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The Best Podcasts & Audiobooks To Get You Through Your Holiday Travels

Whether you want music history, true crime, or a story about a man reincarnated as a parrot.

It's Holiday Family Travel Season (Finally!)

Traveling for the holidays? If you’re hitting the road to visit family for Thanksgiving, you’ll need some entertainment to get you through, whether it’s a few hours’ drive or a longer haul that takes a day or two. That’s where audiobooks and podcasts come in.

So, what makes the perfect road trip listen? For starters, it needs to be long enough to last the whole trip. Nobody wants to run out of content in the middle of the road trip, and you shouldn’t be perusing the audiobook summaries or podcast episode descriptions to find new material while driving anyway.

Most importantly, it should be something you find relaxing, inspiring, engaging, or however it is you like to feel when you read a book or listen to a podcast. For some, these stories are a chance to escape into a fantasy land. For others, they’re an opportunity to learn something new. You’re already stuck in the car for a while, potentially on your way to a family gathering you’re nervous about, so enjoy this time.

And one last hot tip: If you’re not someone who listens to audiobooks often, don’t feel like you have to sign up for a paid subscription just for this road trip. You can listen to audiobooks for free if you have a library card, using apps like Hoopla or Libby.


A Celebrity Tell-All That Tells It Like It Is

In Gabrielle Union’s first book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, she opened up about her journey through miscarriages and IVF. In this equally vulnerable follow-up, she talks about using a surrogate and the birth of her daughter, Kaavia, as well as the challenges of being a mom and having a career. She tackles the issues of racism and the treatment of aging women, both in American society and the entertainment industry. She dives into all the things we still have to fight for in 2021 with so much honesty that, well, readers may feel like they’re at the bar with Union drinking something a little stiffer than wine.


A Podcast That’s In The Headlines

Have you been following the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, former founder and CEO of the now defunct Theranos? Court proceedings are currently underway, with headlines coming out each day, but reading them can be a bit confusing if you don’t know the major players involved and what really went down with the Apple-like startup. If you didn’t follow the company’s downfall when it happened, The Dropout is a perfect way to binge all the backstory, complete with interviews and deposition audio of the people at the very heart of the scandal, including Holmes herself. And now that the trial is underway, new episodes come out weekly recapping the most interesting witness testimony.


A Best-Selling Author’s Latest Release

If you loved Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, then you need to listen to the newest release from author Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall. As you can probably guess by the title, this story dives into family dynamics, for better or for worse.

Stan and Joy Delaney have been married for 50 years, run a successful tennis academy, and have four adult children. They decide to sell the academy and enjoy retirement, wait for grandkids, and just take it easy. And then, Joy goes missing. Two of the Delaney kids think their dad has something to do with it, and the other two think he’s innocent. You’ll have to listen to find out which side is right.


A Political Exposé

Here’s another highly anticipated October release that’ll interest, well, just about anyone who has felt strongly about politics in the last few years. Stephanie Grisham began as a press wrangler on Trump’s presidential campaign, and ultimately became his communications director and chief of staff. So, yeah, you could say she knew the First Family pretty well.

One Amazon review describes Grisham’s account as “gossip for the history books.” Another pulls a phrase from the book’s introduction, which sums it up as “part chronicle of a chaotic administration, part therapy session, and part personal reckoning.” This definitely sounds like an engaging listen that’ll make your road trip fly by.


The Best Podcast For Learning Music History

If you love making and jamming to your road trip playlists, why not learn a bit more about the history behind the songs this time? The 33 1/3 Podcast is a Spotify original based on the nonfiction book series of the same name. Each episode dives into the history of a specific album, using the corresponding book as a jumping off point, like Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusions I and II and Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope. It’s hosted by music producer Prince Paul and brings on iconic guests like Sebastian Bach, Victoria Monet, and more, so you’ll get special insight from music industry insiders. If you’re on your way to visit a music buff family member, this is a great way to brush up on some trivia.


A Star-Studded Fiction Podcast

Want a bit of an audiobook and podcast hybrid? Then fiction podcasts are where it’s at, and Homecoming is one of the best of them. The story follows a case worker for the mysterious Homecoming Program, which helps veterans get back on their feet after returning home from war. When she meets her first client, things kick off from there.

The voice acting cast includes Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris, and David Cross, so you’re going to hear some familiar voices along the way. And once you arrive, you can binge the Prime series and see the story you just heard on-screen.


An Interactive Podcast In Which You’re The Detective

Solve describes itself as the podcast for true crime fans who consider themselves armchair detectives who just haven’t been given a chance to crack a case wide open yet. And now you can change that. This is an interactive podcast with each episode encompassing one murder case, all based on true crimes. You’ll receive all the evidence, listen to interrogations of the suspects, and walk through vivid crime scenes to see what details stand out to you. This is a super fun listen if you’re riding with other true crime or crime drama fans who can debate the case with you, and you can see how often you nail the right culprit.


The Latest Antiracist Read

In short, this would be a productive, educational read for your car ride. This essay collection investigates the ways in which many of us uphold and benefit from white supremacy, based on Dabiri’s lived experiences and her studies. By understanding that, Dabiri says we can begin to break down racism by stopping denial and guilt, interrogating whiteness, and redistributing resources.

Kirkus Reviews says What White People Can Do Next is “both a blazing polemic against the concept of race as anything more than a means to create racism as well as a fundamental route toward active unification…A must-read for anyone seeking to be an agent of much-needed societal change.”


A Family Drama Set In The ‘70s

A new release that revolves around families coming together at the holidays with potentially disastrous effects? Say no more.

Jonathan Franzen is known for creating characters that feel like real people, and whether or not you’ve read his other works (like The Corrections and Purity, to name a couple), you’re bound to enjoy this novel, released in October 2021. In Crossroads, Franzen transports us to Chicago in 1971, just days before Christmas, as a pastor and his wife are leaning towards divorce. Their oldest son is on the way home from college for the holidays with some news his dad won’t like. Meanwhile, his younger siblings are being sucked into the ‘70s countercultures.


A Podcast By Tweens, For Tweens

Riding with little listeners in the car? You can listen to kid-friendly podcasts without feeling like your brain is turning to absolute mush (and actually, these stories sound genuinely interesting). Mic Drop shares first-person stories from the tweens and teenagers who lived them, like a 12-year-old self-published sci-fi author, or a young girl taking on the British monarchy in a lawsuit over climate change. This podcast is intended for kids ages 9 through 13.

The Coalition for Quality Children's Media says Mic Drop “is devoid of adult interruptions and allows children to talk freely among themselves about complicated topics...It is significant for children to be able to hear other children talk freely about what they are genuinely feeling without having an adult sway or dictate the conversation. The youth hosts tackle topics such as Black Lives Matter, divorce and mental health. I enjoyed listening to them express their feelings and emotions in the podcast.”


A Work Of Fiction By Hillary Clinton

This is one of the most anticipated fiction releases of the year, in large part because one of its authors is none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Louise Penny also happens to be a New York Times bestselling author and winner of many awards, so State of Terror is a promising option for your road trip. It also clocks in at a little over 15 hours long, so it’ll get you to your destination and back with some story to spare.

In short, a new president takes office and chooses his biggest political rival for Secretary of State. It’s not long before a series of terrorist attacks begin, and this international thriller takes off from there.


A New Stephen King Novel

Later is Stephen King’s latest work, focusing on Jamie Conklin, a kid with a single mom and the supernatural ability to speak with dead people for a week after their passing. When the NYPD discovers this, they want to bring Jamie onboard for a murder investigation they’re working.

"Later is top-notch Stephen King and one of the most memorable works in his long and storied writing career,” says a BookReporter review.The tale calls to mind many of his prior works and is the only other story next to the classic It to refer to ‘deadlights,’ a word that should cause icy chills to run down the spine of any faithful King reader.”


An Easy Listening Audiobook

If thrillers and crime aren’t your cup of tea, here’s a lighter listen for your car ride. Sophie Kinsella is known for her romances, and The Party Crasher is her latest novel in the same genre. It centers around Effie, whose parents divorced a few years prior. Her dad is throwing a final party in the giant manor she grew up in, and she returns to find some childhood belongings before they’re gone for good. Of course family hijinks ensue, and of course, she runs into an ex who still has the qualities that made her fall in love in the first place.


A Must-Read Celebrity Memoir

An entertainer who has won Emmy, Grammy, and Tony awards, Billy Porter is beloved for his bold fashion choices and unapologetic personality. His memoir Unprotected promises to become yet another reason you just can’t get enough of him, and it comes out just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. In it he describes growing up gay and Black in America, being sent to therapy at 5 years old to change the parts of his personality seen as too feminine, and surviving sexual abuse. But it’s definitely not a downer. Porter tells his story of perseverance in his signature humor, telling readers just how that little boy turned into the Porter we see on our screens now.


A Podcast All About Short Stories

LeVar Burton of Star Trek and Reading Rainbow fame is bringing millennials a real treat with this podcast, reading short stories from all genres in his iconic voice. Each episode is about 40 minutes long, so you can scroll through the episode descriptions and queue up the right amount of listening time before you set off. Whether you want to hear the tale of a diner waitress who waits on a mysterious child, a caregiver hired to look after a lonely old man by the sea, or a man reincarnated as a parrot, Mr. Burton has got you *so* covered.


A New Dystopian Audiobook

Klara and the Sun is giving George Orwell’s 1984 meets Westworld vibes. Klara is an Artificial Friend, almost like an Alexa with a body, waiting in the store for a customer to purchase her. She watches their behavior day in and day out, finally ending up with one family. Ultimately this book explores deeply human questions, like what it means to love each other, even though it’s narrated by an AI-powered being.

This book debuted in March 2021 and became a New York Times bestseller, and if that doesn’t convince you to read it, you should also know it made President Obama’s summer reading list, was a Good Morning American book club pick, and the author is a Nobel laureate.


Another Gone Girl-Esque Mystery

If you’re a fan of this exploding young-woman-drawn-into-a-wild-crime-drama thriller genre (think The Girl in Cabin 10, Sharp Objects, and The Woman in the Window), you’ve got to check out this new release, No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield. Published on Oct. 12, 2021, this novel follows the murder investigation of Lizzie Oullete, an outcast in the rural Maine town where she and her husband live. The husband, by the way, vanishes after her death. The lead detective soon finds a wealthy social media influencer is connected to the case as well. How the rest unfolds, well, you’ll have to listen and find out.


A Podcast Of Real Spooky Stories

If you’re reading this list, chances are you just love a good story. Lore is an award-winning podcast that gathers up myths, folklore, legends, history, and firsthand accounts about people, places, and creatures from the past. When you gather up all the tales about vampire-like creatures from around the world, you start to see how a modern Dracula came to be. But you’re not just learning about the history of monsters; you’re being told each creepy detail by one of the best narrators in the game. You’ll also see that sometimes reality is even scarier than folklore. Check out Episode 53, “Trees and Shadows” for one of my personal favorites.


The Latest Addition To A Beloved Series

If you want a book you know won’t end halfway through the trip, look no further than the newest addition to the Outlander series, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, which clocks in at 27 hours long. This book comes out Nov. 23, so you won’t see any spoilers leading up to the trip, and you won’t have to wait to read it because you’re busy driving if you listen along the way.

This installment finds Claire and Jamie reunited with their daughter, her husband, and their children in 1779, but the American Revolution could scatter their family yet again. If you haven’t started this series yet, you’ll definitely need to begin with the first book, but it’s an equally compelling (and long) story of true love that no amount of time (or time travel) can tarnish.