The Best Nonfiction Audiobooks I’ve Listened to Lately

Nonfiction Audiobooks


Nonfiction is my go-to for audiobooks…particularly lighter nonfiction (none of those dense history tomes for me!). I also listen to lots of backlist on audio, which is very different from my print reading habits. And, I’m sharing the best nonfiction audiobooks I’ve listened to lately (meaning in the first half of 2019) with you today.

One book missing from this list is I Miss You When I Blinkby Mary Laura Philpott because my listen was a “re-read” after reading the print version first. I reviewed the print version here, but I have to tell you the audio hit me even harder. I even changed my rating from 4 to 5 stars after listening to the audio. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend the audio (read by Philpott herself).

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The Best Nonfiction Audiobooks I’ve Listened to Lately

ColumbineColumbineby Dave Cullen, Narrated by Don Leslie
Investigative Journalism / True Crime, Released March 1, 2019
14 Hours, 6 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

It took me forever to listen to this one (it’s 16 hours long), but it was well worth the time. Sue Klebold’s memoir, A Mother’s Reckoning, resurrected my interest in the Columbine shooting and Columbine was an excellent companion listen. Don Leslie’s narration, especially in the beginning, made me feel the frenzy of the actual shooting and the survivors’ immediate reactions. And, particularly fascinating was the detail Cullen shared about the shooters’ histories prior to the shooting (leading to their very different motivations…and, were they psychopaths?), the media’s response and inaccuracies, and a police cover-up. Meticulously researched and an iconic true crime book.

Helter SkelterHelter Skelterby Vincent Bugliosi, Narrated by Don Leslie
Investigative Journalism / True Crime, Released 1974
26 Hours, 29 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’d been wanting to read this classic true crime book for awhile, but knew I’d never make time for its 600 pages. So, I was thrilled when it was recently released in audio (26+ hours of it!). First, I somehow never realized the author was actually the prosecutor in the Manson trials, which was a fascinating perspective to get. There is a TON of information in this book…definitely too much at times…but, it really is a fascinating story and I didn’t know about a lot of the weirdest elements of it prior to listening to Helter Skelter (i.e. that the phrase “helter skelter” came from a Beatles song and the entire helter skelter concept as outlined by the Beatles was thought to be the motive for the murders?!). This story is definitely of the “truth is stranger than fiction” variety, which makes for great nonfiction reading.

Operating InstructionsOperating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott, Narrated by Rebecca Lowman
Memoir, Released May 1, 1993
6 Hours, 17 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

When I posted about how I loved Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a blog reader recommended her memoir of her first year as a single mother to her son. It’s told in diary format and covers issues huge (ex: the trials of doing it alone) and small (ex: when the baby just won’t stop crying, which I realize is not a small issue, but I’m just calling it small here because it happens so often every day!). It’s incredibly raw and honest, but is definitely not an advice book. It’s a commiseration book and would be a great listen for anyone who doesn’t think motherhood is easy (i.e. me!).

Save Me the PlumsSave Me the Plumsby Ruth Reichl, Narrated by the Author
Memoir, Released April 2, 2019
7 Hours, 55 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This memoir by long-time restaurant critic and Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine is a look behind-the-scenes of Gourmet during a time when they were trying to re-vamp the magazine. I love “behind-the-scenes of business” stories and I loved this one. But, Reichl also gets personal. She talks about growing up with a bi-polar mother, the stress being a restaurant critic caused within her own family (i.e. it’s hard to be gone almost every night when you have a child), and her feelings of imposter syndrome when she took over the top job at Gourmet without any editorial or magazine experience. And, though this memoir isn’t primarily about the food, Reichl’s glittering food writing is there.

This Will Only Hurt a LittleThis Will Only Hurt a Littleby Busy Phillips, Narrated by the Author
Memoir, Released October 16, 2018
7 Hours, 56 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Phillips, best known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougartown (and as Michelle Williams’ BFF) shares her experience growing up in Arizona and breaking into the acting business. She’s raw, honest, down-to-earth, hilarious, and unafraid to share some experiences from her childhood that many people would feel uncomfortable talking about. I absolutely wanted to be friends with her. She’s also willing to tell it like it is about Hollywood and other actors she’s worked with, not in a “who’s sleeping with who” kind of way, but more in a “that guy is a pompous prick and treated me badly” kind of way. She’s open about the real life of actors behind all the glitz and glamour (i.e. if you’re not Jennifer Aniston-level, actors can and do have financial problems!). Plus – Busy’s mom is a hoot (especially in the voice Busy uses for her in her audiobook narration). A light, fun, juicy listen and one of the most engaging celebrity memoirs I’ve read / listened to!

What are the best nonfiction audiobooks you’ve listened to lately?

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Nonfiction Audiobooks


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  1. Amanda Counts wrote:

    I just love Ruth Reichl! Garlic and Sapphires is my favorite. Can’t wait to read her new one.

    Posted 5.9.19 Reply
  2. Claire wrote:

    I also like to do nonfiction on audio. I used to only do nonfiction but I have recently started listening to fiction and I have found that I especially like listening to thrillers. I read Helter Skelter years ago; might need to check out the audio. Great list!

    Posted 5.9.19 Reply
  3. I love nonfiction on audio. I listened to Save the Plums, too, and loved it.

    Posted 5.9.19 Reply
  4. I don’t know why I’ve been resistant to I Miss You When I Blink, but I guess I’d better give in on that one.

    You’re amazing for taking on a 26 hour book. I don’t know if I could do it; I tend to click right through when those come up.

    So glad you liked Busy’s memoir as much as I did. I’d like to find another like that one soon.

    Posted 5.9.19 Reply
  5. Columbine and Helter Skelter are on my TBR list, so I’m glad they’re good! The food one sounds interesting too.

    Posted 5.9.19 Reply
  6. I listen to audios daily on my long drive to/fro work. Columbine was one that I often sat in the driveway at home listening just to hear more! Save Me The Plums is going to be requested right after I post this comment–thank you!

    Posted 5.9.19 Reply
  7. As someone who was born deaf and only recently ha 2 CI implants and who has only been able to understand audiobooks for a year and a half you could have someone read me the telephone book and I would proclaim how good it is. LOL, I have to admit that all of the books listed appear to be books that I would read even before I had implants.

    Posted 5.10.19 Reply
  8. Beth F wrote:

    I remember reading Helter Skelter when it first came out in hardback. *shudder*. You should see if you can get it from the library … I believe there are a few photo inserts and maybe a map. It’s hard to describe the impact of those murders and the Manson family if you didn’t live through it.

    I still haven’t gotten around to Save Me the Plums, but I’ve listened to Reichl and she’s okay at narrating.

    Posted 5.10.19 Reply
  9. You should try the audiobook for I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s one of my favorites!

    Posted 5.10.19 Reply
  10. Kathryn wrote:

    I recently listened to The Poisonwood Bible. It’s been in my top 10 for almost 30 years, and I wondered if it still held up. The audio version was just fabulous, even better than the paper read!! There weren’t enough stars to give it! Now I’ll go back and listen to Helter Skelter which I read & loved when it first came out (yes, old enough to have lived through the Manson years). Thanks for the recommendation!

    Posted 5.14.19 Reply

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