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Creative Writing Nonfiction 12 min2023-07-17 00:00

25 Best Nonfiction Audiobooks of All Time

noniction audiobooks

Listening to nonfiction audiobooks is a great way to engage your mind while you’re commuting to work, doing household tasks, or simply relaxing at home.

There are countless types of nonfiction to try: biography, memoir, history, science, self-help and more. With nonfiction, there’s definitely something for everyone.

So, which nonfiction books should you listen to next?  

This article will give you our picks for the top 25 best nonfiction audiobooks to add to your reading list.

25 Best Nonfiction Audiobooks

There are countless great books out there, and it’s impossible to fit all of them into a single article. So, we’ve looked at bestseller lists, reader reviews, and various other sources to compile our list.

Here are our recommendations for 25 fantastic nonfiction audiobooks.

1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

Told as a letter from a father to his adolescent son, Between the World and Me is a powerful examination of what it means to be a Black man in modern America. It’s both a personal narrative and an exploration of American history.

This book won the National Book Award and rapidly became a national bestseller. Narrated by Coates himself, the audiobook version is gripping and electrifying.

2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010)

Henrietta Lacks was a Southern Black woman whose cells were taken without her consent and kept alive in medical labs. Those cells became crucial for developing vaccines, understanding cancer, and making other medical breakthroughs, but without Lacks’ family ever having a say.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores both Lacks’ story and the unethical medical experimentation that has been carried out on Black Americans throughout history. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, this audiobook is a compelling and important listen.

3. Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner (2021)

Michelle Zauner, the lead singer of the band Japanese Breakfast, explores her relationship with her Korean mother in this moving memoir.

The memoir covers Zauner’s childhood as one of the few Asian American kids in Oregon, her adolescent disagreements with her mother, and her mother’s cancer diagnosis. This is a book about family, food, and so much more, and Zauner’s audiobook narration of her story feels lyrical and alive.

4. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003)

Bill Bryson explains the history of the universe, starting with the Big Bang and moving forward to the modern day. To do so, he interviews experts on various topics, including mathematicians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and more.

This entertaining and informative book can be enjoyed by adults, children, and everyone in between. Narrated by Richard Matthews, the audiobook version is an enjoyable way to learn about the science of the universe.

5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (2011)

In Sapiens, historian Yuval Noah Harari takes us on a journey through all the major stages of world history. He starts 70,000 years ago, at the beginning of modern cognition, and follows the growth of humankind all the way to the modern day.

The book deftly weaves together biology, religion, sociology, and more to create an overarching narrative of human history. The audiobook version, narrated by Derek Perkins, is well worth a listen.

2st century nonfiction audobooks

6. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)

The Sixth Extinction is a Pulitzer Prize winner that’s a true gem of the nonfiction genre.

Kolbert examines the five mass extinctions that Earth has experienced in the past half a billion years. She also explains the ongoing sixth extinction, which has already wiped out countless species and is likely to be the most lasting legacy of humankind.

Narrated by Anne Twomey, this audiobook is simultaneously serious and engaging.

7. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

Comedian Trevor Noah tells the story of his adolescent years in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. It’s a coming-of-age story that’s both funny and full of self-discovery.

Narrated by Trevor Noah himself, who is known for his spot-on comedic impersonations, the audiobook version brings to life all the characters involved in Noah’s story. Noah even won the Audie Award for Best Male Narrator in 2018.

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

In this modern classic, Maya Angelou reveals the story of her childhood and adolescence. She confronts the traumatic experiences she faced as a child, but she also imparts the hope and resilience she learned years later.

Narrated by Angelou herself, the audiobook version of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is authentic, moving, and unforgettable.

9. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016)

Paul Kalanithi is a Stanford neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the young age of 36. This deeply personal memoir, written during the last years of his life, is about how he came to terms with his own mortality.

Kalanithi’s book is a rare examination of what it means to live a life worth living when you know you’re about to die. The audiobook version, narrated by Sunil Malhotra and Cassandra Campbell, is a poignant rendition of his story.

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10. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010)

We all know about the systemic racism of Jim Crow laws in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this groundbreaking book, Alexander examines the ways that racial injustice is still built into American criminal justice today, from the politics of incarceration to the war on drugs.

The New Jim Crow has made a lasting impact, from influencing judicial decisions to sparking criminal justice reforms. The audiobook, narrated by Karen Chilton, brings this shocking examination to life.

11. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (2003)

Stiff is a deep dive into all the ways that society has made use of human cadavers, from testing car crashes to medical experimentation.

Narrated by Shelly Frasier, the audiobook is both morbidly funny and very informative. Stiff is a perfect listen if you’re curious about what might happen to your body after you die, and if you’re not too squeamish about corpses.

12. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a guidebook for how to make people like you, win people over, and be a leader through compassion and empathy. This classic book has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and has been a household name for almost a century.

The audiobook version, narrated by Andrew MacMillan, imparts Carnegie’s wisdom in an easily enjoyable way.

13. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (2018)

Tara Westover grew up in an isolated survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho. After 17 years without ever entering a classroom, Westover eventually studied at both Harvard and Cambridge in her quest for education.

Westover’s memoir is a testament to the importance of education and how it gave her control over her own life. Narrated by Julia Whelan, the audiobook version captures Westover’s story in a resonant and compassionate way.

14. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)

Robin Wall Kimmerer, an Indigenous botanist, guides us through the lessons we can learn from plants. She brings the lessons she’s learned from the Potawatomi and other Indigenous cultures into a thoughtful cultivation of ecological consciousness.

Narrated by Kimmerer herself, the audiobook version provides an enlightening worldview about how to understand our responsibilities to the planet and our place on the Earth.

15. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)

How did the universe begin? What dictates the laws of physics? How does time actually work?

Stephen Hawking answers these questions, and more, in this well-written pop science book. Narrated by Michael Jackson, the audiobook version will give you a great summary of modern science.

16. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2012)

In a society that values being gregarious and outgoing, we often underestimate the importance of solitude and silence. Susan Cain’s Quiet defends the power of introversion and explains the contributions introverts have made to society.

The audiobook version, narrated by Kathe Mazur, is simultaneously informative and inspirational.

17. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)

A Room of One’s Own is a famous extended essay based on lectures Woolf gave at Cambridge University. Woolf discusses the role of women as both writer and subject, and the importance of financial independence for female creatives.

The audiobook narration by Juliet Stevenson is clear and elegant, and it’s a great way to engage with this timeless work.

20th century nonfiction audiobooks

18. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (1946)

Man’s Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl’s haunting story of the years he spent in a Nazi death camp. This book encapsulates Frankl’s philosophy on how to live a meaningful life, even after having endured the worst aspects of human nature.

Narrated by Simon Vance, the audiobook version is both moving and humbling.

19. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)

What factors made Bill Gates and the Beatles so successful? In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell looks at the reasons why the world’s “outliers” stand out from the crowd.

In various case studies of the world’s highest achievers, Gladwell looks at their upbringings, their families, their education, and all the other factors that played a huge role aside from raw talent. Gladwell’s narration of his writing is clear and easy to understand.

20. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel examines the history of cancer throughout the centuries as well as the medical and technological breakthroughs humans have made to try to conquer it.

Narrated by Stephen Hoye, the audiobook version is an eloquent listening experience that will give you a new view of how cancer treatments work.

21. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (2016)

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir about a man who grew up in an impoverished Appalachian town. In addition to being a personal story, it’s also a moving depiction of the struggles that America’s white working class deals with while working toward the American dream.

The book was made into a major motion picture in 2020. The audiobook, narrated by J.D. Vance himself, is a moving way to engage with his story.

22. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (2015)

Mary Beard, a Professor of Classics at Cambridge, explains the history of ancient Rome. SPQR, which stands for “The Senate and People of Rome,” covers everything from the founding myth of Romulus and Remus to the reign of the emperor Caracalla.

You do need some background knowledge about Roman history in order to fully appreciate this book, but Phyllida Nash’s narration makes it easy to understand.

23. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey (1989)

With over 40 million copies sold worldwide, this popular book gives you seven tips for being more successful, including “Be Proactive,” “Think Win/Win,” and “Begin with the End in Mind.”

Narrated by Covey himself, the audiobook will give you life tips you’ll never forget.

24. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (1974)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance describes Pirsig’s story going on a motorcycle trip from Minnesota to California with his son. This book is part autobiography, part philosophy.

Narrated by James Purefoy alongside a full cast, the audiobook brings the story fully to life.

25. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968)

Joan Didion’s collection of essays captures the essence of America in the 1960s, especially the countercultural movement in California.

The audiobook, narrated by Diane Keaton, does a masterful job transporting the listener to a different time and place.

Where to Find Nonfiction Audiobooks

There are lots of different platforms where you can listen to nonfiction audiobooks. Here are a few popular ones if you’re not sure where to start.

where to find nonfiction audiobooks

Audible Nonfiction

Audible is an app owned by Amazon that offers a wide selection of audiobooks. You can either pay for a monthly subscription, or you can simply buy audiobooks from Audible’s catalog one at a time.

The Audible Plus membership costs $8/month, but you can sign up for a 30-day free trial first to see if you like it. There’s also an Audible Premium Plus option, which costs a little more, but lets you choose one or two titles each month to add to your permanent library, so you can keep listening to them even after they get taken off the main catalog.

Scribd Nonfiction

Scribd has a large selection of audiobooks as well as over a million eBooks. You can listen to these books on any device that has the Scribd app, such as your phone or your laptop.

You can sign up for a Scribd membership for $12/month. Like Audible, Scribd gives you a 30-day free trial first, so you can try it out before you decide to pay.

Apple Books Nonfiction Audiobooks

Apple Books is another great option for audiobooks, though it works differently from platforms like Audible and Scribd. With Apple Books, you have to buy audiobooks one at a time, instead of signing up for a monthly subscription.

Because of this payment model, Apple Books is a good option if you have a few specific audiobooks you want to listen to. On the other hand, if you plan to listen to multiple books a month, Apple Books will probably be more expensive than a platform like Audible or Scribd.

Libby by Overdrive

If you want to read more audiobooks, but you don’t have money to invest in a subscription, Libby is a fantastic option for you. Libby is a library reading app that lets you borrow digital audiobooks from your local library.

The size of Libby’s audiobook selection will depend on where you live, since some libraries have bigger audiobook catalogs than others. Just log in with your library card, and you’ll be able to check out books online and listen to them through the Libby app.

The only downsides of using Libby are that you can’t keep titles past their due date, and that you might have to wait for popular titles to come off hold before you can listen to them. But these minor inconveniences are well worth the tradeoff of getting access to countless audiobooks for free.

Other Nonfiction Audiobook Platforms

There are many other audiobook listening platforms in addition to the ones we’ve mentioned above.

If you want to consider more options, take a look at Google Play Books, Kobo, and Audiobooks.com. All three offer audiobook selections that many readers enjoy with various pricing levels.

There you have it—our picks for 25 fantastic nonfiction audiobooks to listen to next as well as some of the platforms where you can start listening.

We hope this list gives you some great new audiobooks to try. Happy listening!

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