Road Trip Reads | Mechanics' Institute

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Road Trip Reads

There's nothing quite like driving an open road on a sunny day to set your mind at ease. Once the bags are packed, the destination charted, and the vehicle readied, the adventure can begin. Let's not forget the audiobooks! For travel companions with different reading tastes, finding that perfect listening experience might require a little work and advice. Luckily, we're all ears at Mechanics' Institute, and we have a list of engaging audiobooks on CD or digital download to pair well with your journey.  

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, read by Norman Dietz - Mark Twain's classic story about the adventures of a 19th-century boy and a runaway slave on a raft down the Mississippi River is all the more delightful when read by Norman Dietz. Known for his quiet grandfatherly storytelling, Dietz' 11-hour performance will make Twain's powerful lessons slide down as easily as a spoonful of sugar. 

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman, read by George Guidall - Hillerman's atmospheric mystery with Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn as he investigates an eerie crime scene devoid of useful clues will chill you to the bone. The evil is palpable as Guidall's rich baritone narration leads listeners perilously through mysticism and murder. With a length of less than 7 hours, this digital audiobook is perfect for a shorter outing.

The Boys in the Boat: nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, read by Edward Hermann - A remarkable story made even richer for its telling by actor Edward Hermann. Based on true events, Hermann's flawless reading lends a noble air to this meticulously researched story about a rowing team that transformed the sport and attracted worldwide attention. Nearly 15 hours in length, this audiobook on CD is best savored on an extended trip with the family.   

Circe by Madeline Miller, read by Perdita Weeks - For mythology fans, the story of Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, unfolds like a sumptuous fairy tale for adults. In Greek mythology, Circe is a sorceress able to turn humans into wolves, lions and swine. This reading by British actress Perdita Weeks flows seamlessly between male and female voices and is full of raw emotion, giving it an intimate tone. Listeners will be spellbound for 12 magical hours. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer and Cassandra Campbell - With its stunning cast of characters and historical angle, it is easy to understand why this book translated so well into film. This outstanding audio production transports the listener back to 1962, a time when the relationships between white middle-class women and their black maids reflected the larger issues of racial upheaval in Jackson, Mississippi. The reading evokes a warm conversation around the kitchen table feeling and the characters are so authentically portrayed, listeners will be left wanting more. At 18 hours, this winning title is a roundtrip ticket.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, read by the author - Bourdain shares the good, the bad and the ugly of what goes on behind kitchen doors. If you're looking for an amusing companion for an all-day road trip, Bourdain is a no-nonsense narrator who shares all, including the gritty culinary details and the four-letter words. A humorous memoir that may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if so, you might want to pack your own picnic lunch instead of stopping for a restaurant meal. 

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March, read by Vikas Adam - March's novel of Bombay in 1892 shines under actor Vikas Adam's engaging narration. His Indian accent and ability to switch easily between voices and dialect inflections carries this story of divided loyalties and murder in colonial India smoothly along. For fans of Downton Abbey, this 16-hour digital audiobook is best reserved for a longer journey.

24: life lessons and stories from the Say Hey Kid by John Shea, read by Bob Costas, Julian McWilliams and Larry Herron - A spectacular book that will transport listeners to a different era. The audio production, read in a tag-team narration by media giant Bob Costas, sportswriter Julian McWilliams and actor Larry Herron weaves seamlessly through Mays' stories, off- and on-the-field anecdotes interspersed with brief pieces of advice and mini-mantras from the baseball great himself. If you're looking for seasonal family entertainment about one of the finest baseball players ever, this is an 11-hour long home run of a performance.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, read by Bahni Turpin - A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that follows a young slave's journey as she makes her way to freedom in the Antebellum South. Read by actress Bahni Turbin, this powerful story mesmerizes as the narrator shifts easily between ages, races and accents with a large cast of characters. She handles the nuances of dialect carefully and avoids caricature. A moving 11-hour performance that will keep you engaged to the end of your trip. 


Posted on Jun. 2, 2021 by Celeste Steward