This holiday season, many people are choosing to drive to get to where they are going. Even if families choose to fly, weather-related airport delays, long layovers in airports, and extended cross country flights can result in lots of time to fill. Don’t spend it with your face down in a screen. This can be the perfect time to catch up on some reading, do some research, or just learn more about something that interests you.

Don’t want to lug a book or an e-reader around? Here are ideas for places to find excellent audiobooks or podcasts, tips for what you’ll need, and ten podcasts and audiobooks to make that time fly.

What you need to make the magic happen

  • A phone, an MP3 player, or a tablet: When traveling, the smaller the better. If you have a flip phone from 1999, you may need to upgrade to download books and podcasts. If you can’t imagine giving up your current phone, go with an MP3 player if that works best for you.
  • Headphones: Be considerate. Just because you want to listen to the gory details of a brutal murder in 1880s London does not mean the small child in the seat next to you does.

Where to find audiobooks and podcasts

  • Your local library: Libraries are now offering simple downloads for the price of a free library card.
  • Apps: Audible, Overdrive, and LibriVox are the three most popular. Audible gives you one free download to test it out, Overdrive works for free with the public library, and LibriVox offers free audiobooks in the public domain. The Google store and ITunes also have audiobooks and podcasts for download. Find some of the best audiobooks here, and even more free audiobook options here.
  • Individual websites: Authors will often make their books available in audio form on their websites. Publishing houses and chain bookstore websites also offer these features.

How to get the most out of your podcast or audiobook

Travel downtime in the car, airport, or bus or train station is always a great time to listen, but there are other times during the holidays where podcasts or audiobooks come in handy. Getting ready for guests? Listen while you vacuum. Cleaning up after guests? Listen while you make short work of the massive pile of dishes. Finding it hard to walk the dog every day? Go for a walk and make sure to stop at a cliffhanger or especially juice plot twist (and don’t listen until the next walk!).

Sometimes you get distracted from your book and need to go back. Most apps for audiobooks and podcasts have a 30-second back button that allows you to go back and repeat what you missed.

Pick a book that suits the way you listen. If you are an auditory learner, you can select books that have longer, more complex sentences and that deal with heavy concepts. For the rest of us, look for audiobooks that are funny or on a topic that is incredibly interesting to you. Sometimes our minds wander when there is a steady stream of talking going directly into our ears. Tune back in with a book that is sharp and has a way of grabbing (and keeping) your attention.

Remember, too, that narrators matter. Remember the droning history teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Bueller? Bueller?”)? Nothing will suck the joy out of a podcast or audiobook faster than an awful narrator. Many books allow you to listen to a clip to get a sense of the narration. If it’s a terrible narrator, move on.

Recommended audiobooks and podcasts

This is a difficult list to compile, as podcasts and audiobooks are largely a matter of taste. Still, here are ten of our favorites, recommended for their writing, their narration, and their subjects.


  1. This American Life: One million people listen to this weekly podcast, designed around a theme and delivered in three acts. Subscribe, and each podcast is automatically downloaded to your device each week.
  2. TEDTalks podcasts: From the health of the body to the health of the mind and everything in between, TEDTalks podcasts cover a wide range of talks. These shorter talks may be a great way to time a run or listen on your daily commute.
  3. Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me: A staple feature of NPR programming, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me is a humorous news show that offers real information interpreted by comedians, special guests, and listeners like you.
  4. Stuff You Should Know: These brief podcasts are perfect for you if you want to learn more about a variety of subjects. Past podcasts include conversations about maggots and the dark origins of fairy tales.
  5. Thrilling Adventure Hour: Looking for a podcast that recreates radio storytelling back in the days of handmade sound effects and crazy hijinks? This is the podcast for you!

Need a podcast that motivates you to get moving? For health and wellness, here are 19 more podcasts to check out.


  1. Bossypants by Tina Fey: Tina Fey narrates the story of her life with humor, candor, and wit. Sharp and attention-grabbing, this audiobook is a great way to get through the most mundane of holiday chores.
  2. Birdbox by Josh Malerman: A thriller read by Cassandra Campbell. Good for keeping you awake on long drives; not so good for right before you go to sleep.
  3. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes: This is read by Elwes, which is recommendation enough for this audiobook. Billy “Have Fun Storming The Castle” Crystal and Robin Wright drop in to tell lovers of this classic film stories of how it came to be.
  4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Edward Herrmann narrates the incredible, unthinkable life of Louis Zamperin in this non-fiction tale of perseverance and courage.
  5. Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler: Narrated by the author, who humorously details the most embarrassing moments of her life.

Of course, you can never go wrong with recommendations from the folks at Book Riot.

What are some of your favorite audiobooks and podcasts?


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