These 8 Audio Books Are Better Than the Paperbacks

Updated 09/28/17

We’ve all had at least one page-turner we just couldn’t put down, and believe me, there’s nothing I love more than having my nose stuck in a book, completely enthralled by another world. But audio books have become my new obsession, and I love them equally but in a very different way. I certainly don’t suggest you buy the audio version of every book instead of reading it, but some books certainly lend themselves to being listened to, versus being read. Why? Well, just say you were looking for some spiritual awareness or you really wanted to ramp up your career; listening to a book (in my case repeatedly) on the topic of the thing you want to change or develop can make it happen by osmosis.

But perhaps my biggest indulgence is listening to books that have been written by someone I admire and narrated by them too. Let’s just say having Patti Smith read her book to you is just about the greatest thing ever—really. Scroll down for the top audio books you should tune into now.

The Life Changer

Just Kids by Patti Smith $22
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I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids before I heard there was an audio version. The moment I discovered that she also narrated it, I immediately hit “download.” Even if you’re not a fan of the book, having one of the greatest female poets and rock icons read prose to you is a kind of bliss. This is a tragic yet beautiful love story of Smith’s relationship with photographer Robert Maplethorpe before they were famous, just two young, bohemian lovers in New York. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry too, but most of all it will make you feel something, and that something is good.

The Confidence Booster

Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson
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Kate Hudson is a woman we all want to emulate (including her Almost Famous character, Penny Lane.) She’s gorgeous, has Goldie Hawn for a mom (so very cool), is super talented and funny, and emits a certain realness that seems rare in Hollywood. Having just launched her Fabletics activewear brand, Hudson is on a mission to inspire women to understand their bodies and feel happy from within. In this book, she shares her own daily routines and breaks down the steps you need to take in order to lead a healthy, vibrant, and happy life.

She takes the common interview questions beyond sound bites into actual lessons and key takeaways you can implement into your own life, all in her own words—I mean voice. If you’re a fan, then this book is a must-listen.

The Game Changer

The Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert $20
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If you’re looking for inspiration and empowerment, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. The New York Times best-selling author has significantly changed thousands of people’s lives through nurturing their inner creative desires and helping to make them a reality. If you’re a fan of her podcast, then you know how soothing Gilbert’s voice is and that there’s something really amazing about hearing powerful and commanding prose in a calm and tranquil delivery. Even if you’ve read this book, I urge you to listen to the audio version as well.

I guarantee there will be different elements of this that you didn’t pick up as you skimmed the pages; it’s also the way she phrases each word and emphasizes certain instructions with her intonation. You will learn something new every time you tune in, and every time, something new will click.

The Motivator

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander $18
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If you’ve ever wanted more or considered what might be possible if you really applied your creative self, then add this audio book to your download list. Written and narrated by Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander and executive coach, family therapist, and private practitioner Rosamund Stone Zander, The Art of Possibility looks at the “psychological perspective of enhancing human behavior.” It’s powerful and compelling, with motivational quotes and lessons that push you to broaden your personal and professional lives and become passionate leaders.

An Amazon reviewer explained it best: “This is no mere self-improvement book, with a wimpy mandate to transform its readers into ‘nicer’ people. Instead, it’s a collection of illustrations and advice that suggests a way to change your entire outlook on life and, in the process, open up a new realm of possibility.” Listen up.

The Eye-Opener

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore $21
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Drew Barrymore is one of our favorite people. We’ve practically watched her grow up from a childhood actress into a ’90s fashion icon with that effortlessly cool nonchalance and bad-girl charisma. But these days, Barrymore is a mother of two, a beauty entrepreneur, a champion of working moms, and a celebrated author. Wildflower is her own account of what growing up in Hollywood was really like. Hearing her many adventures, challenges, setbacks, and heartache in her own voice is incredibly touching.

Thankfully she is in a very happy and healthy place today. And we must say she has one of our favorite voices ever (other than Patti Smith’s, of course), and someone needs to cast her in an animated kids’ film stat.

The Tearjerker

When Breath Becomes Air by Pail Kalanithi $24
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Confronting the truth that everyone’s life eventually ends is difficult, and most of us generally push it to the side. But for many of us, death is a daily reality. When Breath Becomes Air is about 36-year-old neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, who upon being diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer wrote about his experience as he questioned the meaning of life and what was to come next. While this book is incredibly sad, it also takes you on a profound spiritual journey, forcing you to face your own mortality and realize what an incredible gift life truly is.

The audio version of this book really speaks to you; it conjures emotion you might not feel or understand just from reading it on the page. It’s incredibly powerful and deep but well worth the listen.

The Risk-Taker

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield $12
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For many of us, expressing our creative selves is akin to speaking publicly for the first time. It’s incredibly daunting, so we resist and fight it, often telling ourselves that it’s not really there and that we’re not really artistic anyway. But The War of Art will change that mind-set. International best-selling author Steven Pressfield wrote this book hoping to guide, inspire, and support those who struggle with creative expression and help them overcome that resistance. Why audio? I like that I can listen to it again and again… and again—hey, I’m a slow learner—and turn it on during my long work commute so that the instructions really sink in.

I was only made aware of how good the audio version is after Seth Godin recently recommended it during an interview with Tim Ferriss. Once you listen, you’ll confront your inner creative person, connect with her, and then finally make the leap into being her.

The Rib-Tickler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler $22
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If you need a laugh, then purchase Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and you’ll be crying tears of joy. You will also cry actual tears as Poehler—along with vocal appearances from Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Michael Schur, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and even Schumer’s parents—takes you through the collection of her life stories with as many downs as there are ups. But in all seriousness, this audio version is way better than the book, so if you have already read it, make sure you get this one, too.

Having the comedienne personally deliver her words of wisdom and life advice in her own tone is worth all $22, we promise.

Have you listened to an audio book that was better than the paperback? Share the title and why you love it below.

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