There’s something about the epics. You know, those gargantuan books that suck you in for weeks on end and then stick with you long after as you mourn the loss of your literary friends. The novels that span generations or worlds (or both); the tales of governments overthrown and wars fought and lost; the ones that fuel bibliophiles everywhere.
If you love those books — and if you love audiobooks — then we’ve got just the thing for you.
Each of these 11 audiobooks lasts 20 hours or longer, and they aren’t for the faint-of-listening heart. Rather, these titles are for those who love diving deeper into a new world … or who hate sitting in traffic without a story to entertain them. They’re also for the folks who can better digest a complicated storyline when it’s read to them, who don’t have time to carve out hours to read a four-pound tome, and who just want to get the most bang for their buck by listening while doing other tasks.
If this sounds like you, then these sweeping stories across different genres, ranked from shortest to longest, are worth a listen.
When Richard Papen arrives at college in New England, he is entranced with the Greek scholars, a group of five elite students led by a charismatic classics professor. As he is drawn into the inner circle, Richard learns a terrible secret. The students have forgone modern morality, slipping toward betrayal, corruption, and ultimately, something far worse. One brutal ritual has already taken place — and it seems there are more to come. This 22-hour audiobook will suck you into a dreamlike tale where nothing is quite as it seems.
On board a whaling ship, outcast Ishmael chronicles the crew’s search for the great white whale of the Southern Oceans. Their hunt is driven by the fervor of Captain Ahab, who lost his leg to the whale during a previous voyage. But Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of revenge at any cost may indeed cost them all their lives. Including surprisingly relatable parallels to the human condition, Moby Dick spans 24 hours and is perfect for fans of the classics.
Horror fans rejoice! This 25-hour bestseller by the King of Horror is calling your name. Leland Gaunt owns a small shop called Needful Things. Quite mysteriously, anyone who enters his shop seems to find the object they’ve been dreaming of. All Gaunt asks for in exchange is a small payment — and for a prank to be played on someone else from town. But as the pranks get more and more sinister, stirring up madness and violence, the town starts falling into chaos.
In this comprehensive biography, Isaacson details the intense personality, compulsive perfectionism, and ferocious ambition of renowned Apple creator Steve Jobs. This 25-hour audiobook is based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs himself, as well as more than 100 interviews with his friends, family, colleagues, and competition. It’s more than just a recounting of a life; it’s the story of a man who revolutionized six industries and influenced many more.
If you’re a fantasy fan, this 27-hour stand-alone novel is a must-read. Elantris was once the home of the gods and a place of magic. It was run by the immortal Elantrians, wielders of magical powers. But 10 years ago, the magic failed — sealing off the city and leaving the Elantrians trapped within immortal bodies but suffering from wounds that won’t heal, horrible pain, and unquenchable hunger. When a young prince is struck by the same fate, he is exiled to the doomed city. And he decides to do something about it.
At 27 hours, this novel will suck you in with lyrical prose, unrivaled worldbuilding, and insightful character development. The first in an ongoing trilogy, this epic fantasy centers on Kvothe, a sword fighter, magician, and fugitive now masquerading as an innkeeper of a different name. When Kvothe saves the life of a scribe, Chronicler recognizes him and asks him to recount his story. The hero agrees, and thus begins the tale of his life, from childhood to his evolution into the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.
For the audiobook listener that wants a great challenge — and to check a book off their to-read list — this 30-hour epic weaves together history, philosophy, and psychology as it chronicles Russia’s struggles with Napoleon. The story centers on the lives of three main characters: the bastard son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance, a prince who leaves his family to fight in the war, and the daughter of a nobleman — who catches the attention of both men.
The year is 1945, and combat nurse Claire Randall has finally returned from the war and reunited with her husband. To celebrate, they embark on a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands. But when Claire touches an ancient stone ruin, she is transported back to 1743, to a Scotland ravaged by clan wars and conflict. And she is a stranger — an outlander — suddenly (and suspiciously) in their midst. As her life intersects with that of gallant James Fraser, Claire is torn between two times — and two loves. If you’re looking for 32 hours of action-packed adventure and heart-racing romance, this audiobook delivers in spades.
Clocking in at 35 hours, Middlemarch explores a fictional town of the same name and the life of Dorothea Brooke, a bright woman who marries a conceited scholar who doesn’t believe women have a place in intellectual discussions. When she meets her husband’s cousin, an idealistic young artist, Dorothea must decide between love and duty. While tying in a larger discussion of political change and the class system, this classic novel also sheds light on the internalized misogyny of Eliot’s time.
At 44 hours, this terrifying tale is not for the faint of heart — but it is for anyone who wants to fall into a story so compelling that it forces them to stay up late listening (while hiding under their covers). Seven adults have returned to their hometown, a town haunted by an evil creature that preys on children. They are pulled in by a promise made 28 years ago, when, as teenagers, they faced the creature. Now, the murders have started again, and they must once more gear up for battle.
After Sherman’s March to the Sea, Scarlet O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a plantation owner, must fight to escape poverty. Weaving through marriages and battles, sicknesses and affairs, love found and love lost, Mitchell entrances readers with an epic tale set against the tumultuous background of the Civil War in the South. Get your headphones charged because this audiobook spans a whopping 49 hours.
About the Author: Kelsey Fritts
Kelsey is a writer, editor, anthropologist, and bookworm. She's also the author of two young adult fantasy novels. When she's not out exploring in nature or playing with her ridiculously spoiled dog, you can find Kelsey curled up with a mug of hot cocoa and a novel—likely one by Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, Margaret Atwood, or Ursula K. Le Guin.