Reading classic literature can feel daunting. The language is often archaic, the themes can be complex, and the reading experience might be a little slower than usual. However, using an audiobook can help you maintain your usual reading pace and increase your understanding of the characters and plot lines. If you’re looking for an alternate way of reading classic novels, try these best classic novel audiobooks.
Determining something as a ‘classic novel’ can be tricky because everyone has different opinions. Publishers like Penguin or Bloomsbury often have a ‘Classics’ set, which can be a good place to start but ultimately, assigning a ‘classic’ label is up to interpretation.
Whether you’re looking to dive into the obvious older classics, such as the work of Austen, Tolstoy, Dickens, or the Brontës, or whether you’re looking for modern classics written by authors like Orwell, Woolfe, Hemingway, and Steinbeck, this list will give you a comprehensive overview of classic literature, whatever your style.
These books all vary in genre, tone, and theme, so if you’re looking for something in particular, be sure to carefully read the description to find your perfect match.
Many people put off reading classics because they’re nervous about the content or language but these books are fantastic reads, hence why they’ve gone down in history as classics. So, if that sounds like you, overcome your fears and dive into an audiobook!
The 20 Best Classic Novel Audiobooks
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations follows an orphan who gets swept into wealth and forgets who he really is. This is a tale of arrogance, class divides, unexpected heroes, and family ties.
As one of Dickens’ most famous novels, Great Expectations is a book worthy of the hype. Set in classic Dickensian London and following some of his most beloved and eccentric characters, this is not one to miss.
Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Nicholas Nickleby are also classics that come in audiobook form if you’re looking for another Dickens novel.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is one of the most inspirational and adventurous narratives in the classic literature scope. The Alchemist tells of a poor shepherd who journeys across Andalusia and into the Egyptian desert to find treasure.
He meets some interesting characters along the way and learns more about himself and his purpose. If you’re looking for a philosophical, thought-provoking read, this one is perfect.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This classic is known as the book that kickstarted science fiction. Frankenstein is the story of a scientist who creates a man-made ‘monster’ out of human scraps found in graveyards and brings it to life with electricity.
This is a gothic horror story of companionship, compassion, human connection, and rejection. It is a creative and vivid tale that will intrigue and inspire – guaranteed to provoke some debates.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
This epic novel is one of Tolstoy’s most beloved works. War and Peace is a social commentary on Russian society in the 19th century during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia.
This novel delves into fascinating characters, romantic relationships, betrayal, and duty. It’s known for its length, but don’t let that put you off! It’s a brilliant story, even if it is rather descriptive.
1984 by George Orwell
In classic Orwellian style, this novel provides a dystopian insight into some of the most concerning social standards. Written in 1949 about the futuristic 1984, Orwell had some interesting, if not a little disturbing, ideas about society and governance.
1984 centers around a totalitarian society overlooked by Big Brother, stripping the rights and freedoms of all citizens. The story follows Winston Smith, an ordinary man who’s tired of this system. This book parallels many modern-day societies around the globe, making for a very fascinating read.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This empowering memoir has captivated the interest of readers worldwide. It follows Maya and her brother Bailey as they are sent to live with their grandmother in the South. As young black children, the two face a plethora of prejudice and discrimination and the book even details an attack Maya experienced at the age of 8 by an older white man.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a graphic and raw read for anyone interested in race relations or biographies. It may be a tough listen for those who find discrimination or violence triggering, but the story is gripping, emotive, and very important.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
During imprisonment, Dantés intrinsically plans an escape method and figures out how to exact revenge on the rivals who got him incarcerated.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you’re a romance fan, this one’s for you. Pride and Prejudice is the giant of romantic fiction and follows famous Lizzie Bennet as she navigates early womanhood, which of course, centers around finding a husband.
However, Lizzie is one of 5 daughters, so this novel is jam-packed with suitors, romantic conflicts, betrayals, scandals, social climbs, and disgraces.
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds is one of the most popular science fiction novels of all time. It details a Martian invasion of Earth and follows as regular people are plunged into an extraterrestrial war.
This story is inspirational and the first of its kind, hence why it received such a brilliant reception. For vivid descriptions, apocalyptic scenes, technology, science, and unforgettable characters, there’s no better novel out there.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Social climbing Tess claims her family is attached to the aristocratic d’Urbervilles. She integrates their world but soon realizes she’s made a mistake after crossing paths with the arrogant, violent Alec d’Urberville.
Just as Tess tries to start over, Angel Clare steps on the scene and offers her a new life, one that centers around love and compassion. But Tess is now troubled and contradicts the typical Victorian framework of womanhood. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a moral story of femininity, sexuality, love, social expectation, and mental downfall.
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady is one of the most influential books of its generation. It’s the story of Isabel Archer who discovers her destiny after inheriting a fortune.
Settling into a new life and overwhelmed by the duty and scale of it, she becomes the victim of a destructive scheme.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This is one of the most celebrated dystopian novels ever written. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the fictionalized Republic of Gilead, in which women have little to no rights and no control over their reproductive capacities.
Women live as servants to wealthy families and are frequently sexually assaulted in order to reproduce. But it never used to be like this and Offred, one of the Handmaids, is determined to escape the Republic and attempt to end this oppressive reign.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Adventure, no rules, and no adults – sounds great, right? Lord of the Flies is the story of a group of schoolboys who are deserted on an island. With no supervision and no regulation, they live the life that every schoolboy dreams of.
But the dream quickly shifts into a nightmare as they realize the difficulties of living without order. This novel spirals and demonstrates the fine line between uncontrolled human activity and chaotic savagery.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
If you’re craving a period classic that’ll help you dive into the glitz and glamor of 1920s America, this is your best bet. However, be sure that The Great Gatsby comes with a few twists.
It delves into the millionaire lifestyle of Jay Gatsby, haunted by the loss of his one and only love. Mysterious, dangerous, and iconic, this book is an unforgettable masterpiece and it’s fairly short too, so perfect for those with a shorter attention span!
Sherlock Holmes Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle
If you’re in the mood for an investigation, the Sherlock Holmes series is the perfect choice. Arthur Conan Doyle is famous for creating one of the most intelligent and innovative characters in literary history.
Sherlock Holmes has provided generations of readers with entertainment and mystery and the plot lines are unpredictable and humorous.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
This story centers around Dorothea Brooke and Dr. Lydgate, who both face their own intellectual and marital problems. This is one of the most suspenseful and dramatic stories of Eliot’s generation and explores a plethora of social issues and individual concerns.
Middlemarch has gone down in history as a feminist classic, which offers astute social criticisms and psychological insight. If you’re keen to read a critically acclaimed English classic, this is your book.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Bronte is one of the most well-known English authors in literary history. She, along with her two sisters, produced some of the most famous novels that typically revolve around social expectations, womanhood, marriage, and regulation.
Jane Eyre is a novel written in bildungsroman style that follows a woman of the same name, growing up and navigating independence and individuality. Despite all the social expectations she must adhere to, Jane makes her way through life prioritizing herself, rather than marriage.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is a fantastic book that tackles racism and racial injustice in 1930s America. To Kill a Mockingbird hones in on Atticus Finch, a lawyer attempting to defend an innocent black man in a deeply racist society.
This book dives into racial attitudes, prejudice, and follows a young girl who is just beginning to observe the racial inequality that surrounds her.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Based on his own experiences as a brief whaler, Melville wrote this masterpiece which has dominated classic literature for centuries. Moby Dick tells the adventurous story of Ishmael, the sailor driving a quest to hunt white sperm whales.
This story is not a simple or short read, so tread with caution and be prepared for some complex names and characterizations.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher-Stowe
This realistic depiction of slavery was ahead of its time, published in 1852 and offering raw insight into the harsh realities of slave life.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin begins on a Kentucky farm as Arthur and Emily Shelby, the farm owners, struggle to make ends meet. In order to keep their finances afloat, they are forced to sell two of their slaves.
If you’re looking to delve into classic literature as a whole, of course, the works of Shakespeare, classic epics written by Homer and Virgil, and poetry all feature too (all of which can be found as audiobooks) but we hope that this list of classic novels has provided you with some inspiration.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good feminist classic novel?
Depending on your standpoint, Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, and Jane Eyre are all known as classic feminist novels.
What should I read if I want a classic adventure novel?
Works like Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and Lord of the Flies all stand out as adventure classics.
What should I read if I want a thought-provoking classic?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is very philosophical but most of these books spark debates about different topics, so you’re almost guaranteed a thought-provoking read with any of these novels.
What should I read if I want a classic that tackles themes of race?
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a classic that tackles slavery, whereas Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird tackles racial injustice in the 1930s. Both are brilliant reads.
What should I read if I want dystopia?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or 1984 by George Orwell.