One of the most important names in English literature, Jane Austen was an English novelist famous for her critique and comments on the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th Century, using irony and realism.
She wrote six major novels, the most iconic of them all being Pride and Prejudice (with the one and only Mr. Darcy), in which she offers social commentary about the place of women in society, and the importance of marriage in the pursuit of favorable social standing and economic security. Jane Austen herself never married, but that didn’t stop her from living a happy and active life. Her books have inspired many other books and many films.
How to read Jane Austen’s Books in Order?
Reading Jane Austen’s novels in publication order:
- Sense and Sensibility (1811) – Marianne Dashwood, who wears her heart on her sleeve, falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby. She ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile, Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love – and its threatened loss – the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.
- Pride and Prejudice (1813) – When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor, Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever.
- Mansfield Park (1814) – Taken from the poverty of her parent’s home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawfords arrive in the neighborhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.
- Emma (1815) – Beautiful, clever, rich-and single-Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.
- Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous) – During an eventful season at Bath, young, naïve Catherine Morland experiences the joys of fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who shares Catherine’s love of Gothic romance and horror, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father’s mysterious house, Northanger Abbey. There, her imagination is influenced by novels of sensation and intrigue, Catherine imagines terrible crimes committed by General Tilney.
- Persuasion (1818, posthumous) – Anne et and fell in love with Captain Frederick Wentworth, a navy man, when she was 19. At the time, Wentworth was deemed an unsuitable match and Anne was forced to break off the relationship. Eight years later, however, they meet again. By this time Captain Wentworth has made his fortune in the navy and is an attractive “catch.” However, Anne is now uncertain about his feelings for her.
Reading Jane Austen’s novels in written order:
- Northanger Abbey – written circa 1798-99.
- Sense and Sensibility – written circa 1797.
- Pride and Prejudice – written in the late 1790s as First Impressions, re-written 1811-12.
- Mansfield Park – 1811-13.
- Emma – 1814-15.
- Persuasion – 1815-16.
Unfinished fiction and other works from Jane Austen:
- Love and Friendship: And Other Youthful Writings – This edition includes all of Austen’s juvenilia, including her “History of England” and the novella Lady Susan (also called Love and Freindship).
- Lady Susan, the Watsons, Sanditon – Collecting three lesser-known works, Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon edited with an introduction by Margaret Drabble.
- Jane Austen: The Complete Works – You can buy this 7 Book Boxset with Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Love and Friendship.