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The Best Audiobooks for Long Journeys

Thursday 21 July 2016

I don't want to brag, but I take a lot of long journeys by bus. Oh, they're super sexy. Sometimes the air conditioning is broken, and your passengers collectively smell like the juice that dribbles out of a bin bag. Sometimes the cold air is on full blast, even though the windows are shrouded in ice. Sometimes, and this really is the worst, someone sits down next to you.


Now, if you're anything like me, you won't be able to read on long journeys. Or any journey, really. I've done it on rare occasions, but it usually ends in tears.

Long flights also call for a lengthy distraction. Sometimes you don't want to watch a movie (or the airline doesn't have in seat entertainment - I'm looking at YOU, American Airlines). Sometimes you don't want to sleep (or can't) and you just need to make sure the guy sitting next to you doesn't tell you about the restraining order that's just been placed on him.

So if you want to be entertained, while simultaneously blocking out the godawful passengers around you, then an audiobook is your best bet. They also have the added bonus of making you feel like someone is reading to you as you snuggle up - for the best effect here, you need the voice of Stephen Fry. He once read to me as I spent a New Year's Eve in bed with horrendous food poisoning.

The rules of a good audiobook are a little different to a regular read - I usually stick to non-fiction, as I find them easier to dip in and out of. I find fiction a little trickier to focus on when I'm not physically reading the words, for some reason.

I've selected a few of my firm favourites - some of which I've listened to multiple times, and have become a long journey comfort blanket of sorts.

If you've any to add to the list, leave them in the comments below!

Bossypants by Tina Fey  

I'll start with the most comforting blanket of all. Were this my actual blanket, it would be dog-eared, full of holes and smell like Fairy fabric softener. I've listened to this book so many times over the last few years, and never tire of it. I particularly love the section about her time as Sarah Palin on SNL, which includes the audio of the first Palin sketch with Amy Poehler. This period of time also coincided with her kid's birthday party and Oprah's cameo on 30 Rock, giving us one of my favourite lines...

Memorable Line: "By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your fucking life."

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Really, this section could just be "Literally Anything by Bill Bryson". We'll call this one a tie with Bossypants as my go-to long journey comfort read. I've been reading Bryson books since I was a teen, and still love them with as much fervour to this day. A Walk in the Woods is the tale of Bill's trek along the Appalachian Trail, most of which is taken with his old friend Katz. And, you know, any journey you're on doesn't seem half as long when compared to a scrambling trek through dense, deep forest. Even one on Bus Eireann.

Memorable Lines: "What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties — I daresay it would even give a merry toot — and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.”

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Listening to this book is like listening to a great friend babble at you, with no pressure to babble back. Kaling talks about her time on The Office, the time she played Ben Affleck (in the play she wrote with her best friend), and about how she's made her way in a notoriously tricky (and male-dominated) industry. Oh, and she has a killer anecdote about sample sizes and a shit-smeared wall.

Memorable Lines: “I don’t think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are “bad with names.” No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition; it’s a choice. You choose not to make learning people’s names a priority. It’s like saying, “Hey, a disclaimer about me: I’m rude.”

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by BJ Novak

OK, I'm breaking my 'No Fiction' rule here. But this collection of short stories is perfect fodder for a long journey - little vignettes of comedy gold (with a hefty dose of heart, too). It's no memoir, so alas, there are no snippets of Mindy Kaling gossip (though she does read one of the tales). 

Memorable Lines: "If you love something, let it go. If you don't love something, definitely let it go. Basically, just drop everything, who cares." 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

God, was I looking forward to this book coming out. Who doesn't love Amy Poehler? I would bareknuckle fight with anyone who claims they don't. There are some grade A stories, tales of SNL and UCB, a chapter written and read by Seth Meyers, and the story of how Jon Hamm broke the ice after her doctor died days before she gave birth...

Memorable Lines: "Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years."

If you're new to the world of audiobooks, sign up with Audible and you'll get one for free. You're technically signing up to a subscription, which gives you one book a month but, uh, small tip - if you cancel before the free trial is up, they usually offer you a three month subscription at a reduced price. 


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