Audiobooks to Transcend Rush Hour

by Kristi S.

Like most Western Washingtonians, I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. A lot of time. Seriously, I spend more time on one freeway on-ramp than I do with my mother. So, I started bringing audiobooks on the road with me as a way to stay calm and composed while I drive. If I get the right storyline with a talented reader, it can completely transport me from rush hour to another world and make my trip stress-free. I’ve saved you the search and compiled a list of audiobooks that saved my mental health last year.

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Letters from Skye is a beautiful story with parallel narratives of love and loss told through letters from across continents during both world wars. The characters are engaging as written, but they are brought to life by the full-cast of award-winning voice actors. The accents are wonderful, the setting lush, and the storyline both inspirational and heart-breaking. True story: I was almost done with this book when I pulled into work one day. I could not stop listening, so I brought the disc in with me and cried in my cubicle for my entire lunch break. This was an awkward time for my coworkers in surrounding cubicles, so I highly suggest listening to the last disc in the comfort of your own home. Maybe with tissues and snacks.

 Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman. I will read everything he ever writes, and then I will listen to it in audio because he narrates his own books. His voice is like sweet summer and I could listen to him read literally anything. Stardust is particularly dear to my heart because it was the first Neil Gaiman book I ever picked up. It is an epic tale of adventure, magical lands, and the crazy things we do for love. The world-building is excellent and the characters are so engaging and relatable it is impossible not to be invested in their story. With Gaiman as the reader, we get a peek into his mind, and his love for the characters shines in this performance.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

This is the most beautiful audiobook I have ever heard. The story itself spans from the early rise of the Nazi party in Germany, to the Great Depression in Pennsylvania, to the immigrant experience during WWII in California, connecting three children from different backgrounds through a magic harmonica. The voice actors really seem to connect with the characters, and tell their stories in an emotionally engaging way. What makes this audiobook truly special, though, is the gorgeous harmonica music that plays throughout the story. The music entwines itself in the story, bridging time and distance to tell a tale that haunts and heals.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

The Scarlet Letter meets the Handmaid’s Tale in this book with a creepy and realistic dystopian atmosphere. Taking place in a near-future United States where convicted criminals are “chromed” to change their skin color to match their crimes, Hannah Payne struggles to live with her choices and the stigma of her crime. The premise is so eerily possible and the narrator, Heather Corrigan, forces us to feel the emotion as her voice changes with the character. I could not stop thinking about this story for weeks after it ended.

While those audiobooks are my current favorites, I have compiled a larger list of books with strong storylines and talented readers that have helped me through my most grueling commutes:
What do you do to battle the rush hour blues? Have you listened to anything recently that completely transported you? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments!


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6 responses to “Audiobooks to Transcend Rush Hour”

  1. Fabulous! This was just the kind of list I’ve been hoping to find. I’m going to read (i.e., listen) to every book she selected. Our tastes seem wonderfully compatico.

    • Kristi S. says:

      Awesome, Patricia! I am so glad you like the list and hope you enjoy your reading. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

  2. Serena S says:

    I just finished listening to the e audio book of Letters From Skye last evening. I loved it and whole heartedly agree with your description, and I too was crying when listening to the last part of the book.

    Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb is also an epistolary novel set during WWI, with a full cast of narrators, which I really enjoyed listening to and highly recommend.

    • Kristi S. says:

      Hi Serena! I’m so glad to know I am not alone in my crying over Letters From Skye. It is a truly beautiful story. Last Christmas in Paris sounds wonderful and has been added to my list (and my sister’s!). Thank you for the suggestion!

  3. Susan C says:

    Needed this list like I need air. Thanks. One of my favorite books is “the dirty life”. I don’t know if it is on audio though. Modern day organic farmer meets city girl doing a news story on him and the difficulties of farming today and all the weird things that can possibly happen. Well written. Wish there was a follow up book.

    • Kristi S. says:

      Thanks, Susan! I am so glad that you liked the list. We actually do have The Dirty Life on CD. What a unique story, your description intrigues me greatly. I am always looking for good nonfiction in audio; I find that my attention for nonfiction is better when someone else is reading it to me. I can’t wait to try it!

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