Epic road trips demand audiobooks of sufficient length (or a really grand series read by the same narrator), but shorter trips or brief flights require something different—a title that lasts just until the plane lands or the destination exit is reached. These short, tiny treats make perfect suggestions for travelers taking shorter routes.
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka; narrated by Elaina Erika Davis (Books on Tape). Otsuka’s shimmering and strongly felt novel centered on the Japanese American internment camps of World War II is delivered by the great voice of narrator Davis, in a reading that lasts just three and a half hours. While author Otsuka’s four central protagonists (a mother, father, daughter, and son) remain nameless, Davis brings each to searing life.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers; narrated by Holter Graham (Hachette Audio). The five hours and 23 minutes Graham takes to read the brutal, lyrical, and haunting story of two soldiers in Iraq render a master class in narration. Graham performs the story as he reads it, infusing each of the beautifully crafted lines with their full measure of power and matching his tone and pacing perfectly to the text.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brilliance Audio). It only takes Gyllenhaal four hours and 51 minutes to read the ineffably sad and quintessentially American story of Jay Gatsby from its Jazz Age glitter to its gritty end. That he does so with perfect pacing, a lovely intonation, and a deep respect for his source material only makes his performance more enjoyable.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey; narrated by Derek Jacobi (AudioGO). Jacobi weaves a compelling aural web around listeners as he lures them deep into the 600-year-old mystery of the two princes killed in the Tower of London—a deed that has been conventionally laid at the feet of King Richard III. Jacobi’s reading lasts five hours and 20 minutes and is notable for its deft voice work and vivid performance values.
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith; narrated by Rebecca Lowman (Random Audio). Through elegant, luminous, and airy prose, this resonant novel traces a single day in the life of Isabel, a young woman working in a library, shopping for a vintage dress, and dreaming about a solider. Lowman reads this exquisite novel in two hours and 35 minutes, making each delicate, spare—and astounding—moment shine.