15 Audiobooks to Entertain You If You're Missing Sports While Social Distancing

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15 Audiobooks to Entertain You If You're Missing Sports While Social Distancing

When we first decided to publish a sports-themed audiobook list, the goal was to give even the least sports-minded of listeners a way to enjoy the excitement this time of year brings. March Madness! Spring Training! The Women’s College World Series! The final run up to the NBA Playoffs! The XFL! Spring and sports go hand-in-hand; it makes all the sense in the world that people should seize the opportunity to share in the athletic spirit.

Then COVID-19 shut it all down. So unless you’re loving the absurdity of a fan-free WWE or tuning in for the goofy, marble-racing chaos that is ESPN 8: The Ocho, a sports-themed audiobook might be the best option to get your spring sports fix for now. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up 15 audiobooks (listed from shortest to longest run time) from the past couple of years that span sports and genres. Whether you’re a sports fanatic or athletically agnostic, we’ve got you covered.

At some point, sports will be back in all our lives. Until then, wash your hands, check out a digital audiobook and get listening!

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Lu (Track, Book #4) by Jason Reynolds

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Narrated by: Guy Lockard

Run time: 4 hours and 40 minutes

Sport: Track

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

The latest novel in Jason Reynolds’ four-part Track series, Lu is a rollicking (if brief) breath of fresh air. Told from the point of view of swaggering pretty boy Lu, the story follows him and the rest of the series’ star track team as they head into championship season—and possibly to the Junior Olympics. As performed by Guy Lockard, who also narrated books one and two in the Track series (Heather Alicia Simms tagged in for book three), Lu is loose and nimble, providing an easy listen for a long, sunny afternoon. Should you want to take a whole weekend and listen to Reynolds’ series in its boisterous entirety? All the better.

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The Night Swimmers by Peter Rock

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Narrated by: Graham Halstead

Run time: 5 hours and 9 minutes

Sport: Swimming

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

For a literary exploration of swimming’s solitary nature, try Peter Rock’s autobiographical novel, The Night Swimmers. It uses an increasingly mysterious story about middle-of-the-night swims in the rocky depths of Lake Michigan as framing device for that old MFA trope, “aspiring young writer moves home, meets an enigmatic older woman, learns complicated lessons about himself and the world he inhabits.” As performed by Graham Halstead, whose sense of both pacing and rhythm evokes the strokes of the swimmers at the story’s heart, the audiobook version of The Night Swimmers is at once compelling and easy to sink into. Just don’t sink too far.

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64th Man by Bryan Tucker and Zack Phillips

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Narrated by: John Cena, Anna Chlumsky, Leslie Jones, Adam Pally, Chris Redd, Alex Moffat, Jay Pharaoh, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Will Forte, Heidi Gardner and others

Run time: 5 hours and 12 minutes

Sport: American Football

Audible Original

Of the dozens of Audible Original comedies that have debuted in the past year, 64th Man leads the pack for mass appeal. Starring John Cena as the endearing, undrafted titular character and featuring Anna Chlumsky, Leslie Jones, Adam Pally and other comedy A-listers as key secondary characters, 64th Man leans hard into the idea of sports as a metaphor for life (in this case, failing to thrive). Intricately produced and full of dynamic sound effects and rich background noise, 64th Man is custom-built to hoover you in, football fan or not. If you’ve got Audible credits to burn, check this one out.

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Alone on the Wall (Expanded Edition) by Alex Honnold, with David Roberts

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Narrated by: Andrew Eiden, Will Damron

Run time: 8 hours and 46 minutes

Sport: Climbing

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

For the average person, getting inside the psyche of someone like Alex Honnold, a person who voluntarily took on a free solo climb of Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan, is unimaginable. For extremely brave moviegoers, the 2018 documentary film Free Solo made that very thing possible on a terrifyingly visceral level. For the rest of us, there is Honnold’s recently expanded memoir, Alone on the Wall, which documents his now-infamous ascent as well as other wild adventures during his climbing career. The best thing about the audiobook version of this memoir? When experienced through Andrew Eiden and Will Damron’s chill narration, it’s blessedly free of harrowing visuals. Long live Alex Honnold; may he live to write a dozen more memoirs for us to live vicariously (but not viscerally) through.

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The Swimmer: The Diana Nyad Story by Diana Nyad

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Narrated by: Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

Run time: 7 hours and 40 minutes

Sport: Swimming

Audible (Exclusive)

Legendary swimmer Diana Nyad made figurative waves when, at the age of 64, she became the first person in recorded history to successfully swim across the 111-mile stretch of ocean between Cuba and Key West without the assistance of a shark cage. In The Swimmer, originally a two-woman Off-Broadway play, Bonnie Stoll joins Nyad in dramatizing that journey, giving the listening audience more intimate insight into Nyad’s experience than they’d get in simple prose. As adapted exclusively for Audible, the production takes on extra aural texture, water effects and other background sounds layered in behind the script. But it’s the script itself—and Nyad and Stoll’s performances thereof—that’s the real draw.

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Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation by Michael Powell

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Narrated by: Darrell Dennis

Run time: 7 hours and 44 minutes

Sport: Basketball (specifically Rez Ball)

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

The Young Adult lit landscape is full of solid basketball stories—romantic, comedic, tragic, dramatic—but sometimes, you want to go right to the source. Michael Powell’s Canyon Dreams, which thoughtfully explores the impact Rez Ball has in Native American communities across the country by focusing on a high school team on a Navajo reservation for one season, does just that. It’s all sweat, all exhilaration, all heart, all real. As a bonus: On hand to narrate the audio version is Aboriginal Canadian actor Darrell Dennis (of the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia), whose performance is sharp and uncomplicated, letting the true story of the Chinle High Rez Ball team take center court.

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Blitzed (The Playbook, Book #3) by Alexa Martin

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Narrated by: Kristen Sieh and Sullivan Jones

Run time: 8 hours and 49 minutes

Sport: American Football

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

Blitzed, the latest book in Alexa Martin’s Denver Mustangs-centric romance series, is our pick for anyone looking for their next swoon-worthy listen (after making their way through our recent list of romantic listens, of course). Alternately narrated by Kristen Sieh (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing) and Sullivan Jones (IQ), Blitzed is equal parts wry and frothy. And while it’s plenty of fun on its own, it’s obviously even better when listened to in tandem with book one, Intercepted narrated by January LaVoy, and book two, Fumbled narrated by N’Jameh Camara.

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The Resisters by Gish Jen

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Narrated by: William DeMeritt

Run time: 8 hours and 50 minutes

Sport: Baseball

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

A novel set in the near future technocratic/capitalistic “democracy” of AutoAmerica, Gish Jen’s The Resisters follows a vulnerable family whose daughter has a golden arm. It invites readers to see our current social reality in a whole new way, even if the invitation grows less necessary the more the real pandemic snowballs. But The Resisters, deftly brought to life by William DeMeritt narration, is flexible. Even if you don’t need Jen’s dystopic imagination to understand the precarity of American society in 2020, you do need the play-by-plays of pitcher Gwen’s journey from community sports organizer to Big League college competitor and back again. If you’re looking for heart, The Resisters has you covered.

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Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

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Narrated by: Julia Whelan

Run time: 9 hours and 6 minutes

Sport: Baseball

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

Another swoon-filled listen to follow February’s romantic audiobooks list, Evvie Drake Starts Over is just the thing for anyone feeling blue about missing Opening Day 2020. Featuring a slow-burn romance between a a star pitcher with a bad case of the yips and a widow in small-town Maine, Linda Holmes’ baseball-oriented debut is the perfect fit for this moment of social distancing. Making the fit even better? Julia Whelan’s dependably excellent narration. Opening Day will come again; for now, settle in with Evvie and Dean.

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Olympic Pride, American Prejudice: The Untold Story of 18 African Americans Who Defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to Compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thrasher (and presented by Blair Underwood)

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Narrated by: Leon Nixon

Run time: 9 hours and 8 minutes

Sport: Olympic Games

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

Telling the little-known story of the 18 African American athletes who defied the racism of both Jim Crow and Nazi Germany by competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice is a gripping and sobering, read. Narrated with conversational confidence by Leon Nixon, the audiobook version of Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thrasher’s book is especially compelling. And while this title would always be worth checking out, with the 2020 Olympic Games officially postponed, now is an especially good time to give it a shot.

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Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle: How Softball and Sisterhood Saved Lives in the South Bronx by Dibs Baer

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Narrated by: Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Run time: 10 hours and 31 minutes

Sport: Softball

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

When it comes to spring and the NCAA, the Women’s College World Series is where you’ll find the best action (not to mention the best commentating). Imagine our excitement, then, when we saw Dibs Baer’s Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle on our digital audiobook shelves. With actress Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Luke Cage) bringing verve and solid pacing to the audio production, Lady Tigers hits the story of one South Bronx middle school’s championship girls softball team out of the park. This audiobook offers listeners a chance to grasp just a bit of the community-building, confidence-boosting quicksilver that is playing on a tight-knit girls softball team.

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Gravity by Sarah Deming

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Narrated by: N’Jameh Camara

Run time: 10 hours and 40 minutes
Sport: Boxing

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

Written by boxing journalist Sarah Deming, Gravity is an ideal way for YA readers to immerse themselves in the mental and emotional challenges of the sweet science—without risking life or limb by trying to match Gravity Delgado’s Olympics-oriented training regimen in real life. With narrator N’Jameh Camara’s fluid accent work and thoughtful fierceness, the audio version makes Gravity’s inner and outer worlds spring to life. Honestly, we wouldn’t be surprised if most people squared up for a few rounds of shadowboxing while listening.

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The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Dreamed Big, Defied the Odds, and Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray

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Narrated by: Andi Arndt

Run time: 11 hours and 14 minutes

Sport: Soccer

Audible (Exclusive) | SoundCloud

Winners of three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals and the eternal love of millions of fans after their historic championship run in 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team boasts incredibly talented athletes. And yet, as anyone who follows the sport even tangentially knows, their compensation doesn’t come near matching their reputation. Caitlin Murray’s The National Team, which features dozens of interviews with players and coaches and is narrated exclusively for Audible by Andi Arndt, digs into this reality. It traces the National Team’s history from its 1980s inception to today, delivering a listen that will appeal to everyone—even listeners who aren’t fans of the sport.

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The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team by Matthew Goodman

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Narrated by: Joe Ochman

Run time: 14 hours and 24 minutes

Sport: Basketball

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

Sports stories are good when they’re focused on the big picture, but they’re great when they get ultra-specific. We were thrilled to discover The City Game, Matthew Goodman’s book following a single small Harlem college’s 1949-50 basketball season—and the fallout after five starting players were arrested. Coming in with tons voiceover acting under his belt (anime fans might recognize his work), actor Joe Ochman lends a smooth surefootedness to the audio version, making the book’s 14+ hours glide by. The City College Beavers were no Lakers, but hell if their 1949-50 season isn’t a trip to experience.

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We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

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Narrated by: Isabel Keating

Run time: 14 hours and 44 minutes

Sport: Field Hockey

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | SoundCloud

From 1980s pop culture to the Salem witch trials to a losing field hockey team suddenly imbued with dark powers, Quan Barry’s nigh-indescribable We Ride Upon Sticks has it all. Add in narrator Isabel Keating, whose performance runs from exhausted American resignation to fierce Quebecois taunts and back again with spooky ease, and you’ve got the witchy field hockey literary period piece mystery novel you never knew you always wanted. Get us our earbuds and our sticks! Tonight, we ride.



Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.

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