Thursday, May 7, 2015

Audiobooks for the Family by Shaleen Kapil

When I begin driving cross-country, as I will be here in just over a week, I love to listen to audiobooks. It makes me eager to get back on the road. But I’ve also learned that the audiobooks force me to slow down my pace (I’m a fast reader, finishing an average size book in 4 hours), and that means that I remember the book for a much longer time.

But since having kids, I’ve had to rethink which books I choose to listen to in the car. I have an 8-year old son and a 6-year old daughter. Romances and mysteries seem inappropriate. I tried one that I thought was sweet and tame enough (while they watched a movie), but it still made me uncomfortable when my son stopped to listen.

Sure, sometimes we listen to kids stories like Geronimo Stilton and The Magic Tree House Series, but they are only an hour long, and I have to feign real interest. So, last year I spent some time thinking of choices the family might enjoy. My list is a little unusual, but here it is:

1. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper: Technically a YA book, but it is written with broader appeal. This is more like the grown-up language of the Hunger Games than the childish language of The Lightning Thief. Yet, I have several friends who have read this book aloud to their elementary-age child. The main character has cerebral palsy and a photographic memory. She is brilliant, yet she can’t do the things other children can do.

2. The Girl Who Chased the Mood by Sarah Addison Allen: Sarah Addison Allen always writes lighter, magical books, but this one really shines. Some of her books have darker undertones like murders, but this one is more secrets and less dead bodies under trees (like The Peach Keeper). A girl moves to a town and tries to find the answers to secrets about her family and the town.

3. Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed: A memoir from Strayed about hiking the PCT. This was made into a movie. She does talk about her mother’s death and her own divorce, but I think any questions wouldn’t be too embarrassing to answer.

4. Emma by Jane Austen: How can you be surprised that she landed on my list? Romance in the most gentlemanly way. Emma is safer than explaining why Kitty is in trouble in Pride & Prejudice.

5.The Alchemist by Michael Scott: Again, this is technically YA Fantasy, but it is fun for adults. It is another play on old myths and legends. Warning: there is a lot of violence but it is magical and against mythical creatures, so more like Harry Potter in that way. I fell into this series on accident when I was supposed to be reading The Alchemist by Cuelo (another safe read, but it is more philosophical than fun for a road trip).

What family-friendly suggestions do you have for me this year?

Shaleen is a writer, yoga-teacher, professor, and avid reader. She typically reads up to four or five books at one time. One self-help, one non-fiction (these days on urban planning), one fiction for upstairs, another for downstairs, and perhaps another on Kindle. Find out more at or Like her on Facebook.

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  1. Harry Potter? Love the voice of the man who reads it

  2. Thanks for these suggestions. I'm going to be taking a long road trip next month might have my granddaughter along, so these would interest her. I have to be careful what I listen to when I drive because I can be a danger to other drivers. Stupid dialogue or plot twists that make no sense make me yell at the cd player and not focus on driving.

  3. I listen to audiobooks sometimes and my hubby who is in the car a lot listens to them all the time. He gets through two or three a week. He has very eclectic taste and will listen to everything from romance, to mystery to literary classics. A few years ago when my son was younger and I used to drive him to school he loved to listen to audiobooks. One series we went through were the Alex Ryder books by Anthony Horowitz. Think James Bond for children. I looked forward to listening to them as much as my son did. I also read him aloud a lot of books until he was about 13. He has severe dyslexia and it frustrated him that the stories he was interested in were too difficult for him to read. I read him the Harry Potter series, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve, anything by Eoin Colfer, Keys to the Kingdom and the Lirael trilogy by Garth Nix, the Hobbit, the Darren Shan saga. Many others as well that I can't think of now. As you can tell my son likes fantasy. Any of these would work as talking books.

  4. Patricia, too funny!
    Helen, I'll look up the Alex Ryder books--sounds like something my son would like.

  5. I like the Murder She Wrote mystery series by Donald Bain and narrated by Cynthia Darlow. I've listened to two of them and have really enjoyed them. I also enjoyed Julie Hyzy's White House Chef Mystery, State of the onion, the first in the series. These are cozy mysteries and probably appropriate for children. If they can listen to WILD, then these are probably okay.

  6. I finally just saw the movie, Wild, and it was much wilder than the book seemed to be!

    Anyone read Dune? I haven't, but my son loves Star Wars, so I was wondering if appropriate...