The 30 Best Nonfiction Audiobooks for Your Daily Commute

Updated 10/28/19
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Nonfiction books and memoirs are often best experienced in audiobook format—especially when read by a charismatic author. In our time-starved world, nonfiction audiobooks are instrumental in ensuring that we keep up good reading habits and consistently educate ourselves, without always having our noses stuck in a physical book (or a Kindle). Just like we do podcasts, we listen to audiobooks while brushing our teeth, commuting to work, and even cooking dinner. Convinced you need to add audiobooks to your morning routine? These are the best nonfiction audiobooks to try right now.

01 of 30

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

best nonfiction audiobooks
Trevor Noah Born a Crime $22
Shop

If you're a fan of The Daily Show, you'll love Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. While it offers all the social and political commentary you've come to expect of the late-night talk show host, it also offers so much more than that. Noah delves into his journey of self-discovery, from growing up in South Africa, to 'making it' in America. It's a must-listen.

02 of 30

Bossypants by Tina Fey

bossypants
Tina Fey Bossypants $27
Shop

Don't be surprised if you end up laugh-crying in public while listening to this memoir. Fey's narration of her best-selling book is side-splittingly hilarious.

03 of 30

Born to Run by Bruce Springstein

born to run
Bruce Springstein Born to Run $30
Shop

Learn more about the blue-collar history of America Springstein was raised in and the often dark and challenging times he faced as a Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey. Aside from the fact that you get to listen to Bruce's awesome gruffly voice as he recounts the story of his life, the writing is also incredibly poetic, and sometimes it feels as though he is reading the lines from one big song. It's a fascinating journey from humble and very poor beginnings, to playing the half-time show at the Superbowl.

04 of 30

Just Kids by Patti Smith

just kids
Patti Smith Just Kids $29
Shop

Is there anything more poetic than listening to the iconic Patti Smith reading to you? Just Kids tells the story of Smith's relationship with the iconic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, from their auspicious first encounter, to how they fell in love and how they pursued their artistic crafts without compromise in the height of the Andy Warhol's Factory era. If you've ever been fascinated by the art scene at the Chelsea Hotel in the late '60s and '70s, or just want to know more about these two incredibly talented and transformative artists, then download it today.

05 of 30

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

best nonfiction audio books
Joan Didion Slouching Towards Bethlehem $16
Shop

This collection of short stories and essays is like stepping right into the past. Who better to narrate Didion's poignant writing about the 1960s than the legendary Diane Keaton? This audiobook delivers the perfect dose of history paired with beautiful descriptions for an educational and soothing way to brave your commute or zone out at home.

06 of 30

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

the defining decade
Meg Jay The Defining Decade $23
Shop

This audiobook about the importance of everything you do in your 20s will change your life. Written and narrated by Meg Jay, PhD, it's equal parts objective advice and actual stories of missteps made by real 20-somethings. It covers everything from career to relationships, and will definitely make me rethink how you approach all aspects of your life.

07 of 30

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

dreams from my father
Barack Obama Dreams from My Father $8
Shop

Barack Obama himself is the narrator of the audiobook version of his memoir. Truly, there is no other way to consume the powerful book. Obama's voice is soothing, and his stories are both compelling and heartbreaking. We were already crying in the prologue.

08 of 30

Thanks, Obama by David Litt

thanks, obama
David Litt Thanks, Obama $27
Shop

This memoir is by David Litt, one of the youngest presidential speechwriters in history. Much more than just a book on politics, it's a coming-of-age story of a young man finding his calling in an era when hope inspired a generation. Litt was Obama's go-to comedy writer, so expect a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. In the book, he tells tales of how he almost lit the president's hair on fire and how he found himself almost naked in a closet on Air Force One. Of course, as you would expect from a presidential speechwriter, the writing is stellar.

09 of 30

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

scar tissue
Anthony Kiedis Scar Tissue $24
Shop

The lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers delivers a detailed account of both his rise to fame and the band's tumultuous history. While the story is told from a distinctly male perspective, any RHCP fan will find it interesting.

10 of 30

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

girl in a band
Kim Gordon Girl in a Band $20
Shop

Sonic Youth fans will be gripped by Kim Gordon's first-person account of her 30-something years spent being a 'girl in a band.' It touches on the fascinating world of New York City in the '80s and '90s, plus the gender dynamics at play in the band and the music scene at large.

11 of 30

Look Alive out There by Sloane Crosley

Look Alive Out There
Sloane Crosby Look Alive out There $24
Shop

Many years after publishing her wildly popular collection of essays I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley is finally back with another collection of witty, relatable insights. In the audiobook version of the collection, the author narrates her own writing with all the charm, humor, and sass that jumps off the page.

12 of 30

Becoming by Michelle Obama

becoming
Michelle Obama Becoming $31
Shop

In case you missed it, Becoming is on track to being one of the best-selling memoirs of all time. Even if you've already read the book, the audiobook, which is narrated by Michelle Obama herself, is well worth a listen.

13 of 30

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

This Will Be My Undoing
Morgan Jenkins This Will Be My Undoing $23
Shop

If you're a fan of Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists, you need to listen to the audiobook version of Morgan Jerkin's This Will Be My Undoing, a brutally honest look at what it means to be a black woman in America today. It's compelling, insightful, and should be considered required listening.

14 of 30

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

bad blood
John Carreyrou Bad Blood $27
Shop

If you've watched HBO's documentary The Inventor and listened to ABC Radio's hit podcast The Dropout, you'll love this thrilling audiobook about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her now-defunct company, Theranos.

15 of 30

Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride

Tomorrow Will Be Different
Sarah McBride Tomorrow Will Be Different $24
Shop

Sarah McBride's powerful memoir Tomorrow Will Be Different is made all the more impactful by listening to the author narrate her own story. In this audiobook, McBride, an activist and the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, is captivating as she shares her personal experience with gender identity.

16 of 30

Educated by Tara Westover

educated
Tara Westover Educated $24
Shop

In this buzzed-about memoir (recommended by Barrack Obama), a woman recounts her experience of being raised in a survivalist family in Idaho and diverting from her upbringing in order to seek an education.

17 of 30

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll be gone in the dark
Michelle McNamara I'll Be Gone in the Dark $29
Shop

In this audiobook, journalist Michelle McNamara's gripping investigation into the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California in the '70s and '80s, is bookended by a forward read by best-selling author Gillian Flynn and an afterword read by McNamara's husband, Patton Oswalt.

18 of 30

Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson

everythings trash but its ok
Phoebe Robinson Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay $24
Shop

In Everything's Trash, but It's Okay, Phoebe Robinson, co-host of the hit podcast 2 Dope Queens, narrates her latest collection of essays on the topic of feminism. Her candid opinions and personal anecdotes will have you laughing out loud (and perhaps cringing a bit too).

19 of 30

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath
Leslie Jamison The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath $27
Shop

Leslie Jamison delves into the topic of addiction in her genre-defining book The Recovering. Part memoir, part cultural history, part literary criticism, the book shares Jamison's personal experience with addiction, as well as stories from Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, and George Cain, in order to present a fascinating look at the recovery movement.

20 of 30

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

The Sun Does Shine
Anthony Ray Hinton The Sun Does Shine $24
Shop

In this audiobook, Kevin R. Free narrates the harrowing memoir pennded by Anthony Ray Hinton, a man wrongfully convicted at the age of 29 who spent 27 years in prison on Death Row for a crime he did not commit—and yet, he didn't despair.

21 of 30

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl wash your face
Rachel Hollis Girl, Wash Your Face $27
Shop

File this audiobook under refreshing self-help books that expose the misconceptions of having it all figured out. The utterly hilarious Hollis narrates her motivating New York Times bestseller, giving listeners a glimpse into her own messy life to inspire us all to get real.

22 of 30

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mindy Kaling Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? $18
Shop

In this audiobook, Mindy Kaling narrates her hilarious and relatable memoir about her life, from growing up as a daughter of immigrants, to cementing her place as one of the best comedians of our time.

23 of 30

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

kitchen confidential
Anthony Bourdain Kitchen Confidential $18
Shop

If you can't get enough of the late Anthony Bourdain, you'll love his audiobook—narrated by Bourdain himself—recounting his tales of life in the culinary world. Expect drugs, sex, haute cuisine, and more.

24 of 30

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day
David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day $15
Shop

The hilarious and insightful David Sedaris narrates his memoir, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and talks about his attempts to learn French, performs a surprisingly great Billie Holiday impression, and discusses his childhood.

25 of 30

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Hunger
Roxane Gay Hunger $20
Shop

The New York Times best-selling author Roxane Gay narrates her thought-provoking memoir. The honest discussion of her relationship with food and her self-image results in a candid and vulnerable performance that's not to be missed.

26 of 30

Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Mindhunter
John Douglas and Mark Olshaker Mindhunter $23
Shop

Mindhunter offers a behind-the-scenes look into John E. Douglas's 25-year career in the FBI Investigative Support Unit. The detective, known for using psychological profiling to get into the minds of serial killers and criminals, was also the subject of the Netflix original series by the same name.  

27 of 30

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

blue nights
Joan Didion Blue Nights $15
Shop

Blue Nights is a memoir about loss, maternal love, memory, and grief. Like all of Joan Didion's work, she has a way of getting straight to the heart of things and bringing you there with her. She wrote this one after her daughter, Quintana Roo, passed away a year after she lost her husband.

28 of 30

True Crime Addict by James Renner

True Crime Addict
James Renner True Crime Addict $25
Shop

Written and narrated by James Renner, True Crime Addict is a memoir in which Renner chronicles his obsessive investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Maura Murray, a college student who went missing after a car crash in rural New Hampshire in 2004, and the ramifications that the fixation has had on his life.

29 of 30

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

bluets
Maggie Nelson Bluets $24
Shop

Written in a list of personal anecdotes, philosophical theories, random musings, and cultural references all about the color blue, this book defies categorization. Inventive in form and emotionally moving, Maggie Nelson knows how to reach her readers and get them to think and feel with more depth.

30 of 30

Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

Lost Girls
Robert Kolker Lost Girls $31
Shop

In this true crime audiobook, narrator Sean Pratt recounts award-winning journalist Robert Kolker's reporting on the search for a serial killer who's still at large on Long Island. Lost Girls boasts unsolved murder and internet prostitution, but don't mistake it for a fictional thriller—it's a true story.

Up next: Check out the best books on Audible for people who don't have time to read.

Related Stories