From Gothic chillers to clever whodunits to trailblazing
Romantic fiction, Britain in the 1800s was teeming with
literary movements, milestones, and masterpieces.
Here’s a guide to the best of the best Brit-lit listening
By Emily Martin
01. Jane Austen
Jane Austen was publishing novels at the beginning of the 19th century; therefore, she is the perfect way to start off this list. While there are many excellent audio renditions of her works, start with Audible's exclusive recordings of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, both narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress Rosamund Pike. For a thrilling multicast experience—led by none other than Dame Emma Thompson—don't miss the dramatic Audible Original, Emma.
02. Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is essentially synonymous with 19th-century British literature. For the most entertaining and beloved Dickens experiences in audio, check out A Christmas Carol, as narrated by Tim Curry, and David Copperfield, performed by Audible Hall of Fame narrator Richard Armitage.
03. The Brontë sisters
As the queens of Victorian Gothic literature, the Brontë sisters are worth getting to know. In fact, if you try these suggestions, you might even become a superfan like me. Acclaimed actress Thandie Newton delightfully narrates Charlotte Brontë's beloved classic, Jane Eyre. Another Audible Exclusive recording is Emily Brontë's ghostly romance Wuthering Heights, narrated by Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt. Last but not least, don't forget the youngest Brontë sister. Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a feminist masterpiece, and the version narrated by Alex Jennings and Jenny Agutter should be required listening. If you still can't get enough Brontë, try The Brontë BBC Radio Drama Collection, offering seven full-cast recordings of the sisters' works.
04. Wilkie Collins
Wilkie Collins authored what is considered to be the first modern English detective novel, The Moonstone, and this full-cast edition truly brings the mystery to life. But Collins's best-known novel is arguably The Woman in White. In this Audible Studios version, Ian Holm's gripping narration is outstanding.
06. Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson created stories so popular that you probably know them, even if you haven't read or listened to them yet. Nevertheless, these classics are worth getting to know better. Start with his essential novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde—still chilling after all these years, and the narration by Richard Armitage puts it over the top—and then move on to the energetic dramatized version of his children's classic, Treasure Island, with a full cast of acting talent.
07. Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy was a Victorian realist who might be best known for his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles—gorgeously performed by Hall of Fame narrator Davina Porter—but that's just one of the many impressive novels he authored. To dive deeper into his works, try the Tony Britton-narrated The Mayor of Castorbridge, a twisty tragedy about a man who sells his wife and baby to a sailor (!) while drunk. Far from the Madding Crowd was Hardy's first major literary success, and Jamie Parker's accomplished narration gives the novel the treatment it deserves.
08. Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde is known for writing comedic plays that critiqued the rigid social structure of Victorian England. But his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, wonderfully narrated by Russell Tovey in a special anniversary edition, takes a dark Gothic turn as the author explores the corruption of the soul in exchange for the earthly pleasure of beauty.
09. Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle has essentially become synonymous with his most popular character, Sherlock Holmes. Now, you can listen to a complete collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Actor, comedian, and noted Holmesian Stephen Fry is the ideal conduit for this comprehensive collection, reminding us that Sherlock Holmes should be, above all else, a whole lot of fun. The same goes for his broader foray into the time period, Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets.
10. Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker is certainly best known for creating the vampire novel that set the tone for all vampire novels to come. Though there is an abundance of bloodsucking fiends in fiction today, the original Dracula remains the template—and it's still wholly riveting. In addition, the 2012 full-cast audio version set a new bar for star-studded recordings, featuring the talents of Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, and Steven Crossley.
She works as a contributor for Book Riot and as a blogger/podcaster at Book Squad Goals.