Ten Awesome Nonfiction Audiobooks

Posted 13 September, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook / 17 Comments

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Ten Awesome Nonfiction Audiobooks


Want to hear a secret? I love listening to nonfiction on audio. It’s my favorite way to digest the genre. The other part of this secret is that I prefer listening to nonfiction than fiction books on audio.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (from The Broke and the Bookish) is Top Ten All Time Favorite Books of X Genre. Gah it’s so tough to break down favorites, isn’t it? I’ve shared some of my favorite reads from the past five-ish years, so I didn’t want to focus on fiction books. I’ve also shared some great gateway nonfiction reads, gateway graphic novels, gateway audiobooks. Hmmm–for someone who doesn’t like to name favorites, maybe I need to do a round-up post with all my Best Of lists I’ve created over the years.

Whenever someone says they aren’t fans of audiobooks, I always recommend listening to nonfiction rather than trying to digest fiction. I have a tendency to tune out audiobooks on occasion and I find that nonfiction is much more forgiving than fiction. There aren’t large sweeping plot points to miss and I generally don’t have to keep up with quite so many characters. My only regret with listening to nonfiction rather than reading it is the inability to highlight and mark passages easily!

It was hard to choose favorites but these are two books you won’t regret choosing audio over paper.

Ten Awesome Nonfiction Audiobooks

Awesome Nonfiction Audiobooks

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (narrated by Edward Herrmann) – Maybe you’ve read this one, maybe you just saw the movie, or maybe you’re only familiar of the story of Louis Zamperini’s remarkable experiences during WWII as a Japanese prisoner of war. Even if you’ve read it, listen to the audio. Herrmann’s narration is incredibly emotional and affecting. More of my thoughts on Unbroken.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – Or as I like to call it: Yes, Please!! I listened to Poehler’s memoir before I was familiar with Park and Recreation (which I now love!) and without having seen too many of her skits on Saturday Night Live, but I adored her thoughts on being a woman, a mother, a person. Not only is she funny, but she’s also relateable. More of my thoughts on Yes Please.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson – You can’t go wrong with any Bill Bryson on audio, though I definitely enjoy when Bryson narrates his own stories. His humor is dry and sometimes a little haughty, but there’s always something so pleasing about taking a journey with Bryson. We enjoyed taking a trip to Australia via In a Sunburned Country and learned so much about this strange and wonderful place down under. More of my thoughts on In a Sunburned Country.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – So many of these audiobook choices are narrated by the authors and sometimes that can backfire in a bad way (I’ll never forgive Donna Tartt for narrating The Secret History herself), but Bourdain knows how to tell a story and I loved listening to his gossipy tales from the New York kitchens where he first made his mark. Note: never order the Monday special! More of my thoughts on Kitchen Confidential.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – After the hardcover sat on our bookshelf for years and years, I finally opted for the audiobook version of The Happiness Project. I loved listening to Rubin talk about her different projects and felt I could relate to her on so many different levels. I’m glad I opted for the audio rather than paper (but was grateful to have the paper to refer to). I looked for excuses all over for extra time to listen.


Awesome Nonfiction Audiobooks

No Land’s Man by Aasif Mandvi – I jumped into No Land’s Man purely based on recommendation as I had only vaguely heard of Aasif Mandvi prior to picking up the book. I so enjoyed this short little memoir about Mandvi trying to fit in while still feeling the outsider in all of the places he’s lived. There were several funny moments, and Mandvi is great at self-deprecating humor, but there was also a lot of heart as well. More of my thoughts on No Land’s Man.

Quiet by Susan Cain (narrated by Kathe Mazur) – While I’m not sure I always agreed 100% with what Susan Cain discussed regarding Introverts in her book Quiet, I found so many aspects so fascinating. The more I understand about introversion, I feel I understand more about myself. I fear that if I had read Quiet, though, rather than listened, I probably would have fizzled out and not have gotten through the book quite as easily. More of my thoughts on Quiet.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen (narrated by Scott Brick) – Corn corn corn. Michael Pollen changed the way that I look at ingredients in food with his discussion of corn in it’s prevalence in our food industry in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Sure some of the listening was a bit uncomfortable but it was entirely eye-opening and I’ve been collecting Pollen’s books ever since. Plus Scott Brick is an ace narrator. More of my thoughts on The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Stiff by Mary Roach (narrated by Shelly Frasier) – Ahem, not to follow up food with dead bodies, but I had to include Mary Roach on this list somehow. While I’ve also read Gulp (about digestion) and Packing for Mars (about space), Stiff is still my favorite by her. Who knew cadavers could be so interesting! More of my thoughts on Stiff.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (narrated by Cassandra Campbell) – I really should mention Bahni Turpin as well as she co-narrates as Henrietta Lacks’s daughter in the book and does such a fantastic job bringing the story to life (she’s also great in The Help and Bad Feminist). The story of HeLa cells is fascinating and thought-provoking, but it’s also hard to remember that there was a woman behind all of the science. I’ve listened to this audiobook twice and would do it again. More of my thoughts on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Are you a nonfiction audiobook junkie like I am? What are some of your favorites? Any of these sound appealing?



17 Responses to “Ten Awesome Nonfiction Audiobooks”

  1. Jenny

    I never thought of this before. I’m not a huge audiobook fan but trying a nonfiction (which I’m not a big fan either) might be just the perfect match.

  2. I’m an audiobook addict and love listening to both fiction and nonfiction. From your list, the only books I’ve listened to were Unbroken and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I enjoyed Unbroken, but didn’t really care for The Immortal Life. Could have been a timing issue. I’m listening to The Boys in the Boat right now and while I’m enjoying it, my mind tends to wander and before I know it, I’ve missed a chunk of the narrative thanks to zoning out. Wonder if it’s due to Edward Herrmann’s soothing voice. Anyhow, I’d like to try the Happiness Project someday. I’ve been eyeing the book ever since it first appeared.

    Looking back through my lists, my favorite audios tend to be mysteries/thrillers and historical fiction. I recently listened to Jodi Picoult’s novel The Storyteller and thought it was fabulous. Leaving Time (also by Picoult) was very good, too.

  3. Lighter nonfiction is the genre that finally got audio working for me and it’s still the only thing I listen to on audio – I agree with your tip for new listeners not to start with fiction!

    From your list, I’ve listened to Yes Please and Stiff and really enjoyed both. My 2 favorite audiobooks in this genre lately have been Tiny Beautiful Things and Originals by Adam Grant. I’m also listening to Padma Lakshmi’s memoir right now and really enjoying it.

    • I almost chose plain jane nonfiction or memoirs just so I could include Tiny Beautiful Things. I should pick up the audio for when I’m in between books. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying Lakshmi’s memoir-I don’t know much about her but keep hearing good things. You might like No Land’s Man by Mandvi.

  4. I found nonfiction audio a natural way to begin audiobooks. It’s like turning on CBC radio (or NPR in the states) and landing in the middle of a story. You still get something out of what you listen to. I too tend to zone in and out and some fiction are much harder. Some are very good, and it is a matter of finding the type of story or narrator that works for you.

    What a list! Quiet, Stiff, Henrientta Lacks (I read the paper book of this one) and Yes Please are all wonderful books, and the audio is fabulous. Actually, nearly any author narrated audio, especially the memoirs, is good. I would add Mindy Kaling, Wil Wheaton, and Martin Short’s books to your list. Also Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance is a great audio book.

    As I was looking over my nonfiction books to see which ones I’ve liked on audio, I found a Rent memoir by Anthony Rapp. (wasn’t on audio) Were you aware of this book?

  5. Kay

    I like to listen to nonfiction too. In fact, I rarely read non-fiction at all. But…I find that I do better listening to it. I’ve not listened to any of the ones on your list, though I know about all of them and own many of them in my audiobook library. I really have to be in the mood. I will say that I really enjoyed BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande and also AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes, both in the last couple of years. When people say they can’t do audio, I always try to tell them that it takes a bit of practice and suggesting trying non-fic is a good idea as well.

  6. I don’t tend to read non-fiction Trish but think I’d enjoy an audiobook because it’s like listening to an extended podcast I guess. And… if the author’s narrating it then it’d be even better!

  7. Kim

    Yes to this list! I loved Unbroken. Yes, Please and Kitchen Confidential were really entertaining. I LOVE Bill Bryson and especially on audio. I read The Happiness Project, Omnivore Dilemma, and Quiet and enjoyed both of them.

  8. I love Stiff and The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks. Mary Roach has a way of making science fun, but I think Stiff is my favorite book by her as well. And Immortal Life made me think about a lot of things, especially since I work in healthcare.

  9. I’m a fan of several of the books on your list (Yes, Please! and Quiet especially), but I didn’t listen to them. Some memoirs I’ve enjoyed listening to are Kate Mulgrew’s Born with Teeth, Rainn Wilson’s Bassoon King, Jewel’s Never Broken, and both of Rob Lowe’s memoirs. I will listen to ANY kind of book, but I definitely “stretch” further outside my comfort zone in choosing audiobooks.

  10. So many good choices here! I’d also like to add Where Men Win Glory and Missoula both by Jon Krakauer, Troublemaker by Leah Remini, both of Rob Lowe’s memoirs, and Tina Fey’s memoir.

  11. I’m a big fan of listening to nonfiction too! Also, prefer it over fiction. These are some great choices. I’ve only listened to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks from this list. Looks like my TBR is going to get tons of new additions now. Jon Krakauer is my favorite nonfiction author – I love all his books (listened to all of them). Also love funny memoirs, especially Nora Ephron’s.

  12. I’ve never listened to non-fiction, partly because most of my audiobooks are from my library book sale on CD and I’ll be damned if I can figure out where they’ve hidden the non-fiction! I guess I’d always thought that I would miss something important that I needed to learn and if I missed it I would fall behind in understanding the book – you know, like math. But you make a lot of sense!

  13. And now I’m headed over to see if I can get my library account set back up again and then I can get audio that way and do nonfiction! Yea you for the push!