Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen (read by various)

Although Northanger Abbey is the first novel Jane Austen wrote, in 1803, it was not published until after her death, in 1817. This drama­tised anniversary audio book is read by Emma Thompson, and stars Anna Chancellor, a relative of the great novelist.

This is Austen’s version of Don Quixote. Whereas Cervantes’ hero was led astray by chivalrous poetry, Catherine Morland’s imagination is addled by Gothic literature. When Catherine learns that her room might be haunted, she exclaims: “Oh! Mr Tilney, how frightful! This is just like a book!”

Austen’s mordant joke, that reality is more terrifying than any novel, sets the template for later horror-comedies such as An American Werewolf in London. Thompson reads Austen with the kind of sprightly energy she demands, the only downside being the slightly fuzzy sound quality.