Audiobooks are our passion. We listen to them, obsess over them, and produce thousands of them, including many award winners. So, with an ever-growing and diverse catalog of listens from beloved authors and top-line narrators, picking our favorite productions from our very own studios was no easy task. But here they are. From Austen and Twain to Murakami and Yanagihara, Cranston and Pike to Kellgren and Wyman; the stories and voices that moved us, sparked our imaginations, and left us in awe of the power of listening.

These are the ones we keep coming back to, and are most proud of creating: Audible Studios Essentials.

Pride and Prejudice is one of those classic novels that has influenced countless books, movies, and TV shows, and continues to make its way into the public consciousness. How many revamped or modernized Mr. Darcy’s have there been? But experiencing the original, as performed by Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) – who also starred as Jane Bennet in the big screen version of Austen’s beloved classic – is a bucket-list-level essential for all listeners. It’s the ideal coming-together of novel and narrator. From her caustic rendition of Mrs. Bennet, to the stern Mr. Darcy, and flighty Lydia, Pike brings all of Austen’s tremendous characters to life, proving that she was born to perform this book.

The End of the Affair is somehow the antithesis and the definition of a love story, and Colin Firth’s performance is truly exceptional. Firth captures the story's intensity in his delivery – the emotion in each sentence is nearly tangible – yet he doesn’t "over-do" it. This is so much more than a love (and hate) story – it’s a reflection on what brings happiness and sadness into this life, and what one might sacrifice for a chance at happiness in the next.

The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly an American classic, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s superb narration as Nick Carraway takes it to a whole new level. Fitzgerald’s elegant yet simple prose stands the test of time, and Gyllenhaal treats it with the utmost respect, allowing the vivid descriptions of mansions, landmarks, and 1920s New York to flow at just the right pace. While ultimately tragic, The Great Gatsby is full of light and beautiful moments that kindle nostalgia for the Roaring Twenties.

Margaret Atwood’s modern classic is one of the most stunning and powerful works of speculative fiction ever written, and it took a lot of careful consideration to determine who would best narrate this important book. Claire Danes elevates the frightening dystopic vision by lending a sheen of reality with her performance. She doesn't act, and she doesn't need to. She recounts. She breathes out the tale as if she is living it. Resigned, beaten down, traveling through hell by putting one step ahead of the other. Her performance is utterly convincing.

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the greatest American novels of all time. Tackling such a crucial work of literature is a big task for any narrator, but Elijah Wood rises to the occasion, giving an adept and tender reading that captures the essence of Twain's novel. Wood brings such unforced naturalness and ease to Huck's delivery that you can't help getting swept up in his adventures, revisiting the excitement and confusion of adolescence that he embodies; a trait which, with every listen, Twain proves is timeless.

Winner of Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, this striking re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic was written specifically for audio by authors A. J. Hartley and David Hewson. Their creative talents and respect for the Bard add fresh depth and perspective to his centuries-old classic, incorporating newly-imagined scenes and unexpected plot twists to revitalize the original story. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the exquisite performance of Richard “Ear Candy” Armitage (as he’s now known around the office). Drawing on his experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Armitage (The Hobbit films) fully inhabits Shakespeare’s characters, imbuing every line with unparalleled enthusiasm.

Bram Stoker’s classic is an epistolary novel – a story constructed through collected written accounts, letters, and newspaper articles. The very structure, lacking any one reliable narrator, lends hugely to the creep factor and the brilliance of this tale – something that is often lost in the myriad modern interpretations. This multi-cast rendition is not only performed by the best in the business, but it really brings the listener back to the original text, and it is without a doubt the best version in the store.

A deeply-moving, emotionally-draining, yet occasionally uplifting saga of friendship and love spanning 50 years, A Little Life has quickly become one of our favorite books. Yanagihara’s skill as a writer is undeniable, deftly exploring some of fiction’s darkest terrain, while also providing moments deeply human and affecting. Oliver Wyman’s impeccable narration added an entire new element to this already layered novel – his ability to convey the nuance of each character will leave you completely in awe of his strength as a performer. This is a listen that will stay with you long after the story ends.

1Q84 is a trip through the recesses of the mind to a dreamy dystopia where nothing seems quite right. Seamlessly blending elements of fantasy and mystery, Murakami creates a surreal love story between a female assassin and an unwitting writer who are somehow connected to one another, despite residing in separate, though, parallel worlds. Add in an erratic religious cult, a dyslexic teen with a puzzling past, and a grotesque looking P.I., and you have the off-kilter world of Murakami’s 1Q84. The audio version brilliantly captures the book’s unreal quality as Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, and Mark Boyett take alternating chapters, mirroring the book’s shifting perspectives as the parallel worlds draw closer together.

Orphan Train is the most powerful kind of historical fiction, taking the listener back to the 1920s and revealing the little-known details of how trains would deliver hundreds of thousands of abandoned children to new families in the middle of America. One of those orphans, Vivian, now in her 90s, befriends 17-year-old Molly, who is struggling in the foster care system. The unexpected relationship – performed beautifully by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren – reveals some of their deepest secrets, showing that the two have more in common than originally led to believe.

For a novel that so beautifully captures ideas of fate and purpose, the story behind A Prayer for Owen Meaney’s journey into audio could not be more perfect. Initially, Irving was reluctant to bring his book into audio, believing his ambitious novel – a narrative spanning over three decades, interweaving the past and present of two characters, one of whom is characterized as having a damaged larynx that causes him to speak in a high-pitched shout – could not be adequately produced in audio. Then, as fate would have it, he met Joe Barrett and hand-picked the narrator to read. The result is extraordinary. To hear Barrett shift from his deep, sandpaper voice as the book’s primary narrator to Meaney’s shrill, yet, delicate timbre, is truly mesmerizing.

Has any lengthy, sweeping epic ever felt more personal than The Winds of War? Wouk's spellbinding narrative embodies all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II, as it transforms the lives of a single American family. Kevin Pariseau helps the listener inhabit the events and relationships of this massive and beautifully-told story with a palette of vividly imagined characters, each with a well-defined voice and perfect accent. His transcendent performance makes the hours fly, but don't worry – when the book ends you can still enjoy more with the sequel, War and Remembrance.

Bryan Cranston – known for his four-time Emmy award-winning portrayal of Walter White on the series Breaking Bad – lends his powerful voice to Tim O'Brien's classic, The Things They Carried. Cranston fully inhabits O'Brien's collection of semi-autobiographical stories about the Vietnam War and brings to it a sense of experience and remembrance as though he were actually there. Manifesting the same versatility and intensity in tone that has made him one of today's most sought after actors, Cranston gives a fitting reading for this landmark piece of war writing.

Jon Ronson is the master of what we tend to think of as "along-for-the-ride investigative journalism", and unlike some of his contemporaries in this field, he seems to be getting better and more fascinating with every book. In So You've Been Publicly Shamed, he untangles the modern phenomenon of online shaming, bringing the listener along for the ride as he tracks down victims of internet mob-justice. He narrates himself which adds a new level of awesomeness to this subgenre that is already perfectly suited to audio. There's a unique quality of urgency and anxiety underlying Ronson's Welsh accent which communicates his extreme concern for his subject, and really humanizes his reporting.

Helter Skelterelter Skelter covers one of the most fascinating crime sprees in US history – the Manson-family murders. This in-depth and detailed book examines the investigation, arrest, and trial of Charles Manson and his followers in the 70s. Helter Skelter isn’t sensationalized and it isn’t dramatized. It’s a straightforward, factual analysis of what really transpired 40+ years ago. And because it was written by the prosecutor of Manson et. Al., it's as close to the case you can get. Plus, Scott Brick is the perfect narrator for true crime. His signature "tell-it-as-it-is" voice makes this book completely engrossing.

Prepare to adjust your view of popular history. At once a comprehensive and surprising account of one of the world’s greatest innovators, Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World sheds serious light not only on the contributions to civilization that Khan was ahead of his time in making – free education, secular government, and freedom of religion, to name a few – but also the way in which we incorrectly identify the Mongolian Empire with warring savages while blindly attributing innovation elsewhere. Veteran narrator Jonathan Davis delivers a brilliant reading, bringing a solemnity and confidence in tone that matches Weatherford’s insightful prose.

There's nothing else like Locke & Key in audio. Created in a style more akin to moviemaking than audiobook recording, this daring production is a vivid and inventive re-imagining of the graphic novel series that served as its source material. We love its menacing atmosphere, the rich soundscape that makes Keyhouse feel like a real, live place, and the original musical score that punctuates each storyline (and that you'll be humming for months after you've finished). Listen closely, not just for the phenomenal performances by Haley Joel Osment, Kate Mulgrew, and others in Locke & Key's expansive cast, but also for some fun cameos by a few familiar voices.

Her Royal Spyness is an absolute gem! In this lighthearted mystery series, Rhys Bowen delivers a charming combination of intrigue and romance blended with a touch of humor. She has created an interesting cast of characters and those personalities (a royal down on her luck, a lovable cockney grandfather, a devilish but endearing Irish gent) come alive through Katherine Kellgren's flawless narration. This is a series that begs to be listened to. But, fair warning, once you start, you won't be able to stop!

In his debut novel, Mark Greaney delivers a knock-out thrill-ride, perfect for fans of Child, Flynn, Ludlum, and Eisler. But it’s Jay Snyder’s rich baritone, the aural equivalent of confidence and self-assuredness, that makes this a must-listen adventure. He perfectly captures the former CIA operative and hired gun turned enemy of the state, Court Gentry. And his dynamic pacing and no-nonsense delivery provides just the right amount of urgency as Gentry becomes the pursued in a life-or-death race against time.

Sanderson’s action-packed Reckoners series begins with a bang: a mysterious explosion gives rise to a brutal new breed of superhuman – known as Epics – who have placed the city of Newcago under increasingly oppressive rule. When a young boy witnesses his father's murder at the hands of Steelheart, the most powerful superhuman, he vows to get revenge, joining the ranks of a rebel group, dubbed the Reckoners, hell-bent on overthrowing the Epics. If this sounds as badass and fun as a summer blockbuster, you must hear listener favorite MacLeod Andrews bring his vocal strut to its cast of characters. Not only does he bring a youthful swagger to our heroes, but he gives a delightfully distinct edginess to our supervillain tyrants.

Ask any Audible Editor around here for a recommendation and you’re bound to hear it at some point: “Have you tried 14 yet?” It’s about as tried-and-true an audiobook as they come, and with good reason. Between its Lovecraft-meets-Lost mystery and a top-notch performer that totally transports you into Peter Cline’s weird and thrilling world (Ray Porter – Audible’s 2015 Narrator of the Year), it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to hit pause on this adventure. We certainly couldn’t! It’s not only a good story – it’s also insanely fun to listen to.

In Lock In, John Scalzi’s sci-fi thriller set in a post-contagion world, 1% of the population is left “locked in” their own bodies – using surrogates and mechanical bodies to move around the world. Scalzi chooses not to assign a gender to his main character, Chris, a prominent victim of the disease. To complement this theme, Audible Studios recorded two versions of the audio – one with male narration, one with female. The concept itself would be exciting enough on its own – but the chosen narrators both happen to be completely awesome actors in the sci-fi & fantasy community – Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame and... (scroll ↓)

...listener favorite Amber Benson, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Each puts their own spin on the novel, making these two productions unique in not just literal voice and gender, but in tone, pacing, and mood. And the production behind this novel isn’t the only interesting thing about it. In Lock-In, Scalzi has explored a fascinating reality neatly wrapped in a compulsive mystery – one worth experiencing twice.

A fantasy saga first written exclusively for Audible, the fact that Jack Campbell’s The Pillars of Reality series quickly became a listener favorite came as no surprise. Elaborate world-building, in which two young members from long-standing rival guilds, Mechanics and Mages, must unite to overcome a greater evil? Check. Super powers, including the control of technology and altering of reality? Check. MacLeod Andrews delivering spot-on performances for the two main protagonists, deftly switching from Alain, the emotionless Mage, to Mari’s spirited Mechanic? Check. And with five more books in the series, it’s perfect for those who prefer to binge-listen.

In his Grimnoir Chronicles series, Larry Correia has created an ingenious and entertaining work of alternate history set just after World War I, where a secret Allied society of magical heroes battles the equally magical forces of the Japanese Imperium. What sets Hard Magic apart is Correia’s mastery of character and detail, and his skill at driving the action forward. But what makes this recording magical is Bronson Pinchot’s uncanny array of voices, for which he earned multiple Audie Awards. It’s like a full-cast production – except with a cast of one!

The Molly Harper/Amanda Ronconi pairing has become the stuff of Audible legend, and it all started with this book. If you ever feel like the vampire romance genre has all gotten a little bit too serious and swooning for its own good, this is the perfect antidote. The kick-off to the delightfully quirky and laugh-out-loud funny Nice Girls... series, this book has been a non-stop hit with our listeners. Ronconi provides just the right amount of snark for this endearingly unconventional romance, in which nice girl Jane Jameson goes on a bender and awakes with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood.

If you are at all familiar with the behavior of small children, you know that it is often torture to try to get them to sleep at night. Samuel L. Jackson names our pain with a parental performance that is as relatable and funny as it is profane. Against the backdrop of a subtle, tinkly lullaby tune, Jackson evolves from soothing to exasperated to defeated, all in a span of 6 hilarious minutes.