Five Must-Listen Nonfiction Audiobooks

Posted 16 November, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook / 25 Comments

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Nonfiction November 2015

Yay! Another week of Nonfiction! This week Becca asks us about Nontraditional Nonfiction. It’s no secret that I prefer to listen to nonfiction rather than to read it in print. Of course there’s always exceptions to this rule, but I find I focus on nonfiction better on audio than even fiction books on audio. Whenever someone mentions they don’t love nonfiction or are having a tough time listening to audiobooks, I recommend pairing the two together.

Five Must-Listen Nonfiction Audiobooks


yes please audio

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – Celeb memoirs are one of my favorite types of nonfiction to listen to–even in the case of Poehler’s where I’m only moderately familiar with her work. Out of all the ones I’ve listened to (Fey, Kaling, Mandvi are some of my favorites), Poehler’s Yes Please was the one I felt I could relate to the most. While she did blab on about show business quite a bit, she also shared a lot about womanhood and motherhood. She’s not a born narrator, but listening to her book felt like I was sitting listening to someone very real. She is laugh out loud funny and there are several moments that made listening rather than reading well worth it (her conversations with Seth Meyers were great).


At Home Audio

At Home by Bill Bryson – The only thing that makes me sad about a Bill Bryson audiobook is when Bill Bryson doesn’t narrate the book himself! At Home is a brief history of every room in the house and the things that fill up those rooms. It’s fascinating, to say the least, but the way that Bryson delivers this wealth of information is the icing on the cake. His humor can be wry and a bit sarcastic, but he has a way of drawing readers in with his voice. While by the end of the book you might not remember every detail, you’ll have very much enjoyed the journey!


Unbroken Audiobook

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (narrated by Edward Herrmann)Unbroken is an incredible story–one that most of you are now familiar with thanks to the movie, but it’s a fantastic audiobook. In fact, I’ve listened to it twice and forced it upon my husband and his father. I do have the paper copy but only referenced it for the pictures included. Herrmann (also known as Rory’s Grandpa on Gilmore Girls) is the perfect narrator and has perfect command of his audience while reading Unbroken. There were times when I had to pull over while listening to Unbroken because not only was the content emotional but so was Herrmann’s delivery.



Freakanomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven LevittFreakanomics was one of the very first audiobooks that I listened to and it was one of those experiences that made me realize that listening to nonfiction was a fantastic way to go. I’m not sure if any of the information is outdated at this point (though I believe there’s a podcast?), but it made my 45 minute commute in the mornings and evenings an absolute breeze and there were times when I’d get home and sit in the driveway just to finish my chapter! Definitely a great starting point if you’re new to audiobook listening!


bad feminist

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (narrated by Bahni Turpin)Bad Feminist is a number of essays on race, social status, gender, politics, Sweet Valley High by author Roxane Gay and the narration by Bahni Turpin is spot on! While I could have done with highlighting ability while reading Bad Feminist, I loved the way that Turpin’s inflection really brought life to Gay’s essays–her inflection was serious one moment and lighthearted the other. At times she sounded exasperated, at times defeated, at times downright pissed off–all of which helped to really drive home the points in the essays. She made me laugh and then she would make me sit up and pause. A lot of this could have been gleaned from the book, but hearing made this experience one that I’ll remember.


Do you enjoy nonfiction books on audio? What are some of your absolute favorite nonfiction listens? 


25 Responses to “Five Must-Listen Nonfiction Audiobooks”

    • I often have the same problem, Sarah–and I think it does get better with more listening. But this is why I tend to do better with nonfiction–if I zone out for a bit, I don’t miss major plot details. LOL!

  1. Andrea ( aka rokinrev) Stoeckel

    Edward Hermann, boy do I miss that man! Hermann and his wife ( talk about demanding) were frequent visitors to a bookshop in Eastern NY where I was working at the time. He said he got into doing audio books because his wife was adamently “hooked” on them. He will be greatly missed.

    I realky don’t do audio anymore. However, when I had a major commute they were my constant companion. I got really picky early on: either abridged and read by the author, or unabridged. Period! My three favs are: Alice Walker’s Posessing the Secret of Joy ( read by Walker), Erica Jong’s Any Women’s Blues and Armistad Maupin’s Night Listener. I never got into non fiction audio.

  2. I like to do non-fiction on audio, though looking back I have only finished a few of the ones I’ve started. I’m still figuring out my taste in non-fiction, since I read very little of it. One of my favorites to listen to was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

  3. I also love listening to nonfiction on audio . . . and at double speed too. (Sometimes I think people have a hard time with audio because they can read so much faster, so they have a hard time staying focused on the slower speed. I think speeding up the audio solves that problem.) I just listened to a truly excellent nonfiction book called Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Have you read it?

  4. Looks like a lot of you ‘read’ nonfiction on audiobooks. I just can’t do it. I can barely do fiction that way. I guess I”m just a more visual learner!

    • I really think that audiobook listening is learned. I struggled and struggled with it for a long time, but with the long commute that I had at the time I just kept at it. I still find myself tuning out the audiobook on some days…but nonfiction is easier for me to listen to than fiction!

      • You know, strangely enough, I have no trouble with podcasts. Occasionally I lose track but they seem to be much easier for me to follow. I wonder if it is because they are scripted for ‘listeners’ in mind?

  5. I wrote practically the same thing about audiobooks and nonfiction reading. I am most excited about the fact that I haven’t listened to any of your 5 suggestions. I can’t wait to try them!

  6. The only one of these I’ve listened to (or read, for that matter) is Yes Please, and yes, the conversations between Amy Pohler and Seth Meyers were the best!

    • You have me curious now–was there like a transcript in the book between them? It felt so conversational in the audio! I DID have to browse a copy of this one at the bookstore, though, just to make sure I saw the awesome pictures she included. The downfall to audio. :)

      • I’m not sure, I listened to the audio. (I just meant that I haven’t read or listened to anything else on the list.) I got the impression that some of the more conversational parts of the audio were bonus, not included in the book at all, though I guess I could be wrong on that.

  7. The only type of nonfiction I can listen to are conversational memoirs like Bossypants. Anything related to history or research or factual information and I have to have it in writing. I have an audio copy of Amy Poehler and I am looking forward to listening to that whenever I find motivation to start listening to audio books again. It won’t be this year, I’m afraid.

  8. Good choices Trish– I’ve read 4 of them. 2 on audio and 2 in print. I should check out ‘Bad Feminist” I guess. I had to ‘learn’ to love audio too, but now I love it.

  9. Great list. Not all of them are for me (I used to read the Freakonomics blog, but I’m not sure I want a whole book), but I’ve loved some (Bryson) and really want to read others (Poehler).

  10. I think Bad Feminist would be a great way to pair nonfiction and audio that would help me pay attention. I will give the comedy pairing a try, too. Thanks for the ideas!

  11. I still can’t get into audiobooks. I think it’s because my day job involves transcription, so I’m listening to somebody talk all day long, and the thought of more of that after I’m done with my workday is kind of exhausting! I know most people who love them tend to have long commutes, and since I work from home, I’m still more of a traditional book (or ebook) gal. I keep trying to push them on my husband, though, since he LOVES talk radio, and I think he might really get into the nonfiction selections. :)

  12. I’ve read all five of these on audio and completely agree with your choices! I don’t know why, but I love nonfiction on audio so much too. It just seems like the best way to read them.

  13. Trish, I LOVE listening to audiobooks during my longer runs, especially on the weekend. It did take some practice, in terms of staying focused on what I was hearing, but I’ve really come to enjoy listening and I look forward to the opportunity now. I’ve had some really crappy runs in tough weather conditions that have been made much better by a good book! Yes Please is definitely a favorite; I hate to admit that I’ve never read/listened to any Bill Bryson, but he’s going on my list immediately! Thanks so much for the suggestions!