The Official Audiobook Guide to the Western European Road Trip

A distant shot of a train winding its way through a mountainous countryside
Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Ondrej Pospisil/Flickr

Few things create a literary moment as reliably as a road trip, and it is common knowledge that road trips and books pair up like fine wine and aged cheese. But one can only read On the Road so many times before the novelty wears off. This is an audiobook guide to accompany a journey from the snowy streets of Stockholm, Sweden, to the Mediterranean beaches of Barcelona, Spain. Each novel takes place in the country that it is paired with and was translated to English from that country’s principal language.

Begin the trip with The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson and translated by Rob Bradbury. This novel is set in Malmköping, a small town near Stockholm. It features Allan Karlsson, a sharp-witted centenarian who decides to have one last adventure in a life that has been filled with them. Karlsson escapes his retirement home on the afternoon of his birthday party and gets on the first train he can, embarking on a strange and unexpected journey. The audiobook is narrated by Steven Crossley, an award-winning reader with a dry yet lively voice and a smooth English accent. 

From Stockholm, travel through Denmark and down into northern Germany to the city of Berlin while playing The End of Loneliness, by Benedict Wells, translated by Charlotte Collins. This novel deals with painful loss and the ways that people try to pick up the pieces afterward. Three young German siblings lose their parents to a car accident, and they are shipped off to a boarding school as they try to make sense of what has happened and how they can continue to live their lives. The narrative follows them for decades as they split apart and come back together again, each with a life overshadowed and defined by that harsh tragedy. Narrator Luke Thompson relays the book in a candid and emotional manner, drawing the listener in with the ease of a natural storyteller. 

Next, travel southeast through Frankfurt toward Paris while listening to Geoffrey Strachan’s translation of Waiting for Tomorrow, by Nathacha Appanah. This story is set in Paris and the south of France and follows a couple as they meet and begin to grow older together. Although things go well at first, dark undercurrents in their relationship surface and threaten to destroy their marriage when they hire an illegal immigrant to care for their child. Teri Schnaubelt brings the story to life with a voice that alternates effortlessly between the quiet calmness and thick tension that fill the pages of the novel. 

In the final stretch of the trip, travel from Paris toward Barcelona and dive into Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind, translated by Lucia Graves. The novel takes place in Barcelona after the tumult of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Daniel is brought to a secret library by his father and chooses a book from the shelves, not realizing that the book’s author is a central piece of a great secret and that he is about to be pulled into the dangerous center of the intrigue. The story is narrated by Jonathan Davis, whose precise pronunciations effortlessly dance over the novel’s complex words and Spanish names.

These audiobooks make a wonderful addition to a once-in-a-lifetime trip. They offer a beautiful opportunity to experience the culture of these world-famous cities through their art while simultaneously traveling through the beautiful European countryside that lies between them. 

Tyler McElroy graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in English in 2019. He enjoys reading, listening to music, and writing in his spare time. He intends to make a career out of his love for the written word and is usually busy planning his next big adventure.