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Published Jul. 29, 2021

Audible is the undisputed king of the audiobook universe, with thousands and thousands of great books to choose from and top-talent narration. But where do you start? Browsing the digital shelves can be overwhelming. Do you want to hear something funny? Something scary? Something topical? Something about alternate realities and time travel that illustrates the only true power in the universe is…love? The options are endless. What is Audible, and how do you know which books make for a good listen and which ones sound more like school textbooks? Discover a new way to find a page-turner, and “read” today’s best sellers and guilty pleasures through focused listening. Download a library of the top audiobooks from Audible now to fill your mind and your time.

What to consider when shopping for the best Audible book

Ready to listen to classic literature and gallons of Jack Reacher novels? Before picking out your next audiobook, it’s important to understand how Audible works. There are different plans for different needs. Browse your Audible options and find the best deal for your reading habits and tastes. 

The two types of Audible subscription plans

For more than a decade, Audible has been a helpful resource for buying, downloading, and listening to audiobooks. When you bought the Audible book of your choice, it used to simply be yours forever. But today, there are Audible subscriptions, a rental service that gives you more listening options at a  reasonable price. For a monthly fee, you get access to thousands of books. The two different plans are Audible Plus and Audible Premium Plus. 

Audible Plus is the basic subscription service. For $7.95 a month, audiobook listeners can select from thousands of books in the Audible Plus catalog. These include current bestsellers and classics. Subscribers can pick as many books from the Audible Plus catalog as they like, and they can keep them as long as they remain subscribers. The Audible Plus library is large and varied enough that everyone can find more than a few books to try. But it doesn’t include every audiobook on the digital store shelves. Selection is limited, so if you want an obscure audiobook, it may not be available. 

For those who want a bit more freedom, the Audible Premium Plus subscription is a great deal. For $14.95 a month, subscribers have all the listening privileges of Audible Plus customers, with the added bonus of one free credit a month to pick any audiobook from Audible…even those not included in the Audible Plus catalog. Once you buy an audiobook with your credit, the book is yours forever, even if you stop your Audible subscription. Audible Premium Plus is the best deal for anyone who wants to build their own permanent audiobook library. 

The best ways to listen to audiobooks

Gone are the days of books on cassettes that were sold in big, cumbersome bricks of 10 or more tapes. Today, listening to an audiobook is as easy as tapping your phone. The most popular way to listen to Audible books is through the smartphone app. It works like any other media player, showing your library and allowing you to shop for more books. Everything is smooth and intuitive. Skip ahead and rewind easily. Sync the book to other devices. Create bookmarks. You can also adjust the playback speed if you’re in a hurry. (Great for high school students who need to consume The Scarlet Letter in one afternoon.)

Listen at the gym. Listen at work. Listen through your Amazon Fire or other tablets. Best of all, connect the phone to your car speakers, because traffic jams are less stressful when you dip into the world of dinosaur theme parks and small-town murders. You can also listen to the book through an Amazon Echo or other smart speaker

Your Audible account reaches across multiple devices, so if you stop listening to the book in the car, you can pick it up at the same spot through your computer or smart speaker. And for some books, when you buy the Kindle ebook version,  you can sync it with the Audible audiobook version and switch back and forth.

Audible is not the same as Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited

It can be confusing, but there is a difference between Audible, Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon Prime, even though all three are part of Amazon. Audible is dedicated to audio entertainment—audiobooks, podcasts, and Audible originals that cannot be heard on other platforms. 

Kindle Unlimited offers some audiobooks, but it’s designed more for text-based ebook readers. The Kindle Unlimited library of ebooks is larger than Audible’s library of audiobooks, but many of the available books are self-published and it can be tough to find current best sellers. Although Amazon does offer free ebooks and audiobooks to Prime members, the selection is very limited. 

For fans of audiobooks, Audible is the service to use. Still unsure? All of these subscription services offer a free 30-day trial. If you’re on the fence about which service is right for you, give them all a try. You’ll soon learn which service has the best library for your taste. 

How to pick the best Audible books?

Once you understand how Audible operates, the fun part begins—selecting your books. Everyone has their own favorite genre and writers, but with an Audible subscription, why not broaden your reading habits and try something new? That’s one of the best reasons to subscribe to Audible. Pick from the best selling books of all time or hot new authors. You can jump into every type of book imaginable, and if you don’t like it, move on to the next book. (Give the book a chance, but if you don’t enjoy it after two hours, it’s okay to give up. We hereby give you permission.)

Many Audible books are narrated by big-name talents like Meryl Streep or Lin-Manuel Miranda. Some will have an entire celebrity cast of characters reading different parts. And some include sound effects and music to enhance the experience. 

The best Audible books

It can be tough to choose an audiobook. You want a book that is interesting and has a great narrator. But the type of book to listen to changes depending on what you’re doing. Listening to thoughtful non-fiction about current events can keep you interested in the car, but won’t make for the pumped-up, thrilling action you need during a workout. Browse the best books on Audible, below, to find great picks and best sellers for specific activities.   

The best Audible book for commuters: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Accessible Self-Help

A short and sweet guide to making life better and more productive. James Clear, Penguin Audio

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Want to live a better life? Atomic Habits by James Clear helps readers focus and rededicate their lives, one small step at a time. It sounds like a fluffy self-help book, but Atomic Habits is grounded in practical science. Example: If you want to read 30 books a year, start by reading one page a night and begin building a new, positive habit. Author James Clear narrates the book and his voice is pleasant;  he doesn’t sound like a professor talking down to his students. This is a great book to listen to coming and going to work, and with a length of about five hours, you can easily finish the book in a week. 

The best Audible book for working around the house: Greenlights

Great Narration

Hear the story of one of Hollywood’s most interesting superstars, as only he can tell it. Matthew McConaughey, Random House Audio

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Matthew McConaughey is a unique actor, equal parts silly stoner, and thoughtful thespian. The Academy Award-winner talks readers through his life, from a rough middle-class upbringing in Texas to find his unique place in the wacky world of celebrities. It’s a bit rambling at times, but few people have turned rambling into an artform like Mr. True Detective himself. Greenlights is a laid-back soundtrack for any household chore or listening to it in the background while cooking dinner.

The best Audible book for gym rats: If It Bleeds

Thrilling Horror

Four short stories to keep you breathing hard. Stephen King, Will Patton, Danny Burstein

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As much as we all love his phonebook-sized novels, Stephen King’s real strength is in his short-story writing. If It Bleeds is Stephen King’s latest collection of short stories, and the tension is a great motivator for workouts. It’s hard not to increase your speed on the treadmill if you think someone is chasing you. Three different narrators read the stories, including actor Steven Weber who starred in the TV version of King’s The Shining—a neat little Easter egg for King fans. Even if you hate horror, King’s stories are often beautifully written, and his writing style has only improved with age.

The best Audible book for business travelers: Dune

Classic Comes Alive

Fall into one of the best sci-fi books ever written…or narrated. Frank Herbert, Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy

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There’s no denying Frank Herbt’s Dune is an iconic tome of science fiction. It’s often been called the best sci-fi book of all time. But it’s also a long, dense book that can be tough to read. The audiobook version of Dune is read by five professional voice actors who help bring the story to life. If you’ve tried to read Dune and gave up because of the strange vocabulary and complex political subplots, try listening to it instead. The first 100 pages (or two hours) of the book are an uphill climb. After that initial setup, the story moves quickly and you’ll soon be wrapped up in the world of Arrakis, spice, and sandworms. If you have 20 hours to kill on a long flight or waiting in an airport, Dune is the perfect escape hatch to a truly different world.

The best Audible book for bedtime: The Fellowship of the Ring

Classic Book, Engaging Narration

It’s one of the best tomes of all time, and it’s a great bedtime story. Rob Inglis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Recorded Books

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The Lord of The Rings is not just one of the best books of all time, it’s one of the most soothing. And even after all these years, it continues to be a top audiobook. Start with the first book in the epic trilogy. Frodo’s journey begins in The Fellowship of the Ring, as he and his bro squad are tasked with taking the ring to Mt. Doom. If you’ve only seen the movies, you will be pleasantly surprised at how dreamy and lyrical the books are, especially when narrated by the great Rob Inglis. While there is action and adventure, most of the book consists of beautiful descriptions of this beloved fantasy world. You want brambles? This book has brambles. You want babbling brooks? This is the brook book for you. And if you want to drift off to sleep with happy, pleasant thoughts, nothing beats The Lord of the Rings

FAQs

Q: What is the best audiobook of all time?

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is likely the best audiobook of all time. The story is engaging, the narration is amazing, and it makes the complicated fictional histories more accessible. For non-fiction fans, Atomic Habits can quickly change your life. The audiobook helps the reader identify bad habits and offers realistic tips on how to create good habits. It’s a great motivator for anyone who wants to live a better life. But some of the best audiobooks of all time are also guilty pleasures. Lee Child’s series of Jack Reacher thrillers can be fun for the beach, the car, the gym, or bedtime. Is it great literature? Nope. But the books are like silly blockbuster action movies. And the audio versions make it easy to eat popcorn while you read.

Q: Is Audible worth the money?

Yes, Audible is worth the money. If you love stories, or simply want a new way to plow through your “to read” pile, Audible is a cost-effective solution. The Audible Premium Plus plan costs $14.95 a month and gives you access to the Audible Plus catalog with the added benefit of getting one free audiobook a month that is yours to keep. Listen to at least one book a month, and the service is a great deal. If you listen to a book a week, the Audible Premium Plus plan is a must-have service. Amazon offers great incentives for signing up for a free 30-day trial, so give it a shot.

Q: What books are best on audio?

The best books on audio will have a fantastic narrator and high production value. That means added music and sound effects to enhance the story. Which book is best for you depends on the type of books you like to read. Mysteries and thrillers make for great audiobooks because the professional narrator will know how to build tension with their voice. Self-help and development books can inspire the reader. And listening to the audio version of a guilty-pleasure vampire-romance novel means others won’t see you carrying around a copy of a cheesy YA book. That said, books that struggle to adapt to the audio format are any books with lots of illustrations. Graphic novels work best as a visual medium. Books with lots of footnotes and endnotes, like some history books, are also hard to translate into a purely audio format. 

The final word on the best Audible books

Give your eyes a rest and let your ears do the work when you download the best Audible books. Audible has cornered the market on audiobooks, offering nearly every title imaginable in their impressive library. Audible subscription services make it fun and easy to try new things, but know that the Audible Plus plan has a limited library. Audiobooks are great for long commutes and workouts while listening to an audiobook before going to bed helps your eyes and your brain relax. Audible allows you to quickly and conveniently read mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, non-fiction and classic literature anywhere in the world—even with the lights off!

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