Riding in Cars with Books

On the road again…

I never travel without a book. Ever since I was a kid a book (or books) went into the suitcase with the clothes. Sometimes, I packed more books than clothes. Car, plane, train, it didn’t matter. Whatever the mode of transportation, I read on the go.

Don’t read and drive

Of course, as a kid, I didn’t drive. Someone else—parents, pilot, engineer—did that, leaving my hands and eyes free to handle a book. As an adult, I still read in the air or on the rails. On the road, however, I’m now the driver. Reading while driving is, of course, unsafe. Think of all the accidents caused by texting while driving. I want to enjoy a good story, not become a road hazard.

You’ve come a long way

Luckily, audio entertainment has come a long way since my childhood when the only options were AM or FM. (That’s radio, for you youngsters.) Now, we have satellite radio, which offers an endless variety of music and talk. Also, audiobooks and podcasts exist!

My question

I’ve got a cross-country road trip in the near future. That’s a long time in the car. But I have an Audible and a Spotify subscription and one of those fancy in-car entertainment systems that lets me listen to both through my car’s speakers. So, my question for my fellow Missdemeanors this week was: what books or podcasts should I listen to as I make my way from west to east?


Just listened to Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes. Starts off as a kind of amusing hard night of partying gone wrong resulting in Rachel being packed off to rehab by her parents and morphs beautifully into finding her tribe in residential treatment. Funny, astute, at times painful with a happy-ish ending. Also: Ireland.


My favorite audiobooks in the past 18 months have been:

  • Say Nothing—about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I loved everything about it, the narrator’s voice, the way it was written. Absolutely gripping.
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney—loved the voice and the story.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing—really great narrator and every praise heaped on the story well deserved
  • Such a Fun Age—loved the narrator
  • Beastie Boys Book (Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz), Face It (Deborah Harry), and Just Kids (Patti Smith)


In response to Emilya, I too listened to Say Nothing and loved it and then harangued every member of my family into reading it. My daughter and husband went to Boston College, so that was part of it. Back to Alexia, I’ve been listening to a lot of Dickens on audible. Right now, I’m listening to Great Expectations. It’s just so much fun hearing all the voices. I’ve also been listening to the podcast The Trojan Horse Affair, which is, in part, about a doctor who becomes an investigative journalist.


I adore listening to audiobooks when I’m doing boring things like laundry or driving across country. And, like Susan, I listen to the classics on a regular basis–The Barsetshire Chronicles by Anthony Trollope, for example, and The Wind in the Willows. I also love any of the silly books by P. G. Wodehouse. No one wields the English language like he does. With that said, I have a couple of modern recommendations, guaranteed to keep you awake on the road. At the top of the list are Lucy Foley’s novels of suspense: The Hunting Party and The Guest List. She reminds me a lot of Ruth Ware, another great choice. And I just finished listening to a debut mystery by Christopher Huang–A Gentleman’s Murder. Beautifully written. Just be safe! My problem is, sometimes I get so into a book that I forget I’m navigating and just follow the car in front of me. Once I ended up in downtown Chicago instead of I-90 to Ohio.


I have listened to short stories and an occasional podcast while on long trips in the car. But that’s a different experience than listening to a book instead of reading. The first and only audiobook I attempted, a mystery written by Karin Slaughter, alternated chapters between the protagonist and the serial killer and I couldn’t tolerate having the voice of that creepy serial killer whispering in my ears. I stopped listening and I haven’t attempted another book. I am planning to try again with something not so creepy so I’m reading everyone’s comments looking for something I’d enjoy.


I only listen to audiobooks when I’m working out, so it’s a very rare occurrence. If I’m sitting still–even driving–they put me to sleep like listening to a bedtime story. But I did recently listen to one that totally blew me away. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has been my absolute favorite since the books were first published, and that was more than twenty years ago. I waited eagerly every year for the next book in the series to come out. You may have seen the recent Amazon Prime Video show based on the first book, and it created such nostalgia for me that I wanted to go back and reread the whole series–a daunting task. Then I had some vision problems crop up and I couldn’t read much. I checked out the audiobook situation and saw a new version of the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, narrated by Rosamund Pike, who stars in the Amazon Prime Video series. I got it, and she was amazing. Not to cast aspersions on the earlier versions narrated by other people, but she was astonishing, as she has been in other audiobooks I’ve heard her do. So, it’s not a mystery novel or mystery series, but The Wheel of Time is a great story, and the audiobook is a great intro to it. I’ve also listened to Michael Connolly audiobooks–not the Bosch ones which are too good to risk missing a single word–but those centered around some of his other characters. But honestly, when my eyes aren’t acting up, I start listening, get into the story, and end up buying the book to read the old-fashioned way.


Sharon, I do the same thing. If I really love a book I’ve heard on Audible, I buy it.


You should definitely listen to Thomas Cahill’s wonderful How the Irish Saved Civilization in honor of St Patrick’s Day and in light of where your series is set. It’s delightful and the narration is terrific.


I rarely listen to audiobooks. Ironically, I enjoy them when I do listen, but it’s typically on long car trips when I am alone and I haven’t had any of those recently. Years ago, when I drove to California I listened to War and Peace, and it was exactly the length of the trip! That said, I have listened to a few more recently while doing yard work, including The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It was beautifully narrated.

Your turn:

What audiobooks and podcasts do you suggest I listen to while traveling? Share here or on social media: Facebook or Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *