Here are the best historical books that have made the jump to audio, from famous royals to intrepid adventurers. Listen to extraordinary tales of heroism and tragedy, social commentary, documentaries and the occasional novel…
Encounters with Victoria: Queen Victoria’s Reign Through Significant Meetings
By Lucy Worsley
BBC Audio, £22.74, narrated by Lucy Worsley, 2 hours 14 mins
Historian and broadcaster Lucy Worsley brings her inimitable style to this ten-part look at the relationships that shaped the life and reign of Queen Victoria. Adapted from a BBC radio series, each episode focuses on a point in time in which a particular person – such as Lord Melbourne – came to the fore. Experts including AN Wilson, Mark Bostridge and Helen Rappaport offer their insights along the way.
The World Beneath Their Feet
By Scott Ellsworth
Hodder & Stoughton, £21.99, narrated by Scott Ellsworth, 13 hours 33 minutes
From 1931 onward, waves of climbers, athletes, scientists and eccentrics set out to conquer the Himalayas – the foreboding mountain range that features many of the world’s tallest peaks. Its very highest, Everest, was successfully ascended by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, but what of the other stories? This retelling of those, often fatal, attempts explores what drove such missions. Dynamically read by its author, Scott Ellsworth, this is a vibrant glimpse into a period of wild adventure.
Prisoners of History: What Monuments to the Second World War Tell Us About Ourselves
By Keith Lowe
William Collins, £10.49, narrated by Keith Lowe, 7 hours 40 minutes
World War II ended 75 years ago, but its legacy is still with us: in how nations view themselves and others, as well as in physical landscapes. Here, Keith Lowe explores what war memorials in locations such as London, Berlin, Moscow and Hiroshima tell us about the conflict and its place in the 21st century.
Nancy Wake: World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy
By Russell Braddon
Brilliance Audio, £20.20, narrated by Nico Evers-Swindell, runtime 9 hours 5 minutes
Daring rescue missions; frantic escapes; desperate losses of those closest to her: the story of World War II spy Nancy Wake has all of this and more, in this dynamic telling of Russell Brandon’s recent biography. “A rebel, always laughing, and very, very feminine,” the first chapter opens, and that’s a fair summation of a woman who became a key figure in the French Resistance and who helped Allied airmen escape the clutches of the Nazis.
Making Our Way Home
By Blair Imani
Random House Audio, £16.88, narrated by Tay Zonday, Blair Imani and Patrisse Cullors, runtime 5 hours 36 minutes
Spanning the decades between 1916 and 1970, the so-called Great Migration saw six million African-Americans move from the southern US to escape poverty and racism and begin new lives elsewhere. It was a huge cultural and social shift, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. Author Blair Imani sketches the story, together with fellow activist Patrisse Cullors and voice actor Tay Zonday. It’s an absorbing story.
Night and Day
By Virginia Woolf
MuseumAudioBooks.com, £28.08, narrated by Laura Orlando, runtime 19 hours 21 minutes
First published in 1919, Virginia Woolf’s second novel explores what was then the very topical issue of women’s suffrage, the fight for which was still ongoing in the United Kingdom at the time of its writing. Following the lives and loves of four interrelated characters – poets, lawyers, campaigners – all of whom are single and questioning what to do next, it’s astute and wryly humorous. This audiobook retelling brings the world of Edwardian London vividly to life.
We update this page regularly, so keep checking back for new recommendations of what to listen to. Last updated 23 March 2020