10 Vacation Audiobooks for the Whole Family

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” C.S. Lewis

Despite the gas prices, a lot of folks will be traveling this summer.  With so many portable digital devices (including ereaders!) these days, my guess is that families are evermore challenged to be together mentally.  I haven’t gotten to the stage of fighting over cell phones with my own kids yet, but I already feel the tug of the DVD player, enticing me to let them tune in and me tune out.  Against that natural drift, though, I have a dream: to be a family that reads together.

One of my role models in this is a sister-in-law who made it her practice to read to her kids while driving both in daily life and vacations.  I have heard tell how her kids, still only knee-high, howled at books like Hank the Cowdog on trips to her childhood home.  I also remember being astonished to learn that in their high school years, she had read them one of H.R. Rookmaaker’s surveys of art history as they rode back and forth from church each Sunday.

It’s funny that you hear so much about the benefits of eating together as a family.  But I wonder if any studies have been done on the benefits of reading together?  Certainly, there are all the normal benefits of reading—brain-boosting vocabulary, lengthened attention span, etc—but then there is the added benefit of sharing an idea with someone you love.  We tend to value this as a culture in a child’s early years, but why should the practice stop when the child outgrows The Cat in the Hat?  If the experience of reading a picture book with our children is rich and rewarding, what about a novel?

The families I know that spent a significant amount of time reading together each managed, despite their inevitable failings, to pass on core values to their children.  And I have to wonder how much reading together played a part in that.

So, as you’re choosing audiobooks for your next road-trip, here are ten audiobooks that I think will entertain a wide range of ages, grouped according to some good places to get them:

Librivox: a site devoted to placing books in the public domain online; all their books are free.

  1. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  2. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
  3. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  4. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss


  1. The Secret Garden by France Hodgson Burnett
  2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  3. The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter
  4. Our Island Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall


  1. The Deluxe Edition of The Jesus Storybook Bible, including CDs with narrated text–available for $14.76 right now at Amazon.
  2. Charlotte’s Web Read-Aloud Edition by E.B. White–worth the extra investment to hear it read by the author!

Also, I know I’ve met my quota of ten books, but I thought it would be worth mentioning that the Narnia series is available for free at ancientfaith.com.  I assume that many of you already have this one, but some of you may not…and you might even prefer to sink some money in the HarperCollins audiobook and book set.

So, I hope this gets you started on your summer vacation adventure!  Happy listening!  (Oh, and one last caveat, PLEASE listen to a sample of any recording before you download.  Some free recordings are fantastic, while others leave a lot to be desired.  Thanks, Sheila, for reminding me about this!)

Have I left out any other audiobook sites you think our readers should know about?  Any favorites you think would be better or just as good for an entire family?

Also, for more about how to get great books or adventures beyond the printed page, see our Thomas the Train post, Distance Lending, and Music of ‘The Little House’.

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  1. Jennifer Tubbiolo on May 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

    This post couldn’t have been more perfectly timed! I was just sitting down to look for a couple of free audio books for my daughter!

    And, CS Lewis’ comment is so true. I just recently read a Wrinkle in Time and a Wind in the Door because I loved them so much as a child. They were even better at 36!

  2. emily on May 30, 2011 at 11:32 am

    So happy to help, Jennifer! And thanks for adding two more books to my list!

  3. Lauren on May 30, 2011 at 11:45 am

    That’s exactly what I was going to say Jennifer! My Monday morning list included perusing the internet for free audio books for the kiddos to listen to this summer. Thanks for making it easy Emily! 🙂 I would love to hear about any other suggestions readers might have too.

  4. Julie on May 31, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I have always loved the Focus on the Family Radio Theaters. I have The Secret Garden and Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom. They also have Anne of Green Gables, Ben-Hur, Silas Marner and many more. I would highly reccomend them. Although they are not free you can get them for about $10 on CBD or Amazon.

  5. Sheila on June 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Audiobooks in the car on vacation have become a family tradition for us. Radio Theater–especially the Chrnociles of Narnia set–get a thumbs-up here. Now that my three guys are in high school, we are enjoying the Lord of the Rings triolgy (unabridged) read by Rob Inglis.

    Although I haven’t listened to the books mentioned above, I think I should mention that we have found the readers on Librivox to be quite varied in their skill levels. In one case the reader’s voice was almost monotone; in another it was hard to follow the admittedly complex story line.

    For our family what works best is to plan ahead and try to use the library.

  6. emily on June 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I really appreciate that advice, Sheila. I haven’t listened to many of the free recordings–nor these specific ones–so I can’t vouch for each individual one. However, it is nice that you can sample the recording before you go to the trouble of downloading, something I highly recommend. That said, some of our readers certainly might prefer the library, especially folks who are better than me at getting books back on time!

    We can’t wait to listen to Lord of the Rings with our kids…but trying not to pull the trigger too soon. : ) There are a number of authors I hated as a youngster because I read them too early–Dostoevsky being one of them.

  7. Cathy on June 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Some of our favorite audiobooks are James Herriot’s Treasury for Children read by Jim Dale, The Tale of Despereaux read by Graeme Malcolm and almost anything by Jim Weiss/Greathall Productions.

    We also love Max Mclean’s Pilgrim’s Progress, but it is not really for littles. His voice is so good, I could listen to him read the phone book!

  8. emily on June 12, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Interesting, Cathy. I will definitely check those out!

  9. […] Reader has 10 vacation audiobook suggestions for the whole family, along with a few other […]

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