Are you thinking of starting to read Jane Austen’s books? Jane Austen wrote six major novels, and it’s hard to tell which one is best. Where should you start? Is there some list that ranks them? This article is for you if you’re asking any of those questions. I will break down her novels, tell you a little about each, and give you some recommendations. So you can personalize your reading to your tastes. I’ll give you some choices according to the tropes, which will help you decide quickly. Keep scrolling!
Jane Austen Books In Order (Books List)
Jane Austen is inspirational and essential for English literature and feminism for her beloved works, which have captured the imagination of readers for centuries. Austen’s writing is known for its wit, irony, and subtle social commentary. Her language can sometimes be dense and complex, requiring more attention and focus on appreciating fully. Many readers find her books enjoyable. If you are a fan of classic literature, well-drawn characters, and satirical writing with romance, you may find Jane Austen’s books easy and enjoyable.
There is no specific order in which you must read Jane Austen’s books because all novels can be enjoyed independently of the others. However, if you want to follow the chronological order, then follow this order:
- The Watsons (1804).
- Sense and Sensibility (1811).
- Pride and Prejudice (1813).
- Mansfield Park (1814).
- Emma (1815).
- Northanger Abbey (1818).
- Persuasion (1818).
- The Beautifull Cassandra (1793).
- Lesley Castle: An Unfinished Novel In Letters (1793).
- Lady Susan (1794).
- Love and Friendship (2015).
- The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen (2017).
- A Memoir of Jane Austen (2017).
- The Letters of Jane Austen (2018).
- Juvenilia Volume I Annotated (1787).
- Juvenilia Volume II Annotated (2021).
- Writers: Their Lives and Works.
Remember that the order in which you read Jane Austen’s books will not affect your understanding or enjoyment of them. Ultimately, the best order is the one that works best for you and your personal reading preferences. So feel free to pick and choose the books that interest you the most, or start with the one you’ve heard the most.
Checkout my wishlist: Jane Austen Books List
1. Pride and Prejudice
You’re familiar with Austen’s best-selling novel, Pride and Prejudice. It’s her most famous book, and it’s been made into adaptations such as the one with Keira Knightley from 2005. Then we have the great classic of 1995’s Colin Firth version from the BBC. Throughout history, from the trenches of World War One through Jane Austen’s own family, has always been the majority of people’s favorite.
The story is about Elizabeth Bennet, the headstrong daughter of a satirical country gentleman and his very silly wife. Her main life problem is that she was one of five daughters. They have no fortunes. If their father dies, they’re going to end up penniless and either going out to be governesses or living on charity the rest of their life. So the solution to this problem is to find a rich husband.
The problem is rich guys generally want to marry rich girls. That goes back to the whole economics of this time period. So overall, Pride and Prejudice is about discovering that first impressions when you meet someone are not always true. Also, Mr. Darcy’s pride is getting humbled a bit. Elizabeth has big life realizations about herself. So many other issues are talked about in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
I have a whole series on the economics of Pride and Prejudice and the Regency Era. So check that out if you want to learn more on that topic. I recommend it if you’re a beginner or haven’t read any of Jane Austen’s works.
Emma is very different from Pride and Prejudice plotline-wise. You may be familiar with it because it was made into a movie in 2020. The BBC has also put out a great mini-series that tells the story of Emma, the younger daughter of a country gentleman who is a hypochondriac. Her mother passed away when she was a child. So, she was mostly raised by her governess.
The book’s first chapter sets us up for Emma’s plot line this way. Emma decides to help others in the glorious pursuit of matchmaking. She’s going to find love for everyone around her. After it worked twice, she was ready for a third time. It’s about how well you know yourself and how sometimes, even if you have the best intentions, things can turn out wrong. Jane Austen said she would write to the heroine that nobody but herself liked. So many people love Emma, but some people don’t.
Persuasion is the last complete novel that Jane Austen wrote before she died. It was published after her death. For all of you who love shorter books is one of her shorter books. Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot. She’s 27 years old and still unmarried. Her family has given up hope that she’ll make a great match because her beauty has faded. One of the reasons her beauty is faded so early is that she’s so depressed over her long-lost love.
When she was a teenager, she had this brilliant, glorious romance. Then had to break it off because he was poor, and her family disapproved. Since that time, he went and made a fortune in the Navy. He shows up in her neighborhood, and that’s so much drama. Is she going to have to watch him marry someone else? Romantic people would love Persuasion.
4. Sense and Sensibility
It was Jane Austen’s first novel that she got published, which tells the story of the Dashwood sisters and their mother after the dad of the family dies. Their older half-brother leaves them financially in the cold to make it themselves. So they must move from their big country house into a small cottage on a generous relative’s land. The book focuses on the family’s two oldest daughters, Elinor and Marianne.
What they do is personify Sense and Sensibility because there was a debate going on in society at the time over the balance of the two. So in our modern era, we’re familiar with this concept of Sense of being sensible, sticking to the rules, thinking things out logically, and having good etiquette. Sensibility was the concept of having strong emotions, appreciating the beautiful, majestic, and poetry, and having a lot of feelings. English literature was going through this ultimate emo phase at the time.
I was listening to poetry, and it was so overwhelming with this majestic quality that I fainted. If you could have that strong, emotional reaction to poetry, you were refined in your Sensibility. So with Elinor, we see her representing this good logical Sense, and Marianne is the strongly felt Sensibility. Anyway, Jane Austen uses these two characters and their reactions to the romance in the book to demonstrate how much they should play into our decision-making processes.
It’s good if you’re interested in the heart versus head debate. Avoid Sense and Sensibility if you love gripping romances because the male leads are highly underdeveloped.
5. Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey is the first book Jane Austen ever sold for publication, but the publisher did not publish it. It took years to publish it after her death, along with Persuasion. Jane Austen’s response to a Gothic/Age of Sensibility literature that was very popular at the time when she was growing up.
In particular, in this book, she discusses a book called the Mysteries of Udolpho. It’s so many emotions, but also goth emotions. We need terrible castles with hidden secrets and the macabre while also fainting with emotions. So they were going through an emotional Gothic period of life. It’s a bit of satire.
The basic plot line is that Catherine Morland is a young lady, and she loves reading these dramatic novels as they fill her head with many romantic notions. She wants to have an adventure, but she’s also stuck in a country where it’s boring. Catherine doesn’t have any trademark stamps of being a heroine from a story.
All her parents are alive, and nobody locks her up or beats her. One of the main themes we see in Northanger Abbey is what true friendship is. Anyone who loves Gothic stuff or Mysteries would love it for obvious reasons.
6. Mansfield Park
Some people don’t read Mansfield Park because it’s so long, and they need an opportunity to realize it. The story is about Fanny Price, a poor girl with rich relatives. Her mom was not very smart and married a poor guy. Then her life was ruined.
Her wealthy relatives take pity on Fanny, and they bring her to their big estate, Mansfield Park, and raise her along with her cousins. She was raised with four cousins, two boys and two girls. The two boys, her cousin and Edmund, are very nice to her and have become best friends. Her life is tolerable at Mansfield Park, except that she’s constantly petrified and verbally abused by her other Aunt Norris.
Tons of family dynamics are played into the story here. All of these cousins and Fanny hit that age when romance and stuff happen. Mansfield Park is best for people interested in character studies, especially the human heart and morality.
7. Lady Susan
Lady Susan was published after Austen’s death. It is an epistolary novel, told through a series of letters, and follows Lady Susan Vernon. She is a widow seeking to secure advantageous marriages for herself and her daughter. You can explore themes of social ambition, marriage, and morality, considered an early example of Austen’s wit and irony.
That’s been Jane Austen’s major novels and my recommendations for which ones you might want to read based on your preferences. If you are starting to get into Jane Austen, choose one that’s right for you.
Those are my opinions and reading order for Jane Austen. Please read slowly for a better understanding of Jane Austen. Her works can teach important lessons about human nature, relationships, and societal norms and offer a powerful and thought-provoking commentary on the world around us.
Read more similar:
5 Historical Romance Books Like Edenbrooke
Table of Contents