Short audiobooks you can enjoy in one sitting

Want to get stuck into a story but short on time? We recommend an audiobook – specifically, one of these 10 easy listens

Katie Russell
Best audiobooks that are short 2023
Image credit: Desiree Adams/Penguin

There’s nothing like losing yourself in a good book. But the old paperback has its limitations; you can’t read it while you’re walking about town – unless you want to be the least popular person on the pavement – and it requires your full attention.

It takes a long time to read a book from cover to cover – and we’re a busy bunch. It’s why we don’t judge people who skim-read. It’s also why we love an audiobook, as it allows you to juggle reading with life admin, going out and, yes, scrolling on socials.

As time is precious, we have rounded up the best audiobooks that are short enough to listen to in one sitting (we’re talking under the five-hour mark). So, you can enjoy the dopamine rush of finishing a book – with minimum effort required.

Best audiobooks under 5 hours

Length: 2 hours 34 minutes

Read by: Olivia Gatwood

Inspired by the explosion in true crime documentaries, Olivia Gatwood’s collection of poems explores what it means to grow up as a girl in a world where you are taught to expect violence. Yet Life of the Party is also about the transition from girlhood to womanhood – the friendships, the fear, the sexual awakenings at sleepovers.

Gatwood is one of the most exciting and fierce feminist voices on the poetry scene right now. As much as we love reading poetry, it is even more powerful hearing the words straight from the poet’s mouth.

Length: 4 hours 41 minutes

Read by: Caleb Azumah Nelson

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut, which won the Costa First Novel Award, revolves around two young people – both Black and British – who meet at a pub in South London and gradually fall in love. This is a love story about learning to be vulnerable, but it also deals with themes of racism, violence, and the pressures of masculinity.

In its audiobook format, read by the author himself, Azumah Nelson’s lyrical prose is even more captivating; you’ll listen to it in one sitting and wonder where your afternoon has gone.

Length: 58 minutes

Read by: Charlie Mackesy

The heart-warming tale of four ramshackle friends who must overcome tricky situations is undeniably beautiful because of its illustrations. However, in its audiobook format, the story is even more immersive, thanks to the music and sounds of birdsong that accompany the narration.

The author Charlie Mackesy narrates his story, and his smooth voice is calming and easy to listen to. Combined with the story itself, with its wholesome messages about kindness, vulnerability and friendship, this audiobook feels like a warm hug.

Length: 4 hours 39 minutes

Read by: Roxie Nafousi

You’ve probably heard of manifesting: the practice of envisioning the exact life you want, and then willing it into existence. But it’s not as simple as writing down what you want and then praying that it happens.

Manifestation is a science, and self-development coach Roxie Nafousi shares the seven steps to achieving it in her book Manifest. In this comprehensive guide, she explains how to turn your vision into action and, eventually, into reality. It’s motivational stuff and, given the audiobook is so compact, it would make for great listening on your morning run or commute.

Length: 4 hours 50 minutes

Read by: Stormzy, Akua Agyemfra, Alec Boateng/Twin B, Rachel Campbell, Austin Daboh, Kaylum Dennis, Manon Grandjean, Ayesha Lorde Dunn, Tobe Onwuka, Fraser T. Smith, DJ TiiNY, Trevor A. Williams, Jude Yawson

It’s no exaggeration to say that Stormzy changed the UK music scene forever. He revolutionised the grime genre and has earned many accolades along the way – from BRIT Awards to headlining at Glastonbury. But who is the man behind the music? In Rise Up, Stormzy tells his own story; and those closest to him share theirs, too.

This audiobook is part-memoir, part self-help manual, feeding into Stormzy’s wider ambition to both inspire confidence in young people and elevate Black British culture to where he believes it should be.

Length: 1 hour 7 minutes

Read by: George the Poet

George the Poet has a unique gift: not just for the expert way he crafts his poems, but for the powerful emotion he conveys when he performs them, which gives them a new sense of relevance and urgency.

In Search Party, his poetry debut collection, he speaks about his childhood in London with his mother, while also shining a light on wider societal issues that influenced his upbringing, from the financial crisis to violent postcode wars. The result? A thought-provoking and vulnerable collection of poems that cements George the Poet as the voice of a new generation. 

Length: 48 minutes

Read by: Guy Garvey, Edith Bowman, Benjamin Zephaniah, Cerys Matthews.

Words are disappearing every year from children’s dictionaries, including ones associated with nature: dandelion, otter, bramble and acorn are just some examples. The Lost Words is a collection of poems that celebrates these words.

This is a short but sweet listen, and the accompanying sounds of nature and birdsong make it even more soothing than the paperback. With its skilful narration, this audiobook proves that poetry is meant to be spoken aloud.

Length: 5 hours 4 minutes

Read by: Emma WhispersRed

If you haven’t already encountered the world of ASMR on YouTube, we highly recommend it. Because when you’re listening to repetitive tapping, or the turning of book pages, your brain doesn’t have time to focus on any worries in your head. Instead, you feel calm (and perhaps a little sleepy).

One of the best-known ASMR artists is Emma WhispersRed, who has over 1 million subscribers on YouTube. In Unwind Your Mind, Emma shares how you can connect with objects, notice their sounds, and clear your mind. This audiobook, narrated by Emma in her characteristically soothing voice, is an essential mindfulness tool.

Length: 4 hours 19 minutes

Read by: Benedict Cumberbatch

Time is one of the world’s great remaining mysteries, according to Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. In The Order of Time, he busts the myth that time is constant; after all, the faster we move, the more time slows down. This fascinating introduction to quantum physics will make you question what you thought you knew about the differences between the past, the present and the future, and will make you see the universe in a new light. The audiobook edition is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, whose voice perfectly suits the work of the man known as “the poet of physics”.

Length: 5 hours 5 minutes

Read by: Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman was talking about toxic positivity long before it became a buzzword on the internet. Over the course of his career, the journalist and writer has written numerous books on happiness, productivity and time management.

He also hosted a series of radio shows, which have been compiled into Epidemics of a Modern Life, looking at four key problems in society:  busyness, anger, an insistence on positivity, and the decline of nuance. In this radio series, Burkeman talks to a range of experts about how these problems arose – and how we can solve them.

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