What should we listen to during a long upcoming road trip?

So far our best listening experience has been To Say Nothing of the Dog.  It’s unlikely we’ll find something else as amazing as that.  We also enjoy Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and The Splendid Table, but in short doses.  DH listened to Lincoln: Team of Rivals during one trip, but I found it mildly annoying.  DC1 liked Alcatraz books by Brandon Sanderson, and they’re ok, but not that compelling.  The first Iron Druid was pretty interesting, but they’re getting too dark for me and also there’s way too much sex for comfortable listening with the kids in the back.


  1. It doesn’t have to be interesting to children, but it does have to be appropriate for children listening (age 4 and age 9).
  2. We don’t really want tragedy or senseless violence etc.  Something upbeat or uplifting or funny would be better.

Any recommendations?  What do you listen to on long drives?

49 Responses to “What should we listen to during a long upcoming road trip?”

  1. Hypatia Cade Says:

    We like listening to In Our Time (BBC) ~ it’s a history podcast that includes histories of concepts, people, locations etc. We don’t always agree on which episodes will be interesting but can usually find some overlap. Some are definitely more interesting than others but I’m not sure if that has to do with how interesting we find the topic itself or the interviewees.
    (The one on Hadrian’s wall is so good we plan to try to visit Hadrian’s wall this summer)

  2. Leah Says:

    Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of our go-to road trip tapes when I was a kid. Read by Roald Dahl and really lovely. I like classic kids books, like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase or Watership Down (maybe too scary for DC2?). I listened to Anne of Green Gables. Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion was a regular listen too. Oh, Peter and the Wolf! That one is great too, and the music is fun. I have a few tapes that are stories with music that are similar — an example is Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery. They use classical music from the specific composer and have some sort of story line that goes along.

    I actually put a cassette deck in my car so I can continue to listen to old favorites from my childhood. I still have many of them!

    For current stuff, I really enjoy RadioLab and This American Life. I think my mild hipster streak might be showing there.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oddly, despite my Midwestern roots, I am not a fan of Prairie Home Companion.

      • Leah Says:

        I find it’s an acquired taste. I like it in small doses. I enjoyed it a lot more when I was a kid. I think maybe the program was better then but maybe it’s because I was smaller.

        Fantastic Mr. Fox, tho, is spot on and not just a kid thing. It is my absolute favorite.

  3. First Gen American Says:

    For podcasts…I like “Stuff You Should Know” “This American Life” “planet money”, “Ted radio Hour” They all have a big library of topics, some better than others. My favorite one was the one about a guy who taught crows how to pick up city trash with pavlovian type treats. I wish I remembered the title. I can’t find it anymore. The one on carrier pigeons was really interesting. Maybe TMI, but there’s also one on “How puberty works.” There is a boy edition and girl edition.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH likes planet money, but it drives me crazy (not because it is incorrect– they do a great job, but because it’s like sitting in on an econ 101 class for me. I’m like, shoot me now this is so boring.) We also find This American life a mixed bag, some times it’s can’t turn off the radio, but sometimes it’s irritating. Do you have any specific episodes worth downloading? I hadn’t heard of Ted radio hour.

      DC1 just had health class and learned about puberty (for both genders). It’s a couple years too early, but we figured if we stay in red state zie won’t get it at all, so better early than never.

      • First Gen American Says:

        They are all kind of educational in nature so it just depends on if it’s a topic that interests you. It is hit or miss. I kind of like to binge listen to specific topics…like job satisfaction and productivity…but that could be totally boring for another person.

        The last one I listened to is a hero’s journey.

        There are also a bunch on crazy alt lifestyles/adventures people take. Like blogs, some are fun to listen to, some are preachy. Sadly I haven’t found any health podcasts yet that I have liked.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2 actually just heard part of a Ted Radio Hour today and I’m not a fan at all. Ugghhhh old white men literally telling war stories as part of a “disruptive leadership” talk? No, no, and double-no.

  4. Cardinal Says:

    Caroline Carlson’s Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy. Kid lit, but totally, totally entertaining for adults, and each of the three is at least 5 hours long.

  5. bogart Says:

    Haven’t listened to them, but I read the Septimus Heap series to DS and really enjoyed it, have you covered those? We’re now working our way through Laura Ingalls Wilder, so particularly if your drive takes you through those or similar locations (in terms of the history) they might be a nice fit — if you haven’t already covered them. We’ve also done Hobbit as an audiobook (the others I list we read), which was pretty fun.

    Most of the grownup books that are springing to mind probably aren’t kid appropriate (though maybe the 44 Scotland St. series, which I’ve been enjoying as a sort of a “beach read,” albeit without the beach), but if others roll in (to mind) I’ll let you know :).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I recognize the covers– I think DC1 has read through the series. We did LIW a few years back. DC1 has also read the hobbit (I don’t think I need to experience it again though). I hadn’t heard of 44 Scotland St– I didn’t realize there was more than the No 1 ladies detective agency.

      • Cardinal Says:

        Alexander McCall Smith does have two or three shortish chapter books aimed at kids, set when Precious is a school girl. They’re good clean fun, but wouldn’t last too long on a road trip.

  6. delagar Says:

    IDK if you like SF, but when my kid was young we listened to Have Space Suit, Will Travel, and she loved it. Also, the Hank the Cowdog books are a lot of fun. (Slightly less fun for adults, but kids love them.)

    We also loved the Bill Bryson books, pretty much all of them. They’d probably be more fun for the adults than the kids.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We mainly need stuff the adults will enjoy since DC1 can read in the car without getting sick and DC2 is pretty good at entertaining hirself.

      • delagar Says:

        Oo, you should listen to True Grit, then, if you haven’t yet. It was excellent.

        And yes, Bryson was great.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s not very upbeat/life-affirming/funny though. For example, although I love Bellweather and To say nothing of the dog, Connie Willis’s other stuff is too dark for me. (DH liked True Grit and Willis’s other Sci Fi.) Book 2 of the Iron Druid series is creeping towards too dark (and DH says books 3+ just get worse).

      • delagar Says:

        True Grit doesn’t seem upbeat, but it’s hilarious. In kind of a dark way, I guess — it’s Mattie’s voice, which is wonderful.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think you have a much higher tolerance for dark than what I enjoy.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I like songs. Especially ones we can sing along to. Oldies, etc.

  8. Leah Says:

    Have you ever read the Cat Who books? They’re mysteries but not terribly gory or anything, usually pretty accessible, and they wrap up nicely. Those make good adult audio books.

  9. Rosa Says:

    I really like Bryson’s Brief History of Nearly Everything. And on our last road trip, with 9 & 10 year old children, we listened to Wee Free Men, which was great.

    I like Bujold books on audio too, and they are pretty generally child appropriate in that most gore and sex are offstage. In general most of the SF i like is the squeamish about sex & gore type and does well for trips.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH was suggesting Pratchett, but I wasn’t sure it would translate well to audio. (It definitely does not translate well to Kindle because of the footnotes.)

      • Rosa Says:

        The Tiffany Aching books at least translate well. The others more and less well – it’s hard for me to judge, because I’ve read them each several times in print, but a lot of the puns don’t really come through and the weakness of some of the plots is harder to deal with when it’s slower (I read faster than an audiobook reader)

  10. Shannon Says:

    One long road trip a while back (when our kids were about the same ages are yours), we checked out the Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. The audio is done by Brandon Frasier – the movie star of the Mummy fame. I cannot recommend it highly enough for everyone – there were many times we found ourselves sitting in a parked car, not wanting to turn it off because we were so engaged. I believe I read somewhere that Funke was inspired to write Inkheart (a triology about a man who can bring characters in a book to life by reading them aloud) by Frasier’s reading of Dragon Rider.

  11. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I once listened to all of Richard Feynman’s memoirs on a road trip from VA to Boston to Pennsylvania to Ohio to VA. (Also Madeleine Albright’s biography but that was less amazing.). I remember it being mostly pretty G-rated. Also, of course, it was hilarious.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have such a hard time with Feynman being such a sexist prick, you know? I haven’t yet gotten rid of our complete copies of the Feynman lectures, but I often consider it. It’s like, yes, he’s good at explaining physics, but there’s probably more recent stuff that’s good too.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        That’s totally fair. I was, like, 20 at the time and about 10% as angry/aware as now! I also liked Madeleine Albright’s memoir. Not sexist, though many sexist experiences. (Madam Secretary.)

  12. Jay Says:

    I started listening to Bryson’s book about the Appalachian Trail and quit when I couldn’t deal with the level of snark about things I care about such as, say, women. I really enjoyed “Manhunt”, which is the story of the search for John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln’s assassination, read by Richard Thomas. I also enjoyed Sarah Vowell’s book about the Puritans, “The Wordy Shipmates.” Some people find both her voice and her approach to history intolerable, so you might want to check out a sample before you commit to it.

    For light and fun, there’s a series of mysteries by Donna Adams featuring amateur sleuth (and blacksmith) Meg Langslow. I have actually laughed out loud at these.

    John Scalzi’s science fiction is lots of fun and some of his audiobooks are narrated by Wil Wheaton; probably not appropriate for kids because of the sex and occasional violence – although “Fuzzy Nation” has no sex and very little violence.

    For podcasts, I like “Wait Wait” and “Ask Me Another” (trivia and puzzles and Jonathan Coulton.) Jonathan Coulton’s music is also fun for kids and adults.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do find Sarah Vowell’s voice kind of annoying, but sometimes she’s so been compelling on This American Life that I listen anyway. :)

      We LOVED Redshirts on Audible on a road trip, but weren’t that bothered when a Fuzzy Nation library cd ended up irreparably scratched halfway through the book and we had to stop. We tried Ask me another, but didn’t like it as much as wait wait. DH’s Coulton cds are back at home.

      I will have to check out Meg Langslow. Laugh out loud is good. :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      (I wish i hadn’t checked locked in out from the library because that would have been a great roadtrip book)

    • Rosa Says:

      Oh! I forgot how much I liked Vowell’s books as audiobooks. We listened to the Hawaii one (Unfamiliar Fishes) on a long trip. But if you hate her voice that’s not going to work.

      I really liked Tina Fey’s Bossypants in audiobook format, but I honestly can’t remember if it’s kid appropriate at all. I listened to it on a trip with the kid but he probably was playing the DS most of the time and not listening (though he always looks like he’s not listening and then it often turns out he is.)

      I just finished listening to Jen Lin-Liu’s On The Noodle Road and really liked it – it’s a nice mix of travelogue and personal story, with a sprinkling of history, and the reader is good.

  13. Katie Cross Says:

    Have you started any of Terry Pratchett’s kids books? “Nation” was so good we started over at the beginning as soon as we finished it. It starts strangely but turns into a fabulous story with a strong girl and a strong boy. Also the “Wee Free Men” we loooooved the “pictsies”. :o)

    And my then 6-year-old and I listened to “The Boy Who Saved Baseball” by John H. Ritter one memorable road trip.

  14. Kellen Says:

    One of my coworkers got the rest of us at work listening to “Surprisingly Awesome” which is a podcast about things that you wouldn’t think much about, but they dig up fascinating stories related to them. I’m 95% it’s kid friendly (should have an advisory on iTunes or whatever you use to say if it’s explicit or not at least.)

    Freakonomics and Hidden Brain are my other current favorites. They are NPR-related so they keep it clean for kids.

  15. ChrisinNY Says:

    I too was going to recommend Pratchett- but the more adult/YA ones like Monstrous Regiment, Snuff, Going Postal.

  16. Lisa Says:

    Have you read Summerland by Michael Chabon? I read it aloud to my kids last year (having read it myself previously) and loved it even more when read out loud. It’s his young adult novel (as opposed to his others, which wouldn’t be kid-appropriate) and is a fabulous fantasy story in which a random bunch of kids and creatures has to play a game of baseball against the devil to save the world. LOVED IT!

  17. Chelsea Says:

    Confederacy of Dunces is a great audio book. It’s not exactly uplifting but it is totally hilarious. There are a few f-bombs in there and some sexual innuendo, but I don’t think the little ones would get the latter.

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