The short of it is, go for the long of it. The listeners on your gift list will be delighted with the many memorable novels from the season's rich roster unabridged audio presentations that speak volumes. The longest of the long, at 32 hours, is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke's extraordinary literary fantasy that has become the surprise best-selling smash of this season. It involves a reclusive practitioner of magic (a fading art in 1806), the daring young novice he takes on as a pupil and the effect they have when they join England's cause against Napoleon. But that's only a minimal sketch of this wonderfully detailed, witty combo of dark mythology and delicious social comedy. Simon Prebble reads in his honeyed British voice and adds narrative magic of his own.

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