Family Friendly Audio Books

Titles with wide appeal for many ages.

Every summer I get multiple reference questions about audio books for family road trips.  My first question is always, “What are the ages of everyone who will be in the car?”

This stems from a strong memory I have from my youth.  When I was in the 5th grade our family was going on a road trip that would result in 19 hours in a van.  My father bought the audio book The Firm by John Grisham on cassette.  It was a miserable trip for all involved.  My father was the only one who wanted to listen to the book and the rest of us complained so much even he didn’t get to enjoy it.  In my career this has led me to be very careful in my reference suggestions for family audio books.

Once I know the age ranges of the family looking for audio book suggestions I try to give them a lot of options (so voting can occur) and titles that I know will engage the imagination and interest of all the family members.  I start with titles that have been acknowledged on the Notable Children’s Recordings and the Odyssey Award web pages, which ensures that the recordings are of the highest quality and the narrating talent is excellent.  Some of my go to recommendations this summer have been:

  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson and narrated by Cherise Boothe- a great historical fiction and mystery hybrid that will keep listeners guessing until the very end.
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and narrated by Jayne Entwistle- A heart tugging tale of life in England during World War II . This is a satisfying title for readers who love an emotional story and those that enjoy historical fiction.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and narrated by David Hyde Pierce. This is a great way to introduce young readers to this classic fantasy.  The older listeners can enjoy visiting this imaginary world again and the younger listeners can enjoy it for the first time especially if they have a physical copy of the book with them since the illustrations by Jules Feiffer add so much to the story.
  • The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell and narrated by David Tennant. A great fantasy book narrated by the dreamy 10th Doctor of the popular Dr. Who series is sure to be a hit with the whole family.
  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming and narrated by Kimberly Farr and other voice actors. A great choice for a family that enjoys non-fiction with a dash of drama as long as everyone is 12 years old and up.

Road trips are a great opportunity for families to engage with each other and share a listening experience.  Offering quality audio books is a small service we can offer to help the trip go a little more smoothly.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: II. Reference and User Services and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.

Melissa Sokol is a Children’s Services Librarian for Dayton Metro Library.  She is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee.

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