favorite audio books– filling your head and heart

A few years ago I bought Mary her first audio book– eight unwieldy CDs of Little House on the Prairie, three chapters or so on each disk. Every time Mary felt overwhelmed with the world she retreated to her room, dressed her dolls, combed their hair and listened to the adventures of Laura and Mary.

At one point she confessed she’d listened to the book more than twenty times. “It’s OK,” I told her, “that’s a good book to fill your head and heart with.”

For me, audio books are a little different than traditional paperbound copies. If I’m going to buy them (and these days I use audible.com) I require books we can listen to over and over. ie. I bought Mary The Secret Garden on audible but she can check out the American Girl books at the library. We are rereaders at our house. In fact, if I haven’t read a book twice you know I don’t really like it. I’m generally careful about what I read, but when I’m putting headphones in my ears, I’m especially mindful.

Fantastic narration also makes audio books worth a listen. Jim Dale revitalized the entire audio industry with his masterful recordings of the Harry Potter books where every character has a distinct voice (still only available on disks). I’ve been known to search favorite narrators when looking for a new books because I know they’ll bring the story to life.

Initially, my boys scoffed at audio books, “It’s cheating!” But eventually they were swayed. Audio is perfect for long car drives, projects in the yard or for me– long walks, cleaning the house, working in Photoshop and putting me to sleep when I’m stressed. Audio books offer the benefits of increasing critical listening skills, highlighting humor and enjoying a story in a gorgeous English accent (I like the Aussies too). For me, a little girl who read way too much, I’m finally learning how to articulate words I’ve been mispronouncing all my life.

I especially love audio books that make me see old favorites in a new light. Jane Austen is brilliant, but I think we can all agree Northanger Abbey is pretty weak until you hear the Juliet Stevenson narration. Juliet transforms a simple “oh!” into a multi-syllabic expression which makes you laugh out loud. After finding her narration, I bought all her narrated classics– a bargain at $2.95 each.

Enough of Austen, we’ve made you a list of our favorites:

FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY ie. road trips (I’m only listing the narrator for books which have several versions)

The Hobbit narrated by Rob Ingliss– really, you haven’t read the Hobbit until you’ve heard this version.

Harry Potter series

Peace Like a River— I love this book more than I can possibly express and the audio version is exquisite.

The Penderwicks

The Narnia Series

Little Women narrated by Justine Eyre– once I was in a class where the instructor asked us to name the greatest adult influence in our lives besides parents. With an absence of grandparents, aunts, uncles and even neighbors, I immediately thought, “Marmee!”(C.S. Lewis entered my life a bit later) I’ve read Little Women more times than I can count, but this version made it new.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrated by Anne Hathaway. You’ll want to give Miss Hathaway another Oscar for this narration.


Unbroken a must-read, a must listen. I’m pretty extremely prudish about swearing, but it’s worth cringing through a few moments in this book.

Into the Kingdom of Ice Why isn’t everyone buzzing about this fantastic book? They should be.

Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation

The Boys in the Boat

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (Volumes 1-3) Ok, I don’t expect anyone besides me to love this one, but I heart Winston.

FICTION (kind of in order)

Les Miserables translated by Julie Rose and narrated by George Guidall (and it’s 60+ hours, so it’s a good deal)

The Secret Keeper, The Lake House, The Distant Hours, The House at Riverton and EVERYTHING by Kate Morton my favorite Aussie writer who weaves history into her multi-generational mysteries. I could listen to narrator Caroline Lee all day long.

Maisie Dobbs series I’ll always have great affection to Maisie Dobbs for easing me through heartache. If you know anyone who’s mourning or just anyone who like smart, historical mysteries, listen to any one of Jacqueline Winspear’s books in this brilliant series.

The Nightingale I was so in love with this WWII novel about women in the French resistance I wanted to read every one of Kristin Hannah’s books. Ugh, don’t bother with the others. Happily, audible.com lets you return books you don’t like.

Secrets of a Charmed Life another WWII novel I absolutely adored.

The Robe by Lloyd Douglas such a good way to fill your head and heart.

Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson after Hans described these as “the best books I’ve ever read besides the scriptures” I had to read them.

Paris by Edmund Rutherford Warning! You’ll desperately want a trip to Paris after reading this book. I also love New York but I’m not a fan of his other novels. Again, that lovely return button.

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc Mark Twain named this the best of his books. It has been one of my favorites since my early twenties, but the audio version knows how to pronounce all those lovely French names and phrases and places.

What Alice Forgot I love all Liane Moriarty’s books, but I especially adore this one about a woman who loses 10 years of memory and doesn’t like the person she’s become.


Yet another reason to love the classics– most can be purchased for $2.99 on audible.com. You won’t see the price until you click on the book, so go searching. You have to buy the Kindle edition first, but since those are free or .99 I don’t mind doing that (even though I don’t have a Kindle). Every once in a while I just find three or four– the entire Sherlock Holmes Collection for $2.99, everything from Austen, Wharton, Gaskell, Dickens… Honestly, I think Dicken’s was made for audio. All those characters, all those accents. Children’s classics too– Treasure Island, The Once and Future King, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess

I want to try some old favorites, but not quite classics, on audio, such as The Hiding Place. But I’ve found I don’t like non-fiction narrated– history yes, but not the scriptures or C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction or books like The Tipping Point.

And yes, I sound like audible.com sponsored this post, which they didn’t. We do check out audio books from the library but all those CDs and due dates are such a bother compared to my sleek audible app.

I’d love to know your favorites. How are you filling your heart and mind?

October 25, 2015
November 5, 2015



  1. Emily B

    October 29, 2015

    Hi Michelle, I am so pleased to have this list, thank you. A couple of years ago when I was researching for a lesson or talk I kept finding references to a book called “the power of truth” by William George Jordan. The references were all from conference talks, I finally decided to look up the book and author. William George Jordan has become a favorite in our home. Beautiful writing packed full of truth worthy enough to be read and referenced by many church leaders. Just listen to these titles: The Majesty of Calmness, The Kindgship of Self-Control, The Crown of Individuality. Great, right? Anyway, worth checking out if you are interested.

  2. angie

    October 30, 2015

    I love Winston too! And Ever since I read ‘The Last Lion’.

  3. Andrea

    October 30, 2015

    I have an Audible account and I have a series that I loved listening to. Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey detective stories. I only listen to the ones narrated by Ian Carmichael because he is Lord Peter Wimsey if you listen to any British Radio. I also listened to another old British Radio series called Paul Temple. He and his wife Tuppence are upper class detectives. Very old fashioned but no swearing and no guts and gore. I think they were on the radio in the 50’s.

    Oh yes, must not forget P.G.Wodehouse. Bertie Wooster is another well loved character. All detective stories but very child friendly.

  4. Jill Shelley

    October 30, 2015

    My very favorite audios lately are Conversations on the Mormon Channel. Each is about an hour long and it’s an informal interview with GAs and their wives, or LDS people with a “unique perspective.” I’ve learned so much about what brought these people where they are now. I had to re listen to several trying to figure out…did they really say that? Did Julie Beck really require her daughters to practice piano 3 hours a day? Yep she did. I also learned how she grew up hearing her mother say, ““Never let the hardness of a task keep you from doing it because that is how we grow.” So far there are 56 interviews. I’m surprised how much inspiration I have gained from them so far. I try to limit myself to one a day.

  5. Emi

    October 30, 2015

    Just what I’ve been searching for… and of course, out of the blue Michelle provides the answer! Thank you. I just listened to “The Rent Collector”… amazing! It is one I would love to “reread” over and over again.

  6. Gabriela Hull

    October 31, 2015

    Where do I begin?! Your blog has inspired me to be a better person! Thank you for sharing your family with us.

    I’ve never commented on your blog before but feel I need to so I can let you know that you can buy the Harry Potter audio mp3s on Pottermore.com! We love listening to Jim Dale and it’s been great having them on our iPod.

    I look forward to listening to the books on your list. Thank you for the inspiration!

  7. Collette

    November 1, 2015

    Thank you so much for this list! I’ve finally succumbed to audio books. I still always have one or two, sometimes three, actual books if I’m reading a non-fiction along with my personal book and one to read to the kids. I started my audio books with Jane Austen because it was easier for me to have the story read to me instead of trying to translate Brit-talk in my head. I loved how I could be so involved in the story that I listened to that whatever I was doing was no longer a chore. So, to have this list is so exciting! You seem like you have fantastic book taste, plus you are Ruth’s sister and I don’ think she has failed me yet, so I love the recommendations. Now I can go add a bunch to my Goodreads lists and see what the library has. (Are you on Goodreads, by chance?)

  8. Heather arnita

    November 1, 2015

    We are audio books lovers over here as well! I have one late bloomer reader and a child with dyslexia so audio books have been a must.

    Have you listened to the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place? The narrator is so great and the books are so fun. Some of my kids other favorites – The Willoubys, The Ramona series – love love love Stockard Channing as narrator, the boxcar children (although the narrator drives me crazy), The Broxton Brothers Detective series, Redwall, Snicker of Magic, Savvy, all the Rock Riordan books, Everything on a Waffle, and many more I can’t think of now.

    I also second classic books – my kids will listen to a lot of classics that they refuse to read for some reason.

  9. Shara

    November 1, 2015

    Our library (and many libraries in Utah and I’m sure other places) participates in an online service that allows downloading of Kindle books and audio books. My husband loves to download books for his commute. You can check at your local library to see if they participate. It’s called Pioneer or Overdrive. The librarians can help you get started. It’s way better than due dates and CDs that’s for sure!

  10. Karen

    November 1, 2015

    I really enjoyed Alan Rickman’s narration—performance, really—of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. He gave each character not only their own voice, but also the accent or dialect appropriate to their station in life. The first chapter or so is pure description of the wild, craggy bit of English countryside where the story takes place, without any human action, and yet it’s riveting and beautiful.
    But my number one all-time favorite is Frank McCourt reading his first memoir, Angela’s Ashes. It’s a long book, and the unabridged recording takes many hours, but even so, my husband and I wished there was more when it ended. We still quote from that book all the time, some 20 years later. It is a magnificent work of literature, all the more powerful for being a true story.

  11. catania

    November 4, 2015

    Thank you for this post!

    I love reading, but have been reluctant to listen to audiobooks. For a long time, when I thought of audiobooks, I thought of my mom listening to the scriptures, and I’ve never really liked the scriptures read aloud like that.

    Lately, however, I’ve been listening to podcasts – usually about health and such. Listening to a podcast is the perfect thing to do while quilting!!! I’ve learned so much through listening to podcasts. My favorites are The Model Health Show, The Paleo Solution, Philosophize This!…and of course Serial and the Undisclosed Podacst. (Those last two feel a little bit more like a guilty pleasure).

    Now, I’m starting to come around to the idea of listening to audiobooks…

    Oh – and I’m just finishing reading The Secret Garden with my daughter. I loved that book as a child, but it’s amazing how much more I love it now. I can’t wait to listen to this book…while quilting…what a dream!!!

  12. Mandy Cheney

    November 9, 2015

    Thanks for your post! I love books in any form and am thankful for new suggestions. You’re blog is very inspiring. I think you have a beautiful and wonderful family. Much love to all of you.

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