When my family travels in airplanes, it’s every person for him or herself. My 8-year-old son can sit through any intercontinental flight with an iPad, only disconnecting from the screen long enough to use the bathroom or shove some snacks in his mouth. My husband also defaults to tech, carrying his computer, phone and maybe some programming obsession.
I board a flight with an aspirational 40-pound backpack filled with books, magazines and a sketch pad — all of which I furiously flip through, afraid of frittering even a moment of precious “alone” time.
During road trips, however, we coalesce as a family.
We’ve spent lengthy car rides listening to a combination of my son’s favorite music-du-jour (try two hours of Weird Al parodies and ’80s jingles). Then, on one four-hour trip from Phoenix to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Mexico), I signed up for a free Audible subscription, and we gave an audiobook a whirl.
The hours flew by as we listened to “The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.” My son enjoyed it so much, we listened to it again on the way home at his request.
Since that trip, we have listened to many, many more books varying in length and subject matter (though mostly adventure capers). We’ve also learned that the local library and Spotify are good sources of free audiobooks. These days, “Can we listen to the story?” is a usual car-ride request, regardless of the trip’s duration.
Here are some audiobooks our family has enjoyed so far:
- “Artemis Fowl” (eight books) by Eoin Colfer. Riveting sci-fi tales about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind and his encounters with the faery people who dwell under the earth’s surface. Full of mystery, intrigue and great characters, it’s soon to be a Disney movie.
- “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. For the adults and older kids (there’s some salty language), I whole-heartedly recommend Trevor Noah’s memoir, which I think is made even better and more personal by the audio format.
- “Blackthorn Key” (three books) by Kevin Sands. Cracking codes and murder/mystery-solving featuring apprentice apothecary Christopher Rowe. Note: Fast-forward through tedious code readings.
- “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” by E.L. Konigsburg. A timeless classic about a sister and brother running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and uncovering a mystery.
- “Harry Potter” (seven books) by J.K. Rowling. The epic tales of the boy wizard are, if possible, even more compelling with the addition of Jim Dale’s great narration.
- “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba. The uplifting story of a Malawian boy who, despite tremendous adversity — including drought and starvation — created a windmill that changed lives.
- “The Mysterious Benedict Society” (three books) by Trenton Lee Stewart. A gripping story about gifted orphans saving the world. When we first tuned in, my son complained, “This is for grown-ups.” After about 10 minutes, he was hooked.
- “The War that Saved My Life” (two books) by Kimberly Brusker Bradley. A World War II-era story about Ada, a London girl born with a club foot, who escapes her abusive household, relocating to the countryside during the evacuation of children during the war.
- “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. This story hooked my son with jokes about a name synonymous with “butt,” and kept him with a heartfelt and relatable story about fitting in.
- The perfect illustration: Molly Idle’s busy, idyllic life
- Essential reading for the girl-power trip
- Kids books about love and kindness