Top Ten Austen Related Books (Austen in August Edition)

This week, The Broke and Bookish have selected as their topic “Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X” which is a fairly broad topic.  I have decided to pick books that I would select if I were teaching a course on Austen-mania.  I recently read the short story anthology Dancing with Mr Darcy and was interested by the words of its editor Sarah Waters, who observed that all too often, Austen fans concentrate on Mr Darcy, reducing Austen’s work to a cartoonish kind of fandom.  I adore Pride and Prejudice but understand what she means, in that there is far more to appreciate than the simple fact that Colin Firth looked rather hot in a wet shirt once in 1995.  Anyway, I sat down to think about which books have been written about Jane Austen or her works and which I feel are really original.  Austen may be dismissed as prim or staid, there is so much going on within her novels, so much fun, enough to keep people reading them for two centuries and inspiring people to come up with amazing books of their own.  So obviously, the original books come first but here are the spin-off works which would be on my syllabus if I wanted to teach someone how to be a fan of Austen, which is a terrific thing to be.

Longbourn, Jo Baker
longbourn

This is the only novel to make it on to this list – there have been dozens, nay hundreds, of books written to expand on her novels.  Generally they are ‘male perspective’ stories or attempts to complete her unfinished works, but most commonly of all there are the Pride-and-Prejudice fan fiction novels.  This is not one such.  While part of its intrigue undoubtedly comes from the fact that the movements going on upstairs are only too familiar, what Baker has actually created is an original novel all of her own which finally turns the reader’s attention towards those shadowy figures who exist in the corners of all of Austen’s work – the servants.

 

Mr Darcy’s Guide to Courtship, Emily Brand

darcy courtship

While remaining very light-hearted, Emily Brand’s guide to Regency dating (as presented by none other than Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy himself) is a delight.  Witty and packed with fascinating detail about the courtship rituals of Georgian Britain, Brand’s book is pure fun.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers, Margaret Sullivan

Jane-Austen-Cover-to-Cover

This book is very, very high on the I Want list.  I have visited it on several occasions in the shop and it really is lovely – hint, people who love me, hint .  It offers a complete chronicle of all the covers which have graced the front covers of Austen’s novels down the centuries, including even the most alarming and giving a fascinating history of book cover fashions (always more interesting to me than clothes fashion) as well as being a beautiful piece of Austen memorabilia.

What Matters in Jane Austen, John Mullan

what matters in jane austen

I adored this book – it was one of those true treasures which feel as if they have been designed to appeal to me on a personal level.  Mullan has constructed his book with incredible care – each chapter flows seamlessly into the next, unlocking a whole new dimension to the books as they do so.  Literary theory is never more readable or indeed more entertaining than it is here.

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, Paula Byrne

real jane

I read this last year and it was amazing.  Taking an apparently random object as the focus of each chapter, Byrne puts Austen’s life into a greater context and seems to unveil a far clearer image of who the woman herself truly was.  A really innovative approach to biography and a highly readable book.

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary, Marcia Cross

lizzy bennet

I have discussed at length before how much I enjoyed the Youtube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (if you haven’t seen them yet, by the by, you should) but I would like to put out another shout for one of my favourite Christmas presents of last year – the pop up version of Pride and Prejudice which tells the well-known story along with beautiful illustrations.  It has a lovely ‘hand-finished’ quality as Lizzy relates her life to the reader, the tribulations of making her father a waistcoat and all the various events of a rather busy year.  I may have finished it on Christmas Day itself but it has made for lovely bedtime re-reading material.

Eavesdropping on Jane Austen, Roy & Lesley Adkins

eavesdropping-2Bjane-2Bausten

Providing an insight into the less-reported aspects of Regency Britain, what husband-and-wife historian team the Adkinses do not know about Austen’s England is not worth knowing.  With observations on every aspect of life from birth to marriage, illness, and death, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England provides a background to the novels along with a whole host of trivia which answers every question you never even knew you had.

Jane Austen: A Life, Claire Tomalin

jane austen a life

I don’t think I’m going to get this finished in time to include it for my Austen in August project but I wanted to put it on the list anyway.  Claire Tomalin is a biographer beyond compare and although I’m not terribly far in, her attention to detail and clear prose make this a must-read for all Austen fans.

Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, Janet Todd
jane austen life times novels

It is a source of some dismay to me that there are innumerable ‘child-friendly’ Shakespeare-related books etc but a severe shortage of them for the Brontes and Austen.  I would have loved this as a child and indeed, this is another book which is high on the I Want list.  With facsimiles of her letters, pictures, facts and more – this would make a wonderful coffee table book – very much the chocolate cake book rather than the vegetables (I think that bit would be fulfilled by reading Eavesdropping) but a definite fan-pleaser.


Marrying Mr Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game

jane austen card game

This last one is not a book.  It is a card game which I discovered in Oxford’s board game cafe, Thirsty Meeples.  Myself and a friend had a fine time puzzling out the rules but once we got there, we had great high jinks negotiating the Regency marriage market.  I myself played as Lizzie Bennet but failed to win Mr Darcy’s heart and ended up wed to Mr Denny (Wickham also proposed but I said no) but my friend had better luck, playing as Jane and marrying Mr Bingley.  I went back a few weeks later and tried to persuade my boyfriend that we should play it, I even offered to let him be Lizzie but sadly he said no.  Another I Want item on the list though – I think I have enough Austen fan friends to make this a worthwhile purchase.

So these are my picks – please do let me know if there are any other Austen-related books which you feel should be included!  Austen in August continues for one more week and I hope to finish a few more books for review in that time frame so watch this space …

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27 thoughts on “Top Ten Austen Related Books (Austen in August Edition)

  1. This is the best list I have come across today. A Jane Austen List, Wonderful indeed! I recently bought a few Austen Related books. Did not love the Austenland series by Shannon Hale. Got to read the other book soon. I will add a few from this list too.

    Here is My TTT

    Happy Reading!

  2. We shared a topic! With some overlap, but mostly not. I wanted to read What Matters in Jane Austen but it wasn’t at my library and though I even broke down and ordered it my order got cancelled by the seller! Then I gave up. I like your unconventional choices. Mr Darcy’s Guide to Courtship and the card game sound especially fun.

    1. Too funny – I just commented on your post too! I know, I really like that we both came to the topic at different angles. What Matters in Jane Austen may be hard to get hold of but it is definitely worth the search. I recommend you track it down – it may be my favourite on the list. Although I shouldn’t say that because I’m afraid this list also functions as a sneaky hint list to family that it is now only 3 months til Christmas/my birthday. Hope you have a great week and enjoy the rest of Austen in August (I’m being a stowaway but am really enjoying it nonetheless!)

  3. I just read The Real Jane Austen for Austen in August, and I’ve had my eye on What Matters in Jane Austen. I think it would be fascinating to see all the different covers that have graced Austen’s books over the years. I might have to drop a few hints to people who love me, too. 🙂

  4. I adore this list – I would sign up for this class in a heartbeat!! 🙂 Have you read “Jane Austen Ruined My Life” and the rest of that series by Beth Pattillo – I love those! My TTT

  5. I’m trying to think of a serious author who I know you wouldn’t have a clue what I was on about!

    Seriously, she is a very interesting writer; I really must try and read one!

      1. Do you know the story of an American woman who discovered a Jane Austen novel in her local bookshop, she had no idea she was an author from the past and devoured all the books as quickly as she could. She then returned once more to the shop to find out when the next one was to be published, and was devastated to find she had read them all and there would be no more!

  6. I love this class! I will freak out about anything Austen-related, so I’m only disappointed that this isn’t actually a course I could sign up for. The Marrying Mr. Darcy game sounds fun! I’ve seen it around but I’ve had my eye on The Jane Game instead. I haven’t read any of the books on your list, but I have Longbourn on my phone so I might get to it eventually. Great list!

    1. Haven’t heard of the Jane Game. May need to investigate it urgently. Oh I know, there need to be more classes available about being an Austen fan. This is a gap in the educational market. And do try Longbourn, you won’t regret it! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  7. I LOVE this topic choice! I’m a big Austen fan too and love the idea of talking Austen-mania in a class! Have you read Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James? I kept thinking of it as I read through your list (there’s a great BBC miniseries too!). Also Austenland by Shannon Hale is a fun one. Thanks for sharing!

    Check out my TTT here: https://greenishbookshelf.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/top-10-tuesday-books-on-my-syllabus-if-i-taught-classic-british-lit-101/

    1. Hi – I did read Death Comes to Pemberley. Not a fan I’m afraid, gave it a rather blistering review a few years ago on the site. The TV series was slightly better but I’m not a PD James fan. Glad to hear from a fellow fan – really liked your list, I joined the Classics Club to make sure that I read classics as well as all the review copies which keep landing up on my doorstep! Thanks for commenting, do come back and visit again!

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