Jane Austen is a classic novelist with a widespread reputation as one of the world’s most talented romance writers. Although much of Jane Austen’s history is unknown, what we do know about her upbringing provides great insight into the wit and wisdom that emanates from her written works. Jane Austen was born to the Reverend George Austen and she was one of eight children — her older sister, Cassandra, was her dearest friend. Neither Jane nor Cassandra married during their lifetime, and they embarked on several adventures together.
Jane Austen published her writing anonymously — the cover of her first published book, Sense and Sensibility, simply stated: “By a Lady”. In a time when female authors weren’t respected, many fellow novelists chose to publish their writing under male pen names to gain personal and professional prestige. Austen’s choice to state her gender but keep her identity a secret is an interesting one — most likely which stemmed from society’s expectation that well-born women like herself would pursue wealth through marriage, not through a career.
During her time as a novelist, Jane Austen published four full-length novels to high esteem and great success. These four writings were as follows: Sense and Sensibility, telling the interconnecting love stories of two sisters; Pride and Prejudice, the enemies-to-lovers romance between a strong-minded woman and her arrogant suitor; Mansfield Park, the tale of Fanny Price and her coming-of-age in her wealthy relatives’ mansion; and Emma, the story of a young woman who sets out to play matchmaker for her best friend and ends up falling into love along the way.
Two of Austen’s other novels were published posthumously, titled Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. In addition, three unfinished writings by Jane Austen were eventually recovered and published, becoming Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon.
Avid readers may also be interested in checking out Jane Austen’s Juvenilia. At times, you will find Juvenilia published in fragments or under different names. This book is a collection of Jane Austen’s writing during her youth, most of which she had never intended to be published. Some of it is romantic and all of it is sparkling, lively, and full of spirit. Jane Austen’s signature wit and social commentary are present here in her earliest works — it seems that Austen was destined to be a writer ever since she was young.
Whether you’re new to the writing of Jane Austen, or you’re a long-time fan of her works, this list of Jane Austen’s books ranked should help you find something new to include on your to-be-read shelf. Jane Austen writes romance novels that are teeming with delightful social commentary, dry wit, and thoughtful life lessons. Her writing is playfully entertaining, vividly descriptive, and deeply thought-provoking.
Dive into the writing of Jane Austen today with this helpful list of all Jane Austen’s books ranked!
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
No book is deserving of the number one spot in a list of Jane Austen’s writing than the infamous classic romance of Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice tells the timeless love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet is a heroine that inspired thousands — she’s a fierce, independent spirit who forms her own opinions regardless of familial or societal pressures. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a dashing hero who is both arrogant and socially awkward, communicating with a shyness that’s often taken as standoffishness.
Elizabeth and Darcy clash upon first meeting, and Elizabeth’s impression of him declines even more when he chooses to involve himself in the relationship between his friend Bingley and her sister Jane. Darcy, however, finds Elizabeth Bennet fascinating, and he confesses his feelings for her — only to be coldly rejected.
Eventually, the two are brought back together, amidst the dramas and schemings of the people they hold dearest to their hearts. To get past the troubles of their first interactions, however, they must both confront their individual pride and prejudices.
You can purchase Pride and Prejudice here, and fans of the book will also want to check out the several film and television adaptations that have interpreted Austen’s work affectionately.
Taking the second spot in our ranking of Jane Austen’s writing is Emma, a bold and brilliant love story that’s as funny and flirtatious as it gets!
Meet Emma Woodhouse: she’s a privileged young lady of society, who spends her days meddling in her friends’ lives — with the best intentions, of course. Emma believes that she is an excellent matchmaker, and she sets out to find love for her best friend, Harriet Smith.
Another friend of Emma’s, the responsible Mr. Knightley advises her that interfering in other people’s personal lives isn’t the wisest idea — but Emma trudges on nonetheless. However, despite supposedly having her friends’ interests at heart, Emma discourages Harriet from pursuing a courtship with the man she likes. The man Harriet has her eye on, Robert Martin, is a young farmer who Emma considers “not good enough” for her friend.
Emma continues to meddle in Harriet’s life despite a string of mishaps — until she learns that Harriet has developed feelings for Mr. Knightley, Emma’s oldest and dearest friend. Upon hearing this Emma realizes that she, too, has feelings for Mr. Knightley. In the end, both friends get their happy ending — you’ll have to read this classic romance for yourself to find out how!
You can buy Emma here, and prepare to be swept up by this lighthearted comedy of errors.
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published work, but it remains one of her finest, giving it the number three spot in our ranking.
This satirical romance follows two vastly different sisters: Marianne Dashwood, who is emotional and impulsive, and Elinor Dashwood, the practical and sensible sister. Upon the death of their father, the sisters move to Barton Cottage, accompanied by their younger sister and mother.
Barton Cottage is where Marianne meets Colonel Brandon: he’s an upright gentleman who is twenty years her senior, and he expresses romantic interest in Marianne. However, she declines his offer to pursue the reckless John Willoughby, a scoundrel who ends up leaving Marianne for an heiress.
At the same time, Elinor has attracted the attention of Edward Ferrars, a dashing young man who is everything that Elinor ever wanted. Things go awry when a scandalous secret is revealed: although the two no longer have feelings for each other, Edward has been engaged to another woman for years, and he’s resolved to honor the engagement.
Eventually, the two sisters find happiness despite the madness and mishaps that littered their path, and they learn vital lessons about love, life, and identity.
You can purchase Sense and Sensibility here, and see for yourself what makes this sharp and personable novel such a classic.
Mansfield Park (1814)
Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is ranked by us as her fourth-best book, and its complex plot and engaging characters make it an absolute must-read.
Mansfield Park is one of Austen’s more serious works, but the love story at its center keeps the pages turning and the tone light. Readers are introduced to Fanny Price, who is sent by her impoverished family to be raised by her wealthy aunt and uncle.
Fanny feels vastly alone amongst the bustling household of her distant relatives until she gets to know her cousin, Edmund Bertram, who treats her timid self with unexpected patience and kindness. Edmund spends time with her, helps her learn new things, and even directs her reading list to that of a well-rounded scholar.
Everything changes when Henry and Mary Crawford enter the picture: they are bright and well-known members of London society, with a great amount of money to their name. Mary Crawford grows attached to Edmund, which causes Fanny serious dismay — without even realizing it, it seems that she has given her heart to Edmund as more than just a friend. To complicate matters, Henry Crawford begins paying attention to Fanny herself, and since nobody knows who her heart belongs to, both families encourage the pairing.
With feelings unspoken and the pressures of the modern day at hand, Fanny remains steadfast in her morals while growing in courage and strength. She learns her right to fight for what’s important for her — and the wisdom of her own knowledge.
You can buy Mansfield Park here, and prepare to be swept up by this immersive story of growth, maturity, and love.
Northanger Abbey (1817)
Northanger Abbey was published after Jane Austen passed, and, sadly, she wasn’t alive to hear the positive critical reception it received — earning it the number five spot in our ranking.
Considered by many to be a gothic parody, Northanger Abbey is atmospherically different from much of Austen’s writing, but it retains her signature wit and charm. It is also one of her shortest novels, making it a quicker read but also less in-depth than her preceding works.
Meet Catherine Morland: she’s seventeen years of age and lives a fairly unremarkable life until she’s invited to vacation in Bath, a colorful resort town. She gladly obliges and heads to Bath, where she meets and befriends two different families: the Thorpes and the Tilneys.
Catherine quickly develops a crush on Henry Tilney, as well as befriending Isabella Thorpe — naturally, she tells Isabella all about her crush. Unbeknownst to her, the Thorpes have ulterior motives beyond friendship and community. They’re hoping to marry themselves into Catherine’s family, which would be both socially and financially advantageous for them.
Luckily, the scheming of the Thorpes is revealed before either Catherine or her brother has been sneakily married off. Catherine grows closer to Eleanor, Henry’s sister, and she’s invited to stay with them at their home: Northanger Abbey.
Catherine is once again in close quarters with Henry Tilney, the charming gentleman who she has long been infatuated with. But their road to happiness is full of obstacles, for Catherine’s livelihood and background aren’t exactly what General Tilney had in mind for his son’s future. Will Catherine and Henry find a way to fight against societal convention and be each other’s happily ever after?
You can purchase Northanger Abbey here, and you’re in for a charmingly romantic read that you won’t want to put down.
Persuasion is the last novel that Jane Austen fully completed before her death, and it’s also one of her most mature writings — earning it the number six spot in our ranking of Jane Austen’s books.
Persuasion is different from Austen’s earlier works in that it’s a second-chance romance between two long-separated lovers. Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth were engaged eight years prior to the beginning of the novel, yet she ended their relationship after being persuaded by friends and family that it wasn’t right for her.
Years have passed and the two are still single and unattached to any other suitors — but the years apart have grown and matured both of them significantly. All this time Anne has still loved Captain Wentworth, so seeing him again is startling, especially in the company of many women who don’t know of their past together.
At the same time, Anne has attracted the attention of Mr. William Elliot, a wealthy young man who her family thinks is perfect for her. Here is where we see much of Anne’s growth — in the past, she was persuaded by her family to leave Captain Wentworth due to his financial situation, but she no longer allows her heart to be swayed by anyone’s interest other than her own. Anne does not return Mr. Elliot’s attraction or attention.
With no other suitors on the table and their feelings still strong, will Anne and Captain Wentworth have a second chance at love? Or will the mistakes of the past remain too strong to overcome?
You can buy Persuasion here, and you’re bound to fall for this mature and meaningful romantic romp.
Jane Austen’s Sanditon is an unfinished novel, coming in at about 100 pages. This fragment of a novel was written mere months before Austen’s death, and it’s a true literary tragedy that we will never see a finished and polished product.
In spite of this being only a partial manuscript, Sanditon still has all the makings of a rollicking literary romp and has even been adapted into film and television. Some authors have also written “continuations” of Sanditon while attempting to emulate Austen’s writing style, but as we all know, Jane Austen is inimitable!
Sanditon follows the story of Charlotte Heywood, who is unexpectedly invited to visit the seaside town of Sanditon with her new acquaintances. During Charlotte’s time at Sanditon, she meets many interesting characters — some with apparent ill-intentions — and near the end of the manuscript she meets Sidney Parker. She finds him to be good-looking and well-mannered, although readers are left to wonder what might have happened next, as Charlotte and Sidney’s romance is never fully realized in Sanditon.
You can purchase Sanditon here, and see for yourself the beginning of what may have been one of Austen’s most riveting stories yet!
Lady Susan (1871)
The eighth book in our ranking, Lady Susan, is a short novella-style story that Jane Austen never submitted for publication. It is possible that she never intended for it to be read by the public, as it is vastly different from the majority of her writing.
What makes Lady Susan stand out the most is the titular Lady Susan Vernon herself: unlike most of Austen’s bold and bright heroines, Lady Susan is in many ways a villain. She is considered a widow with a reputation and has even been known to pursue married men.
Lady Susan pays a visit to her brother-in-law and his wife, Catherine. Catherine is not a fan of Lady Susan, and she warns her brother Reginald about her. Yet when Reginald comes to visit he too falls under Lady Susan’s spell!
Eventually, we meet Frederica, Lady Susan’s sixteen-year-old daughter, who caught wind that her mother was planning to marry her off to a gentleman and left school in protest. She arrives at the Churchill residence where her mother has been visiting and finds herself falling for Reginald.
Lady Susan is a melodramatic comedy of manners that’s marked by Austen’s signature wit, wisdom, and sparkling prose.
You can buy Lady Susan here, and prepare to laugh out loud while reading this brash and unexpected tale.
The Watsons (1871)
The Watsons is another unfinished work by Jane Austen — but instead of being left unfinished by the novelist’s untimely death, it appears that Austen abandoned this work earlier in her writing career. It is roughly eighty pages and will leave you curious about where the story might have gone if it had been completed.
Similarly to Sanditon, some authors have written continuations or completions of The Watsons, although keen readers will quickly identify where Austen’s writing ended and another author’s began.
The Watsons introduces Emma Watson, the youngest daughter in a family of seven, who moves back in with her impoverished family after spending some years with a wealthy aunt. Emma spends the remainder of the manuscript meeting and getting to know some of her neighbors and the townspeople, including the young Lord Osborne and the vicar Mr. Howard.
Although it’s indicated that these characters would have become more significant as the novel went on, there isn’t much to go off of with the bare bones of a manuscript that we have today. Nonetheless, dedicated Jane Austen fans will still enjoy Austen’s eloquent writing and characterization in The Watsons.
You can purchase The Watsons here, and enjoy speculating on the possibilities of where this story could have gone next.
Jane Austen’s Juvenilia (publication date unknown)
Jane Austen’s Juvenilia is not a novel but is instead a collection of Austen’s earlier writing that she never intended to have published. Most of these works were written while she was between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, and they are full of spelling mistakes and typos that showcase Austen’s inexperience and youth.
We recommend that you only read Jane Austen’s Juvenilia if you are a serious Austen fan, or if you are introduced in studying the socio-political background that shaped Austen as a novelist. These early writings are primarily comedic, from parodies and spoof fiction to tales of teenage rebellion.
Jane Austen’s Juvenilia features:
Frederic & Elfrida
Jack & Alice
Edgar and Emma: A Tale
Henry and Eliza
The Adventures of Mr. Harley
Sir William Mountague
Memoirs of Mr Clifford
The beautifull Cassandra
The Three Sisters
Letters To Miss Jane Anna Elizabeth Austen
A beautiful description
The Generous Curate
Ode to Pity
Love and Freindship
Lesley Castle: An Unfinished Novel in Letters
The History of England
A Collection of Letters
The Female Philosopher
The First Act of a Comedy
A Letter from a Young Lady
A Tour Through Wales
Catharine, or The Bower
You can buy Jane Austen’s Juvenilia here, and have a good laugh while seeing where this infamous author got her little-known start.
What is considered to be the best Jane Austen novel?
Pride and Prejudice is widely considered to be the best Jane Austen novel. It is a timeless romance with important life lessons that hasn’t dwindled in popularity to this day.
Which Jane Austen should I read first?
We recommend starting with Pride and Prejudice, as it is one of her most popular and easily readable works.
What is Jane Austen’s best selling book?
Pride and Prejudice has sold more than twenty million copies since its publication in 1813, solidifying its spot as Jane Austen’s best-selling book.
What are Jane Austen’s six major novels?
Jane Austen’s six major novels are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. You can’t go wrong with any of these masterful romance reads.
Jane Austen penned romantic literature with depth — all of her books contain some amount of wry and witty socio-political commentary.
Did Jane Austen write under a pseudonym?
Yes, Jane Austen published her writing under the anonymous pen name “By a Lady”