It was only recently that I discovered the joy to be found in an audiobook-fueled road trip. For the longest time, books seemed too evocative for car rides, too absorbing to serve as mere accompaniment to a scenic journey. But then, around two years ago, I found myself in Chile, exhausted by a string of flight delays and facing a long drive through the night. Trusting an algorithm to find something to keep me awake, I downloaded “The Lost City of Z,” David Grann’s gripping tale of the obsessive, swashbuckling Victorian explorer Percy Fawcett.
The story worked like a kind of narrative amphetamine, keeping my eyes open when everything I know of physiology said they should have been shut. I’ve come back to audiobooks on every road trip since — and not only because they keep me alert. Rather, I’ve learned that my mind can actually be in two places at once; that my imagination thrives in the blankness of forward motion. Freshly vaccinated and craving such movement, many are now planning their first big road trips in over a year. Here are five new books to take with you and immerse yourself in when you have nothing to do for hours but look ahead and listen.
Wind in your hair, sun on your face … soul-bearing self-reflection blasting out of the speakers? Trust me on this one. Jonny Sun’s GOODBYE, AGAIN: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations (HarperAudio, 3 hours, 42 minutes) is like one of those long showers during which you find yourself so lost in a flow state that, when you snap out of it, you forget whether or not you’ve even shampooed. Sun, who wrote “Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too” (under the pseudonym Jomny Sun), is as well known for his charming illustrations as he is for his ability to fit profundity into a 280-character tweet, so one might assume audio isn’t the right medium for this collection of short, memoiristic entries, both fictional and non. One would be wrong: Sun, who also narrates the book, brings a measured tone to each section that’s part friend, part unpretentious poet. Anything lost in the inability to see his sketches is more than made up for in speech, thanks to all the very smart, incredibly personal spoken detail. Recipes as family history, heart-wrenching descriptions of basement apartments and biographies of special houseplants all take on an even more evocative sheen when carried by his voice.
‘Goodbye, Again’ is like one of those long showers during which you find yourself so lost in a flow state that, when you snap out of it, you forget whether or not you’ve even shampooed.
In under four hours Sun packs in stream-of-consciousness freak-outs over daily decisions (“I am trying to decide if I should buy two rolls of paper towel or three”), meditations on former homes (“When I come back to visit, I see how so little was affected at all by my leaving”) and one-liners that punch you straight in the gut. Sun’s storytelling thrives in the specific, but there’s a universality to the emotions he explores. More than once, I had to remind myself that these were someone else’s thoughts, not my own.