Do you suddenly need to fill a lot of unexpected free time, but can’t go outside? Are you desperate to get away from your home and have contact with other people? We do too, and we know the perfect way to help with all of those issues— audiobooks for some of our favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories.
Audiobooks can help us “escape” to another reality for a few hours and also let us hear someone else’s voice. Sometimes those voices come from celebrities we know and love. Here are great science fiction and fantasy novels read by some of our favorite actors and authors.
Note: All of these audiobooks can be found on Audible, where you can sign up for a free 30-day trial.
Neverwhere, Coraline, and More (Neil Gaiman)
Narrated by Neil Gaiman
One of the best fantasy authors also has one of the best reading voices. And he’s not afraid to show it off. You can listen to Gaiman read some of his greatest works, including the fantastic Neverwhere and his classic children’s story Coraline. You can also listen to a full cast read his iconic genre novel American Gods.
World War Z (Max Brooks)
Narrated by Max Brooks, Alan Alda, John Turturro, Rob Reiner, Mark Hamill, Alfred Molina, Simon Pegg, Henry Rollins, Martin Scorsese
A story about a global pandemic might not seem like the best escapist reading material for our current situation. But the audiobook for Max Brooks’ World War Z will definitely transport you to another place, one where you aren’t personally at risk. Not only does it feature the author himself, it also features a ridiculous all-star cast. Look at those names! Alda, Turturro, Reiner, Hamill, Molina, Pegg, Rollins, and Scorsese. If they made a movie it would make a gazillion dollars. (Wait….can they actually just remake World War Z?)
The Chronicles of Narnia Adult Box Set (C. S. Lewis)
Narrated by Kenneth Branagh, Alex Jennings, Michael York, Lynn Redgrave, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Northam, Patrick Stewart
The audiobook set for C.S. Lewis’s legendary seven-book fantasy story The Chronicles of Narnia has an absolutely loaded lineup of narrators. Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart are the two biggest names. And they’re joined by other renowned performers with Shakespearean chops, including Derek Jacobi, Michael York, and more. Even if you’ve read the books countless times before, have you really visited Narnia until you’ve heard Patrick Stewart do the voice Aslan?
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley
We’d be thrilled listening to either Alan Cumming or Tim Curry read Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel Dracula. But we don’t have to choose. The audiobook uses both actors. From Audible: “Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we’ve tried something different. By returning to Stoker’s original storytelling structure—a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters—with an all-star cast of narrators, we’ve sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power.”
A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
Narrated by Tim Curry
While we’re always happy to have Tim Curry scare us, sometimes we’re looking for an uplifting story. Fortunately, he can do both. You can follow up his performance in the audiobook for Dracula by listening to him narrating Charles Dickens’ timeless tale A Christmas Carol. Of course, you can’t have Tim Curry read a ghost story without him adding some spooky elements. He performs the story “in a deliciously dark tone, returning it to its Dickensian roots with a vivid imagining of Victorian London and just the right touch of outrageous fun.”
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
Narrated by Anne Hathaway
We’re not off to see anyone these days, let alone a wizard. But you can let Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway transport you to the magical land of Oz. She narrates L. Frank Baum’s legendary The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And the actress puts her talents to good use here. She said, “There are a lot of great voices in it. The more fun you have with it, the sillier and the more free you get with it, the better it is because it’s a story that can handle it.”
The Odyssey (Homer, translator Robert Fagles)
Narrated by Ian McKellen
It might be nearly 2,800 years old, but Homer’s The Odyssey is more accessible than you might think. Whether you’ve never read it before or have read it a hundred times, let Sir Ian McKellen regal you with the epic tale of Odysseus’s long journey home. We would listen to Ian McKellen read the phone book or a recipe on how to boil water. So hearing him tell an exciting and touching story that happens to be one of the most important works in Western Civilization isn’t exactly a hard sell.
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
Narrated by Hope Davis, Ava DuVernay, Madeleine L’Engle, Charlotte Jones Voiklis
Hope Davis (American Splendor, In Treatment) is an actress who’s good in everything. Her narration would be more than enough reason to include Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved children’s novel A Wrinkle in Time. But not only does the author lend her voice to the official audiobook (along with her grandaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis), so does director Ava DuVernay. She led the big screen adaptation in 2018. You can read the novel, then have it read to you before watching the movie. That’s a pretty fantastic way to enjoy a great story in three different ways.
Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders)
Narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, full cast
George Saunders’ experimental first novel Lincoln in the Bardo is hard to describe. It’s part prose, part poetry, and part play. It moves from a cemetery full of ghosts to the real history of Abraham Lincoln, and is filled with memorable characters. The result is absolutely stunning, a moving and poignant tale about life, death, grief, and regret. And the audiobook cast is more than up to the challenge. Saunders is joined by some of our favorites, including Nick Offerman, fellow author (and one of the best narrators) David Sedaris, Carrie Brownstein and more. Lincoln in the Bardo is a perfect choice of an audiobook.
Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White)
Narrated by Meryl Streep, full cast
One of the most popular books in all of children’s literature, E.B. White’s revered Charlotte’s Web, gets its very own full cast recording. But you can’t narrate a story that means so much to so many without a big-time star to headline. And the audiobook got the biggest: Meryl Streep herself narrates the fantastic story about a spider who turns a lovely little pig into a celebrity. We’d stay home to listen to it even if we didn’t have to be indoors.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
Narrated by Scarlett Johansson
It would be nice to take a trip down a rabbit hole right now, even if it ended with a Mad Queen trying to chop off our heads. But since we need to stay six feet away from everyone right now, a proverbial adventure will suffice. And few are as entertaining and memorable as Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You can escape to the Mad Hatter’s along with Black Widow herself, Scarlett Johannson. The actress lends her soothing voice to the audiobook, which is a new way for an Avenger to come to the rescue. This time she’s saving us from going stir crazy.
Matilda (Roald Dahl)
Narrated by Kate Winslet
Roald Dahl’s children’s novels are among the most beloved in all of literature. And Matilda is one of the very best stories he ever wrote. So it’s only fitting that the audiobook is read by one of the best performers in the world. Kate Winslet, who you might know from being great in every film she’s ever starred in, narrates the story of the brilliant little girl with the magic touch. And you can follow that up with more of Dahl’s stories, some which feature other big names, and some the author himself reads.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
Narrated by Stephen Fry
The audiobook for one of our all-time favorite novels, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is read by the fantastic Stephen Fry. That’s more than enough reason for us to start hopping around the universe yet again in one of funniest sci-fi stories ever written. But what makes Fry’s narration mean that much more is that he was friends with the late Douglas Adams, giving the audiobook a personal connection few others can match. And the next four books in the “trilogy” are read by Martin Freeman, who played the be-robed Arthur Dent in the big screen adaptation.
Featured Image: HarperCollins Publishers/CBS All Access/Universal Pictures