Book at Bedtime: A BBC Radio Collection

Book at Bedtime: A BBC Radio Collection

10 Unmissable Classics


A bumper collection of accessible classics from the perennially popular BBC Radio 4 series

This diverse, wide-ranging anthology features readings of 10 of the greatest books in the English language, taken from the BBC's Book at Bedtime and performed by a stellar cast of narrators. Here are nearly 27 hours of sensational stories, from iconic romances and humorous travelogues to pioneering Modernist masterpieces and compelling explorations of the human heart. Comprising much-loved favourites as well as neglected classics, this genre-spanning selection has something for everyone.

This collection includes abridged readings of:

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth get a second chance at love following their broken engagement seven years earlier. Read by Juliet Stevenson.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: An orphaned young woman discovers romance when she meets the charming Mr Rochester. Read by Anne-Marie Duff.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: Independent Bathsheba Everdene must contend with three very different suitors all vying for her affections. Read by Douglas Hodge.

Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson: Stephenson's travelogue from his 12-day hike, taken to distance himself from his love affair with a married woman. Read by Alan Cumming.

The Aspern Papers by Henry James: A nameless narrator goes to Venice to persuade American poet Jeffrey Aspern's lover to let him read Aspern's letters. Read by Samuel West.

Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome: The Three Men in a Boat return for a bicycle tour through the German Black Forest. Read by Hugh Laurie.

Dubliners by James Joyce: Form-defining stories about life in Dublin at the start of the 20th century. Read by Stephen Rea.

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: Two couples, two marriages; both seemingly perfect. But beneath the surface lies deception and betrayal. Read by Toby Stephens.

The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor: Mary has spent thirty-five years taking care of others, but with the arrival Robert Herbert her quiet, ordered existence is changed forever. Read by Juliet Stevenson.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf: A playful mock biography of a chameleonic historical figure, immortal and ageless, who changes sex and identity on a whim. Read by Amanda Hale.

First published 1817 (Persuasion), 1847 (Jane Eyre), 1874 (Far from the Madding Crowd), 1879 (Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes), 1888 (The Aspern Papers), 1900 (Three Men on the Bummel), 1914 (Dubliners), 1915 (The Good Soldier), 1924 (The Rector's Daughter), 1928 (Orlando)

© 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

About the authors

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Brontë was born on 21 April 1816. Her father was curate of Haworth, Yorkshire, and her mother died when she was five years old, leaving five daughters and one son. In 1824 Charlotte, Maria, Elizabeth and Emily were sent to Cowan Bridge, a school for clergymen's daughters, where Maria and Elizabeth both caught tuberculosis and died. The children were taught at home from this point on and together they created vivid fantasy worlds which they explored in their writing. Charlotte worked as a teacher from 1835 to 1838 and then as a governess. In 1846, along with Emily and Anne, Charlotte published Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.After this Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, Anne wrote Agnes Grey and Charlotte wrote The Professor. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were both published but Charlotte's novel was initially rejected. In 1847 Jane Eyre became her first published novel and met with immediate success. Between 1848 and 1849 Charlotte lost her remaining siblings: Emily, Branwell and Anne. She published Shirley in 1849, Villette in 1853 and in 1854 she married the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died the next year, on 31 March 1855.
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Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. The son of a prosperous civil engineer, he was expected to follow the family profession but was finally allowed to study law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson reacted forcibly against the Presbyterianism of both his city's professional classes and his devout parents, but the influence of Calvinism on his childhood informed the fascination with evil that is so powerfully explored in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Stevenson suffered from a severe respiratory disease from his twenties onwards, leading him to settle in the gentle climate of Samoa with his American wife, Fanny Osbourne.
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Jane Austen

Jane Austen, the daughter of a clergyman, was born in Hampshire in 1775, and later lived in Bath and the village of Chawton. As a child and teenager, she wrote brilliantly witty stories for her family's amusement, as well as a novella, Lady Susan. Her first published novel was Sense and Sensibility, which appeared in 1811 and was soon followed by Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Austen died in 1817, and Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published posthumously in 1818.
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Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset in 1840 and became an apprentice architect at the age of sixteen. He spent his twenties in London, where he wrote his first poems. In 1867 Hardy returned to his native Dorset, whose rugged landscape was a great source of inspiration for his writing. Between 1871 and 1897 he wrote fourteen novels, including Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. This final work was received savagely; thereafter Hardy turned away from novels and spent the last thirty year of his life focusing on poetry. He died in 1928.
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Henry James

Henry James was born in 1843 in New York and died in London in 1916. In addition to many short stories, plays, books of criticism, autobiography and travel, he wrote some twenty novels, the first published being Roderick Hudson (1875). They include The Europeans, Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima, The Tragic Muse, The Spoils of Poynton, The Awkward Age, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.
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Jerome K. Jerome

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James Joyce

James Joyce was born in Dublin on 2 February 1882, the eldest of ten children in a family which, after brief prosperity, collapsed into poverty. He was none the less educated at the best Jesuit schools and then at University College, Dublin, and displayed considerable academic and literary ability. Although he spent most of his adult life outside Ireland, Joyce's psychological and fictional universe is firmly rooted in his native Dublin, the city which provides the settings and much of the subject matter for all his fiction. He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922) and its controversial successor Finnegans Wake (1939), as well as the short story collection Dubliners (1914) and the semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). James Joyce died in Zürich, on 13 January 1941.
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Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, born in 1882, was the major novelist at the heart of the inter-war Bloomsbury Group. Her early novels include The Voyage Out, Night and Day and Jacob's Room. Between 1925 and 1931 she produced her finest masterpieces, including Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando and the experimental The Waves. Her later novels include The Years and Between the Acts, and she also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, journalism and biography, including the passionate feminist essay A Room of One's Own. Suffering from depression, she drowned herself in the River Ouse in 1941.
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Ford Madox Ford

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F.M. Mayor

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