely cracks me up,” Zollinger said. “This may be a good option for families who have enjoyed ‘Harry Potter’ on previous road trips.”
“The False Prince,” by Jennifer Nielsen, read by Charlie McWade (8 hrs. 14 min.)
As a seemingly desperate attempt to unite a crumbling kingdom, an orphan named Sage is chosen to pose as the long-lost son of the king. This is an award-winning audio production and the first book in a popular series.
“Airborn,” by Kenneth Oppel, read by David Kelly and the Full Cast Family (10 hrs. 30 min.)
Matt and Kate team up on board an airship to find a mysterious creature who dwells in the sky. This is another award-winning audio book. Plus, Zollinger says, it has pirates!
Books that will get everyone laughing:
“Chickens in the Headlights,” by Matthew Buckley, read by David Walker (5 hrs.)
An LDS family with seven boys spends a summer looking after their newly acquired goats and chickens. Hilarity ensues.
“I have yet to have anyone report not laughing out loud while listening to this book,” Zollinger said. “Our audio version has checked out over 120 times. That many people cannot be wrong!”
“Why is There Air?” by Bill Cosby, read by the author (2 hrs.)
“Much of Bill Cosby’s stuff is ageless,” Zollinger said. “It gives parents a sense of nostalgia and introduces a new generation to a brilliant comedian.”
“Dad is Fat,” by Jim Gaffigan, read by the author (6 hrs.)
“This book, along with many of his stand-up routines, are great for road trips,” Zollinger said. “They are made up of short sketches or essays that allow readers to start and stop paying attention without missing out on a plotline.”
Learn a Little from Nonfiction:
“A Short History of Nearly Everything,” by Bill Bryson, read by Richard Matthews (19 hrs. 30 min.)
“I know. It’s long. But it’s worth it,” Zollinger said. “Anything by Bill Bryson will be interesting and entertaining and just a little bit random.”
“A Girl Named Zippy,” by Haven Kimmel, read by the author (6 hrs. 30 min.)
Kimmel grew up in small-town America and this memoir perfectly captures her younger years with a comical cast of neighbors, friends, and family.
“Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand, read by Edward Herrmann (14 hrs.)
Louis Zamperini was supposed to break the 4-minute mile. Instead, he manned a World War II bomber that was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. His story of survival is inspirational and Hillenbrand’s tremendous skills as a storyteller keep listeners captivated.
Many of these titles may be available as free downloadable audiobooks from your library.
I will have to try out some of these recommendations. Our family enjoyed “Book of a Thousand Days” on a long road trip several years ago. But the all-star favorite from that trip was a collection of stories by Donald Davis, who can somehow do both side-splitting hilarity and deeply moving pathos.
Bud Not Buddy – Christopher Paul Curtis
Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
Cold Sassy Tree – Olive Ann Burns
East – Edith Pattou