Are you looking for a quick and engaging listen? Maybe you need a book to listen to during your 45 minute workout, or something to keep you company on a two hour afternoon hike. Maybe you just want a book you can listen to in a day (or even one sitting) to get a little of that I-just-finished-a-book satisfaction. Whatever kind of book you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat audiobooks under three hours for that quick-listen fix.
I love sinking into a good 18 hour audiobook. But I’ve come to appreciate short audiobooks for their ability to bust me out of reading slumps. Sometimes listening to four short audiobooks in a row is exactly what I need to get back in a reading groove. If I’m feeling indecisive about what to listen to next, I usually choose a short audiobook. Audiobooks under three hours aren’t a big, scary commitment, which makes it easy to plunge in.
I’ve also come to appreciate short books in new ways since I started listening to audiobooks. Sometimes short books can be frustrating, especially if they are really good. It’s hard not to want more of something you love! But I find that listening to a book brings it to life in new and exciting ways. Listening to a short audiobook can be a more immersive experience than reading it in print. And since most of us read words on a page faster than anyone can speak them out loud, listening to a book will actually prolong the experience.
Here are three of my favorite audiobooks under three hours. I purposely chose books that are strikingly different from each other: a nonfiction letter-in-verse, a collection of essays, and a romance novella. You might assume that short audiobooks mostly fall into one or two categories—children’s books and poetry, for example—but in fact, you can find audiobooks under three hours in a wide range of genres.
For Every One by Jason Reynolds, read by Jason Reynolds (25 minutes)
At only 25 minutes, this is a truly quick listen. Beloved author Jason Reynolds delivers a heartfelt letter-in-verse addressed to anyone who’s ever had a dream. In his signature style—clear, beautiful, and arresting—he speaks to the dreamer in all of us, reminding us that dreams have no time limit or particular shape. It’s a lovely affirmation that everyone’s journey is wildly different and that there’s no such thing as failure. Reynolds himself reads it, and he’s a brilliant performer; the emotion in his voice adds to the power of his words. The author’s note at the end is also touching. If you’re looking for a quick burst of comfort or inspiration, this is a fantastic listen.
A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother by Anna Prushinskaya, Read by Xe Sands (1 hour, 40 minutes)
In this short and thoughtful collection of essays, Anna Prushinskaya contemplates what it means to become a mother. She writes about the changes in her body, in how she sees the world, in how she thinks about the past and future. Drawing on the work of other writers who’ve explored motherhood, pregnancy, birth, and feminism, these essays read like a conversation Prushinskaya is having—with herself, her son, her Russian grandmothers, her husband. Xe Sands’s narration is lovely. She often pauses between words, or strings phrases together unevenly, so that it sounds like she’s working through the ideas as she speaks. This beautifully captures the essence of Prushinskaya’s writing. The essays themselves, and Sands’s narration of them, feel like small acts of discovery.
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A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian, read by Morag Sims (2 hours, 43 minutes)
I’ve recently started listening to romance on audio, and it turns out that romance novellas absolutely shine when read aloud. In this delightful queer historical, Molly Wilkins, a lady’s maid with a penchant for theft, finds herself falling for the Alice, the companion of her employer. When a truly terrible man from Alice’s past reappears in her life, the two team up to get rid of him. The romance is sweet and free of angst, and the revenge story is truly satisfying. Morag Sims’s narration is lovely. She uses a light touch, but perfectly captures the distinct voices of the two women. She makes it so easy to slip into their world, making it feel like you’re there with them.
If you want even more audiobooks under three hours (and to prove they come in all genres), I also recommend Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, read brilliantly by Michael C. Hall (2 hours, 50 minutes) and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, read by ever-incredible Robin Miles (2 hours, 30 minutes).
And if you’re looking for more short audiobooks, we’ve got you covered! Poetry audiobooks are often under three hours. Check out 5 Must-Listen Audiobooks by Poets of Color and 9 of the Best Poetry Audiobooks. There are also some great nonfiction audiobooks on this list of ultra-short audiobooks to help eviscerate your new year’s resolutions. We’ve also got lists of must-read short audiobooks in fiction and nonfiction.