40 Best Audiobooks Of 2020 — From Every Genre

Photo: shutterstock
40 Best Audiobooks Of 2020 — From Every Genre
Self

When you’re in need of hands-free entertainment, there’s nothing like an immersive audiobook to get you through a hectic commute, a day of household chores, or a long run.

Music playlists can be repetitive and mind-numbing, and some podcasts just aren’t long enough to keep you hooked. But a good literary audiobook can make time fly. Plus, you don’t have to keep your tired eyes focused on tiny, printed words.

RELATED: 24 Most Important Books To Read In Your 20s

All the work is done for you thanks to the captivating voices of narrators and voice actors. You can close your eyes and be pulled into an adventure plot, whisked away with a tale of romance, swept up into a mystery novel, enchanted by a fantasy realm, or schooled by a true story.

There’s an audiobook for people of all ages, even kids who could do with listening to a book instead of losing brain cells to the world of Kidz Bop or keeping their heads stuck in screens!

Here are the best audiobooks for adults and children — in every genre.  

Best Narrative Fiction Audiobooks

1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, is in living hell as she enters womanhood where a greater pain awaits. Risking her life, she decides to escape with Caesar, a new arrival on the plantation, via an underground railway system to the promise of freedom.

But with a relentless slave catcher on their heels, Cora must make a harrowing journey to escape death. 

Listen on Amazon

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

In 1939 Nazi Germany, a young foster girl steals forbidden books that are being burned in the streets by Fascists. With the help of her father, she learns to read and begins sharing her books with neighbors and the Jewish man they are hiding in her basement.  

Listen on Amazon

3. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Few voices captivate quite like Tom Hanks, who narrates this richly moving story. The bonds of siblings are tested and explored in this novel that tells the tale of a family stripped of wealth and cast into poverty.

Danny and Maeve Conway must stick together to find love, forgiveness, and overcome a past that will not let them go. 

Listen on Amazon

4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

This historical novel reimagines the life and death of Willie Lincoln, the beloved son of Abraham Lincoln, who passed away from illness in the midst of the Civil War. It's an incredibly imaginative story that explores a soul in a supernatural purgatory, mingling with ghosts and engaging in strange, often hilarious, acts of penance.

Best read as an audiobook, this story is performed by a cast of 166 characters, including Julianne Moore, Carrie Brownstein, Lena Dunham, Bradley Whitford, Miranda July, Ben Stiller, Jeff Tweedy, and Don Cheadle.

Listen on Amazon

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This is an unforgettable tale of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, caught in a tragic moment in the history of Afghanistan. It's a powerful story of friendship, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption. 

Listen on Amazon

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

After miraculously surviving the accident that killed his mother, Theo Decker is sent to live with family friends on Park Avenue in New York City. Struggling to slot into his new life and grieving his mother desperately, he clings to an art piece that reminds him of her.

This draws him into the underworld of art through the drawing rooms of the rich. It's a brilliant story of loss, obsession, survival, and self-invention.

Listen on Amazon

7. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Notoriously hard to read, audiobooks make Joyce’s work more accessible than the author himself would probably have hoped.

This quintessential coming-of-age story follows Stephen Dedalus as he matures against the backdrop of growing Irish nationalism and conservative Catholicism. If the decades of acclaim for this novel aren’t enough to spark your interest, the narration of Golden Globe-winning actor and Dublin native, Colin Farrell, surely will.

Listen on Amazon

RELATED: The 25 Best Podcasts For Women Who Want To Live Their Best Lives

8. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

When Emira Tucker is confronted in a supermarket and accused of kidnapping the white child she's babysitting, a video of the situation goes viral. Alix Chamberlain, the woman who hired Emira to babysit, has made a living by getting what she wants and, seeing the video, sets out to make things right.

Wary of Alix’s desire to help, Emira finds herself in a vulnerable position, and the two women must relearn everything they knew about each other and themselves. 

Listen on Amazon

Best Romance Audiobooks

9. A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

This love story spans over decades and crosses continents after two young refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War board a boat together to escape the violent Fascist government taking power under General Franco.

The pair are Roser, a pregnant young widow, and Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them wants, bonded only by their shared desire to return to Spain someday. 

Listen on Amazon

10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you struggled to stay focused when this was an assigned reading in school, an audio version will certainly revive this classic for you.

Actress Rosamund Pike reads the tale of the Bennet sisters as they are courted by eligible young bachelors. The haughty Mr. Darcy initially clashes with the vivacious Elizabeth Bennet, but their love progresses with flirtation and intrigue, becoming one of the most romantic stories in literary history

Listen on Amazon

11. You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

The only thing more dramatic that our beloved telenovelas is what goes on behind the scenes. This hilarious rom-com tells the tale of soap opera darling, Jasmine Lin Rodriguez, who returns to New York after a messy breakup and tabloid fame.

After getting cast together in a romantic film, Jasmine and telenovela hunk, Ashton, struggle to find on-screen chemistry due to their disastrous first impressions of one another. 

Listen on Amazon

12. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Cast your mind to the sun-drenched Italian coastline of 1962 as a young innkeeper encounters an American starlet, staying at his hotel, who is dying.

Jumping forward to modern-day, the now-elderly Italian shows up on a movie lot in search of the woman who he last saw decades prior. What ensues is a story of long lost love, and the tale of flawed characters navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

Listen on Amazon

13. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark is living an exceptionally ordinary life when she takes on a new, unique job as working for the wealthy, once-active Will who is now wheelchair-bound after a motorcycle accident. Overcoming initial quarrels and disputes, Louisa soon grows to love Will and sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

It's a devastatingly romantic story that explores the struggle of making the ones you love happy when your own heart is breaking. 

Listen on Amazon

14. Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Chronically ill computer-obsessed Chloe Brown makes a checklist to officially help her “get a life” and experience some adventure.

From drunken nights to spontaneous travel, Chloe has missed out on it all and needs some assistance to channel her inner bad girl. Enter Red, a motorcycle driving tattooist, who Chloe enlists to help her rebel.

Listen on Amazon

Best Crime/Mystery Audiobooks

15. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, the town of Barkley Cove has been haunted by rumors of the “Marsh Girl.” So, when Chase Andrews is found dead, suspicions immediately turn to young Kya Clark, the so-called “Marsh Girl” who has survived for years alone in the marsh.

But Kya is not what she seems, and with new intrigue and attention on her, the unthinkable happens.

Listen on Amazon

16. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

One of the greatest detective stories of all time told in the soothing voice of Stephen Fry. In this titan collection, he reads all 4 Holmes novels and 5 collections of short stories, following the detective through numerous mysteries and adventures.  

Listen on Amazon

17. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

What do you get when you mix the collapse of an international Ponzi scheme, the unsolved disappearance of a woman, and characters in a desperate search for meaning and survival? This captivating, exhilarating novel. 

Listen on Amazon

18. The Nix by Nathan Hill

It’s 2011 and college professor Samuel Andersen-Anderson has not seen his mother since she walked out on his family when he was a child. She returns in the midst of a media frenzy and political division after committing an absurd crime.

Samuel must battle with his own relationship and the media representation of the woman he barely knows to uncover the truth about her past and his own origins. 

Listen on Amazon

RELATED: 15 Best Mystery Series Books For Adults

19. 14 by Peter Clines

Nate’s new apartment, a dingy brownstone in LA, is filled with padlocked doors and strange mysteries that he tries to ignore. That is, until he meets the other inhabitants of the building and discovers that they, too, live in apartments with a mystery or two.

Read by Ray Porter, this novel captures Nate and his friends on the brink of disaster as they grapple with secrecy and try to uncover the truth. 

Listen on Amazon

20. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s 5th wedding anniversary, the beautiful and clever Amy disappears without a trace.

As pressure from the police and media builds, we watch Nick worm his way through a series of lies, deceits, and mysterious behavior as more and more evidence is stacked against him. But is he really a killer? 

Listen on Amazon

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Audiobooks

21. Lock In by John Scalzi

Eerily accurate for a novel written in 2014, this book takes place in a near-future when a highly contagious virus sweeps the globe, causing souls to experience “lock-in,” when victims are fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann to solve a murder where the suspect is an “integrator,” someone who can temporarily let the lock-in victims borrow their body, making naming the murderer almost impossible.

Listen on Amazon

22. Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Stephen King himself declared this his scariest novel, and who are we to argue? When the Creed family moves to the idyllic town of Ludlow, they buy land that contains a burial ground where generations of children have buried beloved pets.

When a parent’s worst nightmare comes true, ungodly temptations and horrifying events cause Louis Creed to tamper with this forbidden place and unleash an ominous fate.   

Listen on Amazon

23. Red Rising by Pierce Brown

In a color-coded society of the future, Darrow is a Red, the lowest class, working tirelessly to make Mars more liveable for future generations. But after uncovering a betrayal, Darrow and his kind discover that are being lied to and used as slaves for upper classes who have successfully lived on the planet for generations.

He sacrifices everything to infiltrate the Gold caste, and compete for his life and for the future of humanity. 

Listen on Amazon

24. Dracula by Bram Stoker 

Emmy Award nominees, Alan Cumming and Tim Curry, along with an all-star cast, perform the original story of the evil Transylvanian Count that reshaped most modern vampire depictions.

A series of letters and journal entries tell the tale of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Listen on Amazon

25. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Now a hit Netflix movie, this book is set in a dystopian world where an indescribable force drives a person to deadly violence should they look directly at it.

Malorie must bring her two children to the promise of safety on a terrifying journey downriver, blindfolded using only her wits and ears. Since the story is told entirely through sound, an audiobook is the perfect format to hear it. 

Listen on Amazon

26. Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Fans of the TV series should need no convincing to listen to Martin’s epic 9-part fantasy series. Book one broke records for having the most number of character voices in an audiobook. Hats off to Roy Doltrice, who performed each of the 224 characters impeccably!

Listen on Amazon

Best Non-Fiction Audiobooks

27. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

In a groundbreaking piece for The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow uncovered the Harvey Weinstein scandal and kickstarted the Me Too movement. But the road to publication was marked by hurdles, intimidation tactics, and much scrutiny.

This book goes behind the scenes in Farrow’s journey to shake Hollywood.

Listen on Amazon

28. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Renowned journalist and writer, Coastes, pens a profound letter to his son about what it means to be Black in America in the 21st century, grappling with the historical trauma of your people while trying to find your own purpose in the world.

It's an emotionally charged, fresh look at race in America that interrogates the past and confronts our future. Toni Morrison said it best when she simply described the book as “required reading.”

Listen on Amazon

29. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Raised under the Apartheid regime, The Daily Show host and comedian Trevor Noah grew up with many hilarious and poignant stories that shaped his identity. Seamlessly switching between his English, Xhosa, and Zulu dialects, Noah tells the story of his life and that of his endlessly devoted mother. 

Listen on Amazon

30. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks has been buried in an unmarked grave for over 60 years, but her cells, taken without her knowledge while she was working in poverty on a tobacco farm in the South, live in labs today.

The first immortal human cells grown in culture, known by scientists as "HeLa cells." HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bombs effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet, her name is unknown and her family cannot afford health insurance. Skloot tells her story and interrogates bioethics, consent, and the dark history of experimentation on African-Americans.

Listen on Amazon

RELATED: 19 Incredible Titles To Add To Your 2020 Reading And Bookclub List

31. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell

This immersive book assess real-life events, interviews scientists, criminologists, and military psychologists, and even reenacts court transcripts to explore how our approach to strangers can invite conflict.

Analyzing the relations between Fidel Castro and the CIA, Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler, and even reviewing the audio from the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland, Gladwell argues that much of the conflict in our history and society is caused by our inability to interact with strangers. 

Listen on Amazon

32. The Baddest B**** in the Room by Sophia Chang

Raised by Korean immigrants, shunning the “model minority” myth from a young age was just the first step in Chang’s long journey to the top of the music business. From the underground R&B scene to sitting at the head of record-label board rooms, Chang’s is a story of perseverance, determination, and talent. 

Listen on Amazon

33. Evil Has a Name: The Untold Story of the Golden State Killer Investigation by Paul Holes and Jim Clemente

Fan of true crime are probably already familiar with the Golden State Killer, who mercilessly preyed on Californians from 1976 to 1986.

After an investigation lasting over 40 years, Joseph James DeAngelo was finally arrested in 2018. Forensic criminologist Paul Holes and retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente tell the captivating story of this investigation and arrest. 

Listen on Amazon

34. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Raised by a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, Westover spent most of her childhood cut off from mainstream society with no education. She was 17 when she first stepped foot into a classroom, but her educational journey would soon take her into classrooms at Harvard and Cambridge.

Hers is a fascinating story about a quest for knowledge that interrogates familial bonds and questions how much of ourselves must we give to the ones we love. 

Listen on Amazon

Best Children/Young Adult Audiobooks

35. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Inspired by West African mythology and culture, Adeyemi’s take on the dystopian novel retires the repetitive tropes of elves and swords in fantasy tales. It’s the story of a world split between divîners, who are capable of magic, and the non-magical kosidán.

When an evil ruler learns how to strip divîners of their magic, he launches a genocidal purge and it falls to a group of children to take on the dangerous quest to stop him.

Listen on Amazon

36. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that delayed his start to school. Now, as he joins the 5th grade, he wants nothing more than to fit in with his other classmates.

But Auggie’s classmates struggle to get past his extraordinary face, unveiling a journey to empathy, compassion, and acceptance for an entire community.

Listen on Amazon

37. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

When Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her best friend, Khalil, at the hands of police officers, her whole world is turned upside down.

As protestors take to the streets, the media want to portray Khalil as a criminal and the cops want to intimidate Starr into keeping quiet. Starr must act carefully to defend her community without risking her life. 

Listen on Amazon

38. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Kate Winslet performs this children’s classic. Matilda is an intelligent young girl, but her parents and evil school principal see her as nothing but a nuisance. When Matilda discovers she has a superhuman power, she's finally able to fight back against the adults who put her down. 

Listen on Amazon

39. Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

This dual-perspective story comes alive in audiobook form, told by two voices. Joe and Ravi think they have nothing in common until they discover a common enemy in their class bully, and, more importantly, realize they both need a friend.

Through each other, they gain strength as they struggle to navigate middle school, family, and friendships.

Listen on Amazon

40. Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He lives a life of blissful oblivion to the horrors of slavery, until he embarks on a dangerous journey to America and discovers the violence his parents left behind. 

Listen on Amazon

RELATED: 15 Best Mystery Podcasts For People Who Love A Good Thriller

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Alice Kelly is a writer and storyteller with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics. When she’s not creating content for YourTango, you can catch her working on creative fiction and vintage shopping.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.

Author
Editor