12 of the best bedtime audiobooks to help you drift off to sleep
Although I love unwinding at the end of the day with a paperback until my eyes become too sleepy to focus on the lines, there’s a very special place in my heart for audiobooks.
Often I have a dedicated audiobook on the go that’s just for bedtime reading; something relaxing and peaceful that I can turn to when I’m struggling to unwind and fall asleep.
I think there are two main qualities of a good audiobook to listen to before bed. One, the audiobook needs to be soothing and peaceful (no Swedish thrillers). And secondly, you don’t want to think too hard (no War and Peace). This is one of the reasons why listening to books you already know well is a great idea for bedtime.
How to listen to audiobooks before you sleep? With audiobook apps like Audible and Libby, you can use the sleep timer to pause after a certain amount of minutes, or use the bookmark function to mark where you get to.
The best option is to choose books with no pressure to follow and pay attention to, though.
Based on my criteria for the perfect audiobooks to fall asleep to, here are some of the best bedtime audiobooks for adults that I’ve enjoyed listening to before bed. I hope you’ll enjoy them too.
P.S. You might be able to find some of these audiobooks for free via the Libby app, which you can access through your library. Otherwise, they’re all available on Audible.
You can start a 30-day trial of Audible Plus to get your first book free and unlimited listening to the Plus Catalog.
The best audiobooks to listen to before bed
1. English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks
English Pastoral is a quietly poignant history of family, loss, and the land over three generations on a family’s Lake District farm, from the beloved author of The Shepherd’s Life.
James Rebanks learned how to work the ancient land the old way from his grandfather, but by the time he inherited the farm, the landscape that was once teeming with wildlife had profoundly changed.
It’s a love letter to rural landscapes and a story of inheritance, full of hope despite what is lost, as one farmer begins the process of restoring vanishing life to leave a legacy for the future.
2. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is an incredibly comforting book to read, and even more so as an audiobook to listen to.
It’s a short and wholesome book that’s perfect to listen to as you drift off to sleep. It’ll only take an hour to finish, but it’s an audiobook you can listen to again and again.
Told as a simple fable, it’s full of gentle life lessons and tender reminders of what a good life consists of.
Fall asleep listening to the book’s soothing words read by the author, accompanied by a beautiful music score by Max Richter and Isobel Waller-Bridge and with real wildlife sounds of rural England.
3. Mythos by Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry’s Mythos perfectly captures the Greek myths for the modern age in all their rich, timeless, and human relevance.
This is a world of magic, mayhem, monsters and maniacal gods, delivered in a vivid retelling to immerse yourself in as you fall asleep. You might also like the follow-up books Heroes and Troy.
If you want more audiobooks narrated by Stephen Fry, scroll down to #8 in this list. Also, he narrates some excellent sleep stories on the Calm app, which I’ve loved in the past when I was struggling with insomnia and anxiety and in need of both guided meditations and soothing sleep audio.
4. Nothing Much Happens: Calming Stories to Soothe Your Mind & Help You Sleep by Kathryn Nicolai
Sometimes drifting off is the sign of a bad read, but Nothing Much Happens is designed to help you fall asleep. Think bedtime stories for adults.
Based on the podcast of the same name, this is Kathryn Nicolai’s collection of calming stories taking place in and around a fictional city, each one revealing small moments of everyday wonder in the world and its seasons.
From celebrating the joy of being home alone to the pleasures of picking the best end-of-season tomatoes at the farmer’s market, this is a balm for frayed nerves and insomnia.
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This is Louisa May Alcott’s classic coming-of-age tale, told with a modern twist. The audiobook stars a full cast, led by four-time Golden Globe-winner Laura Dern along with veteran narrators.
It’s an especially good bedtime audiobook if you already know the plot and don’t mind falling asleep part-way through a chapter, but it’s also soothing for new readers.
“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”Little Women
6. Wild Signs and Star Paths: The Keys to Our Lost Sixth Sense by Tristan Gooley
I have included a few nature-focused books in this list, as one of my favourite types of audiobook to listen to before bed. I knew I also had to add this delightful book about learning to read nature’s signs by Tristan Gooley, author of bestselling How to Read Water and The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs.
In Wild Signs and Star Paths, Tristan Gooley shows how it is possible to achieve a ‘sixth sense’ of outdoor awareness that enables you to find direction with stars and plants, forecast weather from woodland sounds, and instantly predict the next action of a wild animal.
7. All Things Bright and Beautiful: The Classic Memoirs of a Yorkshire Country Vet by James Herriot
To leave your anxieties about the world aside and relax before bed, take a trip to the Yorkshire Moors with James Herriot, the Yorkshire vet who has entranced generations of animal lovers.
All Things Bright and Beautiful is the second volume of memoirs from the beloved author of All Creatures Great and Small.
Now settled into the sleepy village of Darrowby and married to Helen the farmer’s daughter, James Herriot thinks life should finally be quiet and simple.
But as a vet in 1930s Yorkshire, he must now contend with the domestic challenges of a grudge-holding dog called Magnus and delivering calves after too much homemade wine, but also the decisions that come as Britain reaches the verge of war.
8. Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I thought of adding the Harry Potter books to this list, as some of the most popular audiobooks to listen to on rotation before bed (particularly because they’re just so familiar to so many people).
But I’ve chosen another fantastic series of audiobooks that are also blessed with Stephen Fry’s narration, the Collected Sherlock Holmes.
The Audible edition with Stephen Fry’s narration (giving you a whopping 72 hours of audio in just one audiobook) won the AudioFile Earphones Award with this glowing comment: “Fry’s Holmes is crisp and high-handed, his Watson enthusiastic and bemused, and the rest of the narration colorful without being mannered. Have fun.”
9. Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection by Haemin Sunim
“When we become kinder to ourselves, we can become kinder to the world”, writes Haemin Sunim in this comforting book that celebrates the beauty of imperfection.
I’ve recommended Haemin Sunim’s first book, The Things We Can See Only When We Slow Down, time and again on Tolstoy Therapy.
Love for Imperfect Things is another fantastic choice, especially as an audiobook. As you settle down for the evening, let Haemin Sunim’s words of wisdom give you comfort and kindness to bring into your sleep and the day ahead.
10. The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
Over on Reddit, gnobodyhome shares, “I sleep listening to dry science lectures, or audiobooks about science with very gentle monotone voices. I like Bill Bryson’s voice and his books, I will listen to his books once and enjoy them, then sleep with them playing.”
One good place to start is Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods about his journey on The Appalachian Trail, but I also love The Body: A Guide for Occupants.
Described by The Guardian as “a directory of wonders”, the audiobook will have you marvelling at the form you occupy and celebrating the genius of your existence. Let the interesting tidbits wash over to you as you drift off to peaceful sleep.
11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is another classic novel that’s perfect to visit (and re-visit) in the cosy time before sleep. Retreat into the English country houses of the Bennett, Bingley and Darcy families and follow one of the best-loved stories of all time in this wonderfully-produced audiobook, performed by Rosamund Pike.
12. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Braiding Sweetgrass is one of the most loved books on nature from the last decade, written by botanist, professor of plant ecology, and Potawatomi woman Robin Wall Kimmerer.
In this wonderfully insightful and soothing audiobook, Robin Wall Kimmerer reveals what it means to see humans as “the younger brothers of creation” and plants and animals as our oldest teachers.
As Robin explains, it’s only when we listen for the languages of other beings that we can begin to understand the innumerable gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks and care in return.
Want even more bedtime reading recommendations? You might also like my list of the best bedtime books to help you sleep soundly.
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.