A good audiobook can ease the pain of holiday travel, a bad commute or a boring workout, but a great one is worth listening to purely for its own sake. Here are some recent favorites. 

'Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World' by Matthew Goodman

Credit: Penguin Random House

In 1889, the New York World sent scrappy reporter Nellie Bly traveling east from New York while The Cosmopolitan magazine's Elizabeth Bisland headed west, racing each other in an attempt to circle the globe in fewer than 80 days. As these trailblazers faced the vagaries of train, steamship and ferry travel, Käthe Mazur's narration offered a picture window on international ports, stunt journalism and budding feminism. (Random House Audio, 18 hours 57 minutes) --ANN SILVERBERG

‘The Line Becomes a River’ by Francisco Cantú

Credit: Penguin Random House

The U.S.-Mexico border has been the subject of countless news stories, but few accounts have the intimacy or immediacy of this one by the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, raised in Arizona, who joined the U.S. Border Patrol in 2008. Part memoir and part historical meditation, it traces Cantú's growing disenchantment with his service -- begun with vague intentions and hopes of understanding the immigration crisis better. Early sections show us the dehumanizing realities of his work. The absorbing final section follows Cantú after leaving the patrol in 2012; he befriends an undocumented immigrant, José, who is separated from his wife and children after returning to Mexico to see his dying mother. José's story lends this searching book, read with sincerity by Cantú, a beating heart and narrative momentum. (Penguin Audio, 6 hours and 30 minutes) -- TOM BEER

‘The Winter Soldier’ by Daniel Mason

Credit: Hachette Book Group, Inc.

"The Winter Soldier" sweeps us away to the Eastern Front of World War I for a tragic love story. Lucius is a nerdy med student from Vienna who has treated only four patients -- one for earwax -- when he is drafted to a first-aid station at the front. Arriving at a crumbling church in Carpathia, he finds himself being schooled in amputations and lice prevention by a confident, forceful young nun. Written by a professor of psychiatry, the story focuses on the treatment of what we now call PTSD, but was then considered malingering and cowardice. An old-fashioned historical novel of the best sort, it is elegantly narrated by Laurence Dobiesz, an actor whose credentials include a stint on "Outlander." (Hachette Audio, 11 hours 35 minutes) --MARION WINIK

‘Educated’ by Tara Westover

Credit: Penguin Random House

Tara Westover's memoir of her rural Idaho childhood with a deeply paranoid survivalist father -- working dangerous shifts in the family junkyard and enduring abuse from an older brother while finding her way to an education at Brigham Young and Cambridge universities -- was a national bestseller. The audio edition, read by actress Julia Whelan, acquires another layer of force and drama from her performance; we witness a young woman learning to think for herself and develop her agency -- in short, become a person. "Educated" will surely claim its place as a classic of the genre, along with such examples as Jeannette Walls' "The Glass Castle" and Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors." (Random House Audio, 12 hours and 10 minutes) -- TOM BEER

‘The Mars Room’ by Rachel Kushner

Credit: Simon & Schuster Audio

Romy Hall, the main narrator of "The Mars Room," is a smart, funny, observant and fascinating woman. All of that she likely has in common with her creator, Rachel Kushner. But Romy Hall is a former lap dancer doing two consecutive life sentences for killing a man by smashing his head in -- so it's particularly interesting to hear her story voiced by the author. The man Romy killed was a regular customer at the Mars Room who became obsessed with her, began stalking her and tracked her down even after she left town to escape him. Romy gives an account of prison life that is both wry and despairing; she could almost stand it, but her separation from her young son is unbearable. She is an unexpectedly endearing character, given added dimension by Kushner's voice. (Simon and Schuster Audio, 9 hours 41 minutes) -- MARION WINIK

‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns

Credit: Dreamscape Media

It is the time of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and an 18-year-old girl we know only as "middle sister," a girl who loves 19th-century novels and long walks, begins to receive unwanted attention from an older man who is not actually a milkman but a member of the local paramilitary. In her tail-chasing, truth-seeking, endlessly detouring interior monologue, middle sister navigates the pitfalls of ordinary life in her district, divided by religion and politics, drenched in violence, driven by suspicion and rumor. The extraordinary language and rhythm of the sentences is the engine of this Man Booker Prize-winner, and to hear it read in the lyrical brogue of Tony-winner Brid Brennan is incomparably powerful. You might want to listen even if you've already read it. (Dreamscape Media, 14 hours and 11 minutes) -- MARION WINIK

‘God Save Texas’ by Lawrence Wright

Credit: Penguin Random House

Lawrence Wright's amiable Texas twang animates his "Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State." Raised in Dallas and a longtime resident of Austin, the author of "The Looming Tower" and "Going Clear" offers an idiosyncratic survey of Texas history, culture and politics, taking in the Alamo and the Kennedy assassination, George W. Bush and Willie Nelson, the apotheosis of conservative politics at the Texas State House and liberal firecrackers like columnist Molly Ivins and former Gov. Ann Richards. Though Wright acknowledges the "legendary qualities of boorishness, braggadocio, greed and overall tackiness associated with my state," he has an obvious affection for it; even the staunchest of skeptics will be charmed by his bemused tribute. (Random House Audio, 11 hours and 2 minutes) -- TOM BEER

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