Finding the best nonfiction audiobooks available is no small task. Listeners run the risk of discovering, hours into their audiobook, that they haven’t absorbed any of the information — so, choosing an audiobook with an engaging story and narrator is key. These are some of the best history and nonfiction audiobooks we’ve found while listening.
1. The Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokaw
This book tells the stories of the individual men and women who made up one of the most tumultuous generations of America. These people made it through the Great Depression and World War II, then went on to help build modern America.
Written and narrated by journalist Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation pays a small tribute to the people who fought and paid the price to create a stronger and more lasting country that we all have the pleasure of living in today. If, like so many others, Brokaw’s voice was a soothing nightly presence in your household during his 20+ years on air, The Greatest Generation will bring you back to a different time in many ways.
2. SPQR, by Mary Beard
SPQR is the history of Rome unlike you’ve ever seen it before. Mary Beard’s sweeping examination of the birth and growth of an empire which remains at the forefront of history will leave readers speechless. She unearths centuries of unexplored narratives and sheds light on some of the most peculiar aspects of this history. Beard pays nuanced attention to individual stories, cultural struggles, and exposes groups of people who have been excluded from history for decades.
The title is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase which translates to “The Roman Senate and People” still used today as an emblem for Roman government. Beard focuses on an under-noticed aspect of the Roman empire — its growth, rather than its decline — to show just why Rome will never lose its grasp over history lovers.
3. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
With his eyes set on the Olympics, Louis Zamperini never thought he’d be gearing up to join the war, and he certainly never imagined ending up drifting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Louis, often a problem child, learned to channel his less productive energy into running. Laura Hillenbrand tells of Louis’s legendary story of heroics, defiance, and bravery. He withstood all odds, and his is a story you won’t want to miss. Read by Edward Herrmann (Gilmore Girls), the audiobook is urgent and enthralling.
Also read: The 5 best military books of 2017
4. A History of the World, by Andrew Marr
In 2012, the BBC released an eight-part miniseries condensing the history of the world into a thrilling eight hours. Marr, a beloved historian in the UK, had previously written two best-selling histories of Great Britain. With A History of the World, and its accompanying book, Marr dives into the rest of the world, eschewing the typical Eurocentric approach.
Overflowing with vibrant language and a plethora of stories you’ve probably never heard, Marr manages to string together connections between seemingly completely unrelated stories in distant parts of the world. Renowned for his ability to make history accessible to the everyday reader, Marr will enchant listeners with this take on history.
5. Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley
Flags of our Fathers tells the story of perhaps the most famous event in U.S. military history: the attack on Iwo Jima. He sheds light on the men who lived to tell their stories and those who didn’t. Bradley’s father was one of the six men who raised the flag now represented by a monument in the nation’s capital and one of the three of those men who survived the following battles.
The audiobook of Flags of Our Fathers is narrated by Stephen Hoye, a seasoned audiobook reader who has won a number of awards for his narrations. If you’re looking to encounter a classic WWII tale read by an expert narrator, this is the audiobook for you.
6. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
Why did Homo sapiens emerge on top? How did our foraging ancestors grow to create the booming metropolis seen today? Dr. Yuval Noah Harari traces where humankind has been in an attempt to discover where we might go. He looks into everything from devastating catastrophes to monumental discoveries that changed the course of history. He dives deeper than the concrete facts, examining happiness, personalities, and ways of living. And perhaps most importantly, he tries to answer the overarching question: Is there anything we can do to change the future? Narrator Derek Perkins delivers Sapiens confidently and engagingly.
7. Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, Joan Druett
Just 285 miles south of New Zealand sits Auckland Island. Because of its location, it suffers a year-round onslaught of violent storms. On a strange day in 1864, two separate ships crashed on opposite sides of the island, making for a confrontation never before seen in the history of the island. For most, being stranded on the island spells certain death, but these two crews had another idea.
Joan Druett examines the journals of the survivors and maritime historical records previously unseen to tell a story about leadership, trust, and betrayal. The engrossing audiobook will keep you listening for hours.
Related: 7 amazing war books written by the men who fought there
8. Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, by Doug Stanton
After 9/11 left the country in a scramble for justice, peace, and safety, a small group of Special Forces secretly entered Afghanistan. With nothing but the clothes on their backs and a small amount of weaponry, they set out to defeat the Taliban on horse. After an epic journey spanning across rigorous terrain, a series of deadly battles, and the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif, a major Afghani city, the plan for an enemy surrender is underway.
While at first the Special Forces soldiers were welcomed as heroes, things quickly took an unexpected turn. Six hundred Taliban troops ambushed the Horse Soldiers and the POWs they’d rescued. Overpowered and outnumber in every way possible, they fought for their lives, and to avoid capture. About to hit theaters as 12 Strong, the audiobook of this tale is well worth the listen.
9. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann
In the 1920s, the Osage became the richest people per capita in the world. This tiny Indian Nation in Oklahoma discovered oil beneath their land and turned it into massive profits. They rode in chauffeured vehicles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Sadly, and seemingly unavoidably, people arose to take advantage of the tribe, once one of the largest American Indian nations in the area. Mollie Burkhart watched her entire family murdered, and her case was just the beginning of the reign of terror.
David Grann’s investigation into the case was one of our favorite nonfiction reads of 2017, and the audiobook, which features a narrator for each section of the story, is perfectly produced.