Expand your mind and your horizons with these stunning audiobooks that promise valuable life lessons and guidance, much like The Alchemist.
The Alchemist is one of the most beloved releases of the past century, largely thanks to its allegorical lessons about following one’s dreams, living a satisfying life, and taking a journey of discovery about oneself and the world around us.
Fortunately, there are many more titles that offer similar life lessons that can help us expand our horizons, learn about life, and see things from completely new perspectives. Take a look at our list of the best audiobooks to expand your horizons.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince is the kids book that’s secretly a great audiobook for grown ups. Yes, it has cute talking animals and a plot line based in fantasy rather than reality. And yet, it is one of the most enlightening, memorable, and endearing listens that anyone can enjoy and learn from at any age. Like Santiago, the young prince must leave his home and travel to find out more about the world. He discovers love, betrayal, and the ridiculousness of grown ups, as well as many important lessons for life. Highly quotable and utterly unforgettable, The Little Prince is a gem that will still be just as relevant a century from now as it is today. Award-winning actor and narrator Humphrey Bower lends his colourful and youthful tone to this release.
The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar is the story of two girls, each living remarkably similar lives—separated by 800 years. Set in Syria, their stories offer a rich cultural and personal journey, where both must find their own way in the world. Nour lives in the modern day world, where her family moves back to Syria after the death of her father, only to live a life fraught with danger as the war grows around them, forcing them to leave once again. Rawiya lives eight centuries in the past, and having also lost her father, yearns to leave Syria to explore the world. Exploring themes of immigration, self identity, and the idea of a journey in order to find oneself, The Map of Salt and Stars offers a thought-provoking tale that draws on similar ideas and themes as The Alchemist. Narrator Lara Sawalha captures each girl’s voice and longings perfectly.
The Vanishing Half is a contemporary release, published in 2020, and set to become a modern classic. From up-and-coming author Brit Bennett, the novel follows identical twin sisters who grew up in a small Black community, but who eventually decide to take their lives in very different directions. One moves away, marries a wealthy white man, and lives as a white woman, hiding her past. The other briefly leaves but returns to the town where they grew up, embracing her Black heritage. So alike yet so different, each sister struggles with identity, personal journeys, the choices she makes, and how those choices affect her daughter. The Vanishing Half is about race and more; it’s about how each of us feels a certain pull of the world, much like Santiago.
We Have Always Been Here is a memoir that offers a unique perspective on life and the world that many of us would never quite experience, yet also a human tale of suffering, triumph, and self discovery that many of us could also understand deeply. Author Samra Habib grew up in Pakistan under threat of Isalmic extremists who determined her particular sect to be blasphemous, all the while dealing with her sexual identity that her own family told her was dangerous. After Habib’s family moved to Canada as refugees, she faced even more challenges, but also took the opportunity to go on a personal journey of discovery and growth. It’s a story of self-determination and hope, and one that will give listeners a unique perspective on the world that we can each learn from.
Have you ever felt the pull of walking away from your current life, throwing it all away, and starting over somewhere new? That’s the premise of Jon Krakauer’s biography of Christopher McCandless, a young American man who gave it all up in 1992 to venture into the Alaskan wilderness and live off the land. Sadly, this famous story is not one of triumph, but of tragedy. Krakauer’s deeply researched account follows McCandless over the years and months leading up to his hike into the wilderness, and pieces together what happened in the days and weeks leading up to his death. While it is widely accepted that McCandless was unprepared to survive in the wilderness alone, this audiobook, narrated by Philip Franklin, offers a fascinating and moving account of a man who followed his desire to leave modern life behind and go it alone.
Zalika Reid-Benta’s debut novel, Frying Plantain is a fascinating and unpausable listen, and one that explores identity, growing up, and fitting in. It follows Kara Davis, a young girl on the brink of womanhood who lives in Canada’s ‘Little Jamaica’ area in Toronto, and who has Jamaican heritage and all the expectations that brings with it. This release is structured in a dozen stories at this turning point in Kara’s life, where we see her struggle under the weight of the expectation of who she should be, and her decisions and journey in becoming who she truly wants to be. From race and family relationships to bullying and immigration, this complex title offers something for everyone, but especially for those looking to expand their horizons.
Tara Westover’s autobiographical Educated became an overnight sensation when it was released in 2018. This incredible tale chronicles her childhood and upbringing with survivalists in Idaho, where everything she learned came from hard-won life lessons rather than any sort of formal schooling. Despite unbelievable challenges and having all odds stacked against her, Westover’s thirst for education and a better life led her to seek out other opportunities, including the chance to leave her home and attend university. It’s a story of determination and creating one's own path against massive hurdles and challenges, and it’s all the better thanks to Westover’s unflinching honesty and humanity against it all. Accomplished actress Julia Whelan captures Westover’s inspiring story in her emotive narration.
Jenny Heijun Wills was adopted into a Canadian family at birth, and grew up far from her birth family and home—culturally and geographically—of Korea. As a young woman, Wills went on a personal journey back to Korea to meet her birth family, and discovered so much more than just the people who created her. While Wills was still Korean, she found a major cultural disconnect, and struggled to come to terms with her birth family and the life she could have led. Skillfully narrated by Canadian actress Diana Bang, this is a tale about family, race, and the consequences of each of our actions and encounters with other people, both small and large.
At just 22, Cheryl Strayed lost both her mother and her marriage within a short time, and it sent her spiralling. Untethered and unsure what to do next, she decided to walk the rugged and unforgiving 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. She spent countless hours on the trail, all alone, many in unbearable pain (thanks to poor footwear), and some in genuine fear for her safety and her life. She was unprepared for the journey, but she went ahead anyway, overcoming physical barriers, mental challenges, and the emotional turmoil that started it all in the first place. Strayed is not always the most likeable protagonist, but she is genuine and honest. Powerfully captured in this audiobook, her daunting journey of discovery is one that can speak to us all.
Alix Ohlin’s Dual Citizens is a contemporary fiction that delves into what it means to be family, and how we hold together even through the peaks and troughs of life. The story follows two half-sisters, both raised in Montreal but both who move to America to seek a new life. Despite heading in the same direction geographically, the sisters fall apart as they take different paths and build lives of their own. Lyrically narrated by Therese Plummer, Dual Citizens is a story of familial relationships and how they hold together no matter our individual journeys, and about finding your own way even when you are connected to another.
Author Jessica Francis Kane is known for her beautiful stories that perfectly capture the human experience of loneliness and beauty, and her 2019 release Rules for Visiting perfectly showcases this immense skill. It follows 40-year-old May Attaway, who has come to appreciate the company of plants over people, until an unexpected opportunity to reconnect with old friends comes her way. Her journey is one of unexpected and laugh-out-loud humour, one that highlights the contrast between our digital lives and our real ones, and one of discovering the beauty and joy in human connection. Narrator Emily Rankin adds her conversational tone and dry wit to the story, creating a journey we can listen to that’s both highly personal and completely relatable.
Author Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing became an international success story when it was published in 2018, and has since become one of the must-listens of the decade. This beautifully written, spectacularly envisioned audiobook tells the story of a young girl who grows up living in poverty in the marshes along the North Carolina coast. Left alone at a young age, she raises herself, living off the land and learning to love it in all its beauty. Yet she is not completely cut off from civilization, and must also learn a much harder lesson—that of the realities of society and human nature. Narrator Cassandra Campbell voices Kya Clark, the ‘Marsh Girl’, in all her vulnerability and courage. Kya is a heroine whose journey is one of the mind and the heart, in which she learns about trust, love, and the true meaning of taking control of your own life.