For parents, long car trips can be anxiety-producing. Hours on the road can lead to serious whining from the back seat. Audiobooks allow the whole family to enjoy a good book together. We broke down these suggestions by age, but you’ll enjoy them even if you’re old enough to be in the driver’s seat.
Ages 3 and up
“The Frances Audio Collection”: Actress Glynis Johns gives an inspired reading to four classic stories by Russell Hoban about a badger named Frances and her daily dramas surrounding bedtime, eating and becoming a big sister.
“Little Bear Audio Collection”: These stories are read by Sigourney Weaver and directed by Maurice Sendak, who illustrated Else Holmelund Minarik’s tales of Little Bear and his mother.
“Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner”: These classics sound like theater in the audio collection featuring Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and others.
Ages 6 and up
“Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White: It’s thrilling and comforting to hear White matter-of-factly narrate his own tale of the remarkable friendship involving a young girl, a pig and a spider. (White also gives an unforgettable reading in the audiobook of his 1970 classic, “The Trumpet of the Swan.”)
The Fudge books, by Judy Blume: Beginning with “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” Blume narrates her stories about Peter Hatcher, brother of a boisterous preschooler nicknamed Fudge.
“The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection,” by Beverly Cleary: These eight tales of the irrepressible Ramona detail her life from tantrum-prone toddler through fourth grade, memorably read by actress Stockard Channing.
Ages 8 and up
“Better Nate Than Ever,” by Tim Federle: The author narrates his tale of a boy who battles sibling rivalry, bullying and other challenges in his quest to win a role in a Broadway musical.
The Harry Potter books, by J.K. Rowling: Narrator Jim Dale does an incomparable job of taking readers into the world and heart of the boy wizard. Dale is in Guinness World Records for “most voices in an audiobook” in 2008, for creating 134 distinct voices for “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
“The Roald Dahl Audio Collection”: Dahl narrates five of his best-known tales, spotlighting the subversive humor children adore. The books include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach.”
Also: “Dead End in Norvelt,” by Jack Gantos, who reads his hilarious Newbery Medal-winning half-fictional memoir of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s; “Esperanza Rising,” by Pam Munoz, narrated by Trini Alvarado, about a girl whose world is shaken when her family migrates from Mexico to California, and the Newbery Medal-winning “The Graveyard Book,” by Neil Gaiman, who deftly narrates his darkly humorous twist on Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie: Narrated by Alexie, this raw, riveting, often humorous audiobook tells the story of Junior, a Spokane Indian teen who is pulled between two worlds as he leaves the reservation for a better education.
“Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” by John Green and David Levithan. Narrators MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl each give voice to a young man named Will Grayson — two vastly different characters who are brought together in their search for love and acceptance.
“The Wee Free Men,” by Terry Pratchett, is narrated by Stephen Fry, who adeptly speaks the comical brogue of tiny blue men in kilts.
Karen MacPherson is a librarian and freelance writer. She wrote this column for the Washington Post.