Jane Austen is arguably one of the most popular authors in the English language. Her books typically deal with topics of romance and love, and some have elements of satire.
They typically explore womanhood during the early 1800s and how women had to depend on marriage to survive.
During her lifetime, she was not fully recognized and she did not obtain much financial success.
However, she has such a significant legacy it is difficult to come across a person who has not read at least one of her books or seen at least one adaptation.
However, there are people out there who have yet to read any of Jane Austen’s classics. If this is you, then you have come to the right place!
In this article, I will provide you with the ultimate guide to the best Jane Austen books. If you’re interested, be sure to read on for more.
The 7 Best Jane Austen Books
Jane Austen wrote a plethora of books during her time, and nearly all of them have many beloved adaptations. Let’s check the 7 best Jane Austen books in more detail below.
Love and Friendship is a very early work by Jane Austen. It is an epistolary novella, meaning it is written as a series of letters as a way of telling the story.
Austen wrote Love And Friendship as part of a series of tales when she was a young girl, around 14 years old.
The story itself follows a young woman called Laura, and most of the letters are written by her to others.
During Love and Friendship, Laura catches the eye of a noble youth and together they believe they can build a life of happiness and bliss.
However, when the young man’s family learns of his marriage to Laura, they begin to reject her one by one.
Laura attempts to overcome and confront this rejection in hilarious and naive ways, and what ensues is a series of events that Austen uses to explore the ups and downs of the opportunities available for a young woman during this time.
Love and Friendship explores a variety of themes, including womanhood, reputation, and of course, love, and friendship.
- Explores themes characteristic of Austen that readers will enjoy diving into
- The epistolary form is interesting to read
- This is an early work of Austen so some people may find it juvenile and less sophisticated than her other works
First on our list is Mansfield Park! This book was written in 1814 and is considered to be Jane Austen’s first mature work. It is also one of her more melancholy books.
Mansfield Park centers around Fanny Price, a young woman sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle at their beautiful home, Mansfield Park.
Miss Price is subject to constant reminders of her lowly status throughout her life and she grows up with very few friends or allies. However, all of their lives begin to change when her uncle goes missing in Antigua.
Upon his missing status, the new Crawford family arrives in the town. And with them, they bring a taste of London glamor as well as a soft spot for flirtation.
But what does this mean for the young Miss Fanny Price? You’ll have to read to find out!
Unlike many other Jane Austen heroines, Fanny Price is quiet. However, she is also among the most disliked of all of Jane Austen’s protagonists thanks to her high morals.
However, she is also among one of the most courageous of these protagonists, albeit her courage is a quiet one.
Mansfield Park examines the moral integrity and social positions of high society at the time it was written. It also deals with themes of family relationships and love.
- A well-written, complex storyline
- An interesting female protagonist
- The language can be a bit difficult to understand
Up next is Northanger Abbey! I think this is one of the most underrated novels by Jane Austen, and it is up there with my favorites!
Northanger Abbey was written in 1803 but published posthumously in 1817.
It differs from Jane Austen’s other work because it is a satirical take on Gothic literature and Gothic romance, which was popular at the time.
The story itself follows a young woman called Catherine, who is staying with a family friend in Bath, England. While there, Catherine falls in love with a man who invites her to visit his home, Northanger Abbey.
However, Catherine, a fan of Gothic literature, has a wild and vivid imagination and she soon allows the mysterious and dark atmosphere of the abbey to fill her head with thrilling ideas and terrible suspicions.
So, if you enjoy elements of Gothic fiction like old, beautiful buildings, mysterious locked rooms, and handwritten notes, and also enjoy satire and classic books and stories like Wuthering Heights, then this is the book for you.
Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable read for fans of Austen who are looking for something a little different.
- A fun, satirical read
- A coming-of-age tale with an excellent protagonist
- Some people may find the plot of this book a little weak
Persuasion was published posthumously in 1818 and is one of Austen’s shortest works, which is why it is often recommended as the first book beginners should read.
It was once an overlooked story of Austen, overshadowed by her other, more famous works.
However, Persuasion has seen several successful (and unsuccessful) TV and movie adaptations, which has boosted its popularity!
As for the book, the story follows Anne Elliot.
Anne is an older protagonist compared to other protagonists of Jane Austen, and she is a lot quieter, more sensitive, and melancholic. In the story, Anne, a 27-year-old woman, is unmarried and no longer has many romantic prospects.
Anne regrets a decision she made 8 years ago.
At 19, she broke off an engagement with the love of her life, Captain Frederick Wentworth, after a friend convinces her the marriage is a mistake due to his low rank and fortune.
However, Frederick is brought into Anne’s life once again, now with an upstanding reputation and great fortune.
However, he still feels her rejection of him deeply, and readers will be turning the pages late into the night hoping that these once-lovers will reunite.
Through Persuasion, Austen has written a social critique of the time. It is a story of first love, of regret, of second chances, of taking control of your life.
- A sweet, slow-burn love story readers can enjoy
- A different type of protagonist compared to Austen’s other works
- Some readers may find the language inaccessible
When it comes to the works of Jane Austen, Emma is a fan favorite. Emma was first published in 1815 and follows the story of a young woman, 21-year-old Emma Woodhouse.
Emma, unlike many other of Jane Austen’s protagonists, is secure both financially and socially.
Because of this, she is free to play matchmaker to many people in her life. This includes the handsome Frank Churchill, the naive Harriet Smith, Mr. Elton the vicar, and distant Jane Fairfax.
However, as well-intended as Emma may be, she is very naive to the fact that her antics are not always welcome, especially when her meddling and intrusions do not always go as planned, and can have disastrous consequences!
Because of Emma’s actions, Austen was convinced that she would be the only person that would like the titular protagonist.
However, many people who read Emma love the main character for being a realistic person, for her flaws as well as her strengths.
This, along with the iconic declaration of love in the novel, is why Emma is one of her most popular works even today.
There have been many successful movie adaptations of Emma.
- An engaging story full of wit
- All of the characters are developed and have interesting personalities
- Some may find the story difficult to follow
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first publication and remains one of her most popular works.
It was published in 1811, and since then, has been adapted into a very successful movie starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.
As for the novel, the story follows two sisters, Elinor, and Marianne Dashwood. Marianne lives with her heart on her sleeve and has scant regard for the sensibilities of society.
This is proven when she falls in love with John Willoughby who is handsome but not suitable for a woman in her position.
However, she ignores her sister’s warnings and leaves herself vulnerable to societal gossip.
Meanwhile, Elinor is very sensitive to the conventions of society, which comes with its own series of flaws. This is seen throughout the story as Elinor struggles with her unluckiness in love.
Sense and Sensibility explore these two sisters and their opposing experiences when it comes to love and how they must change their respective approaches in order to find happiness.
Sense and Sensibility is a melancholic, sensitive novel that explores courtship, marriage, societal values, womanhood, and the balance between sense and sensibility.
- Full of wit and irony that makes for an amusing read
- Likable characters that you can root for
- Dual narrators, but their voices are not distinct meaning it can be confusing who is speaking from time to time
Pride And Prejudice is arguably Jane Austen’s most famous and popular work. Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813.
It features one of the most iconic, enemies-to-lovers love stories of all time – the story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet.
The story follows Lizzie Bennet, the second of five Bennet sisters all looking for a suitor.
At a ball, Lizzie meets Fitzwilliam Darcy, and neither of them makes a good impression on one another. Lizzie believes Mr. Darcy is conceited and arrogant, and he is indifferent to her entirely.
Their dislike of one another becomes only more prudent when Lizzie’s sister and Mr. Darcy’s friend enter into a courtship.
The events that follow are a fun comedy of manners where Austen explores the futility of first impressions, as well as exploring themes of friendship, love, societal rules, and reputation.
Pride and Prejudice has seen a series of successful adaptations since its publication, including the British TV Series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and the iconic movie adaptation starring Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen.
- Excellently-written characters
- A well-paced love story full of twists and turns
- This is a story written in the 19th century, meaning it can take longer to read because the language is less accessible
Jane Austen Books: Buyer’s Guide
Here is a small buyer’s guide that will help you decide which Jane Austen books you should read.
Some Jane Austen books are a lot shorter than others. For example, Persuasion typically has 24 chapters, while the story of Pride and Prejudice can unfold over 61 chapters.
So, if you have a busy lifestyle, then you may find it better to read a shorter novel. However, if you have nothing but time, you may want to become invested in a longer story.
As you can imagine, since the early 1800s there have been many different editions of the majority of Jane Austen novels.
Some covers will depict the protagonists of the story on the front cover, while other covers will depict a beautiful pattern.
So, you may want to base your reads on what book covers you like the best and what is going to look the best on your bookshelf!
However, it is important to note that once you buy a book with one cover style, you may want to buy more in that style, too.
So, it is best to ensure that the Jane Austen novel you are looking at is part of a wider collection.
Jane Austen wrote her works during the 19th century or earlier. This means that the language used was very different from the language that we use today.
So, if you are not used to reading books from this time then it can be difficult to understand what is happening in the story, particularly at the beginning.
If you think you will struggle with this, then it may be more beneficial to read the more famous works first, such as Pride and Prejudice, as you are more likely to be more familiar with this story already.
In fact, the majority of Jane Austen’s works will have movie and TV adaptations which will be easier to follow. So, if you are really struggling, then you can watch an adaptation first to help familiarize yourself with the story.
It is also important to note that some editions of the book will have a larger print than others.
So, you may find it beneficial to choose an edition based on print, as this can affect the length of the book in terms of pages.
Of course, a deciding factor in choosing between books is whether or not the story is appealing to you.
The majority of Jane Austen’s works explore similar themes, such as love, womanhood, societal expectations, reputation, friendship, and more.
However, these themes are explored through different lenses and characters.
For example, Pride and Prejudice explore themes of love and societal expectations through Lizzie Bennet, a young woman who has never experienced love and is expected to marry to secure her future.
Meanwhile, Persuasion explores the same themes from the perspective of Anne Elliot, an older woman who has experienced love and heartbreak and finds her romantic prospects rapidly dwindling.
So, it is best to find a Jane Austen novel with the most appealing story and pick that one up!
Jane Austen was born in England in 1775 and died in 1817.
She wrote many different works during her time and is famous for her 6 novels: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. She is also famous for Love and Friendship, an epistolary novella written when she was just 14 years old.
These are widely different stories that all focus on similar themes.
Love and Friendship is about a naive girl attempting to find favor with her lover’s high-society family, Mansfield Park is about a young woman of a lower class trying to find her place in an upper-class society, and Persuasion is about an older woman who reunites with a former lover after high society splits them apart.
Meanwhile, Emma is about a well-off young woman who decides to meddle in the love lives of others, Sense and Sensibility is about two sisters who need to learn the balance between love and society, and Pride and Prejudice tells us about the futility of first impressions, especially when it comes to society and love.
As you can see, these stories explore themes of love, marriage, reputation, societal rules, and above all, womanhood.
Northanger Abbey is the only story that is slightly different. It is a satirical take on the Gothic genre, but it still explores themes of love.
No matter what story you choose and how you choose it, I just know you’re going to fall in love with Austen’s works – just like me!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Main Theme In Jane Austen’s Writing?
Jane Austen explores many themes in her work. However, the most common theme is womanhood and how women navigate the world and the societal expectations placed on them in different ways.
What Was Jane Austen Writing When She Died?
It is not known what Jane Austen was writing when she died. However, it is widely believed to have been Sanditon, an incomplete story with only 11 chapters.
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