Updated: Apr 29
*The whole list is included at the bottom as a PDF.
Welcome! If you are just starting to read Jane Austen, or coming back to her after not loving her when they made you read her in school, here's a good place to start.
What Matters in Jane Austen? explains some Regency customs and other info that's good to know for readers new to this literature. The annotated versions of each novel offer explanations, definitions, and illustrations to help you understand what's going on. I've linked to The Annotated Emma as an example, but other titles have been annotated.
All about Jane:
Harman, Claire- Jane's Fame
Veevers, Marian- Jane and Dorothy
Tomalin, Claire- Jane Austen: A Life
The only reading nearly as satisfying as reading Jane Austen is reading about Jane Austen. Jane's Fame is the story of how her literature has been appreciated over the years, going in and out of style and then taking over the world when Bridget Jones's Diary and the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries came out. Jane and Dorothy is a biography of sorts, comparing the life of Jane with that of Dorothy Wordsworth, a contemporary; I'd recommend this for any others who love Jane Austen and the Romantic poets. I haven't read Tomalin's biography yet; I just think it looks good.
Davidson, Hilary- Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion
Wilson, Kim- At Home with Jane Austen
I haven't read the book on Regency fashion or Martha Lloyd's Household Book; I just really want to read both. I really, especially liked Jane Austen Writers' Club, which I'd like to read again, and At Home with Jane Austen, which I don't have and sadly seems to be out of print.
Re-tellings or continuations:
Baker, Jo- Longbourn
Trollope, Joanna- Sense & Sensibility
McDermid, Val- Northanger Abbey
Rao, Mahesh- Polite Society
I loved Molly Greely's continuation of Charlotte Lucas's story, and the second book about Anne de Bourgh did not disappoint. Longbourn was so good that I couldn't put it down. The Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey updates were written as part of The Austen Project that meant to have six contemporary authors re-write Austen classics but only seem to have published four. I thought about putting these in the "for newbies" list because it might help someone who is having trouble with some of Austen's humor to read a contemporary take. (BTW, when I first read Pride and Prejudice, I don't think I got a single joke. I didn't know anything about Jane Austen when I started reading it. Ha, ha.) When these came out, some people were appalled- the shades of Austen's literature and so on- but I liked these two. Polite Society wasn't a part of the project, but is a version of Emma set in modern-day Delhi.
Gray, Claudia- The Murder of Mr. Wickham
Stephanie Barron- Jane Austen Mysteries
I read a few of the Barron mysteries when they were new, which was a little over twenty years ago. In these, Jane Austen is a sleuth, kind of like Jessica Fletcher but with Austen-ish dialogue, which was pretty cool. I didn't really get into it because I'm not wild about fiction with real people as characters. I'm just weird like that. I'd rather read freshly made-up people. The Wickham book was cute. I wasn't really crazy about it, but I LOVE a mystery in which the victim was so awful that everyone hated him and had a motive for murder. And some of the updates were clever, like Wickham has become some kind of swindler who has bankrupted lots of people and shows up at the Knightley's when they're having a party and they can't kick him out because there's a storm coming. It was a quick read and I liked it pretty well.
Austen, Jane- Love and Friendship: And Other Youthful Writings
Love and Friendship is a selection of Austen juvenalia, including the famous "History of England" and the beginnings of a novel that I was beginning to get into but was never finished. It's not the same as the polished novels that she wrote as an adult, of course, but you can see the beginnings of her humor and talent.
I don't have any of these letter books yet, but I'd love Persuasion for Wentworth's letter to Anne especially. These books have the usual text of the novel, but with a pocket full of handwritten letters from the text, and Austen books have lots of letters.
Fiction (loosely) based on or inspired by Jane Austen:
Fielding, Helen- Bridget Jones's Diary
Hale, Shannon- Austenland
Fowler, Karen Joy- The Jane Austen Book Club
Jenner, Natalie- The Jane Austen Society
I haven't read Bridget Jones in forever, but I really enjoyed it waaaay back when it was new. I have to say, I think that Austenland and The Jane Austen Book Club made better movies than books. I know some people don't like the movies either, but I did. I read The Jane Austen Society and thought it was pretty good, but could have had more Jane.
Just for fun:
There are several issues of a knitting magazine that is all patterns inspired by Jane Austen's books. Spencers, bonnets, shawls. I have them but have only made one pattern- a pair of mitts that turned out very well, if I do say so myself. I want to knit a shawl and have the yarn, but it's intimidating. One of these days....
So there's my list, fellow or future Janeites. I've also made the title of this post into a t-shirt and mug with a Henry Tilney quote on the back for anyone interested in displaying your fandom :)
and the mug (back):
I haven't posted in literally a month. I had some kind of a weird cold that dragged on forever (two negative covid tests) and didn't make me miss work, but when I got home I collapsed on the couch every evening. I'm still catching up. Putting this list together took forever because I was just picking at it.
Obviously, there are a million other books written about the Author, her influence, or her books, so I'd love to see any other recommended titles in the comments!
Most of the links are affiliate links to bookshop.org, but where the material isn't available there, I found something else that might help if you're looking for copies.