Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time on a long drive or to make your commute a little more entertaining, but not every book is the best choice for every road trip. Whether you are out exploring with family, friends, or a caravan of adventure-seeking souls, carefully consider which books to load on your listening device. For example, each of the books below are fun and thought provoking stories worthy of the time spent reading them, but they might not make a great road trip audio fodder. Instead of listening to these with your kids, or sensitive friends and family, plug in your headphones and enjoy the thrill of hearing a good book alone. Maybe grab some jazzy soundtracks to sing along with on your trip with Grandma; that’s usually a safe bet.
Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades Trilogy #1), by E L James
While this is probably an obvious no-go for a trip with kids, also consider the adults in the car too. True story, my husband and I tried to listen to this while driving across the country…and we just couldn’t. We felt at turns silly, awkward, and extremely interested in the world outside the car. The book is a fun read, and the audio is super entertaining for a solo listener, but it might not be the group share you thought it was.
Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer, Ilyana Kadushin, and Matt Walters
While the Twilight series is a fun supernatural YA read, it gets darker as it goes along, and fourth (and final) installment Breaking Dawn might be a little blush-worthy with the kids in the backseat. So, although we totally understand your desire to the the “cool” parent who is into all the books that the kids are reading these days, spare your tweens the urgent need to avoid eye contact with you for the next few hours and instead let them enjoy this book with their headphones on. Then you can listen to new Justin Timberlake single by yourself without their judging. Win-win!
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1), by George R. R. Martin and Roy Dotrice
The TV adaptation is of course insanely popular, so it makes sense that fans of the show might be interested in discovering the books it is based on during a long road trip. And if all of your passengers are already familiar with the sex, violence, and dragons involved, then go for it! But if not, maybe spare that one rider who isn’t into all things Stark from a group listening session. Alternatively, send your outlier friend the books beforehand so they can prepare, or listen to the soundtrack on the road to make the ride seem more epic (and then binge watch every episode on the hotel’s free HBO channel).
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman and George Guidall
At turns thought-provoking, funny, dark, and unexpected, this unique book is a great reflection of American culture. But (or because of this), there are also some rather graphic sex scenes and a fair amount of profanity. A group of tight-knit, like-minded buddies will probably enjoy listening to this on a funky, soul searching kind of road trip, but American Gods probably isn’t your best bet for a family jaunt to see the grandparents. For younger kids, and some impressionable teens, not all of the characters are great role models, and a lot of the philosophy may be little overwhelming.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
You might think that a book about soul-searching travel would be an amazing audiobook for a road trip. Well, if you’re on a solo excursion, definitely listen to this book; twice if you have the time. But since it depicts a struggle with depression and addiction, the passing of a beloved figure, and a bit of sex, this memoir might make an uncomfortable companion for a family trip. For a more all-ages appropriate chronicle of a long, life-changing walk, check out The Lord of the Rings (or A Walk in the Woods), and maybe save Wild for one of your own personal journeys.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume and Laura Hamilton
This a YA masterpiece, but it is one of those important, find-it-yourself kinds of YA; not one that you listen to with your parents. Judy Blume is the queen of books that every teenager should read (and that maybe parents of teenagers should reread along the way, too). The main character’s self exploration, the talk of bras and puberty, the general teenage-ness of it, just oozes awkward family listening. Instead of spending quality time trying not to look at each other in the car while listening, leave the book (or a download of the audio) for your budding teenager as a summer gift. Later in life your kids will thank you for sharing, and for not listening to it in the car with you this summer.
The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Series #1), by Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling, and Robert Glenister
Yes, this is the other fantastic J.K. Rowling series — but just because your family loved listening to the entire Harry Potter canon during your last road trip, does not mean that you should pick up the Cormoran Strike series next. Written as a classic crime thriller full of well-drawn characters and Britishisms, it involves is a fair amount of violence, profanity, sex, and discussions about all of the above. Like most of the other books mentioned here, a group of adult friends would probably enjoy trying to solve the murder of Lula Landry, but leave this one on the shelf when you head to Disneyland with the kids in the car.
Does your family have any favorite audiobooks for road trips?