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The ultimate guide to Jane Austen's Books

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that no one can write quite like Jane Austen. If you're not sure which of her novels to read first, or you're looking to re-read your favourites, our guide to Jane Austen's books is the perfect place to start.

Jane Austen, one of the most famous writers in the world, wrote six full-length novels. You may have read some, studied others, and been captivated by adaptations of them all on both the big and small screens. 

And it's no wonder that more than 220 years after she penned her first work, we're all still enraptured by Jane Austen's books. All of her novels are beautifully written and feature casts of characters that are impossible to forget. They share common themes – love, class difference, societal expectations, money, family and class, but each book has a distinct character and feel all of its own.

Her books are all so celebrated and so good, that it can be difficult to choose which one to read next. So whether this is the first book by Jane Austen you've ever read, or you're looking for your next classic to curl up with and curious as to which of Austen's novels is the 'best', here’s a quick and simple guide to help you choose.

Jane Austen's Books

The most romantic Jane Austen book

Persuasion

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Persuasion

Anne Elliott is 27 and single – and by Regency England standards, that’s old. But Anne was once in love and engaged to Frederick Wentworth. Sadly, her friend Lady Russell persuaded her not to marry him –she convinced Anne that he was too poor and not a good match – so Anne broke off the engagement. Anne and Frederick meet again eight years later and their circumstances have changed – he’s now a triumphant war hero, she’s fallen on hard times. Can they find love again? Read Jane Austen’s most contemplative, mature and romantic novel to find out, and with a 2022 Netflix adaptation of this classic starring Dakota Johnson and Richard E. Grant to air on 15 July, you might want to add this one to the top of your list.


The favourite

Pride & Prejudice

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Pride & Prejudice

Dive into Jane Austen’s most famous novel which features the pitch perfect love story between headstrong Elizabeth Bennet and the aristocratic Mr Darcy. When they first encounter each other they really don’t get on and that’s the magic of this timeless romance; both must have their pride humbled and their prejudices dissolved before they can acknowledge their love for each other. 

But if you think Pride & Prejudice is just an entertaining rom-com (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) then think again, there’s much more going on here.  Jane Austen cleverly unpicks the rigid social rules of her time and she successfully explores the tension between ‘truths universally acknowledged’ and authentic human feelings.


The most heartfelt Jane Austen book

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Sense and Sensibility

The story of two sisters and their search for love, a home and security; Elinor is the sensible and responsible one, Marianne is emotional and impulsive. It’s a lovely premise as the two sisters both clash and come together for each other.  Elinor loves a man who is promised to another woman, Marianne loses her heart to a scoundrel who jilts her.  

Elinor feels too little and Marianne feels too much, and in her first published novel, Jane Austen sensitively explores the problems of disclosing one feelings in a society governed by rules and constant scrutiny. 


The most controversial book Jane Austen Wrote

Mansfield Park

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Mansfield Park

This is the one that divides opinion the most so read it to make your own mind up about Austen’s most controversial novel with a different kind of heroine.

Fanny Price is not your usual Austen female protagonist – she’s a quiet and timid child who’s sent by her impoverished parents to live with their wealthy relatives, the Bertrams, at Mansfield Park, who look down at Fanny as the the poor relation.  Treated with disdain by three of her cousins, she finds her only comfort in the kindness of the fourth, Edmund. Their friendship develops into romantic love - until the arrival from London of the sophisticated Henry Crawford and his vivacious sister Mary causes an emotional upheaval that no one in the family expects. Fanny must work hard to stick to her own moral code amidst the frivolity of wealthy society.


The best Jane Austen book for stories of female friendships

Emma

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Emma

Emma Woodhouse is spoilt, rich and beautiful. And she always thinks she knows best.  She’s charming and flawed - she wants to help her friends but she’s too insensitive to realise that her attempts at matchmaking lead to chaos and misunderstandings at every turn. The result?  A glittering comedy of manners, a twisty turny plot and a voyage of self-discovery for one of Austen’s most endearing – and infuriating – central characters.  


The funniest Jane Austen book

Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey is fun, lively and full of drama. And, most importantly, it’s a properly funny send up of the gothic novel genre. This is the story of Catherine Morland, a naive teenager who’s addicted to romantic, gothic novels. She’s excited to leave her dull home town for the delights of popular Bath and once there she imagines the kind of mystery and intrigue she finds in her favourite reads.  In Northanger Abbey itself, she suspects a sinister crime has occurred.  But how can she reconcile such drama with the reality of life?   


The book Jane Austen never finished

Sanditon

by Jane Austen

Book cover for Sanditon

Jane Austen was only 42 when she died. She was working on a novel, but very sadly, after eleven chapters she was too ill to continue writing and she passed away just months later. Sanditon is a fictitious sea side town, a new and fashionable playground for people who want to be see and be seen. Although only a fragment of a novel, Austen still manages to create her usual cast of characters and she pokes fun at society’s obsession with all things new. It’s very tempting to finish an unfinished novel and many people have taken on the task on page and screen. In fact Andrew Davies’ current television drama of the same name,  is so successful and popular that it’s going into a third series.