Ultimate Jane Austen Book Guide

by Alice Starkie
Taylor Magazine Minimalist guide to life

Wondering which Jane Austen book to read next or not sure where to start? This guide is for you! A simple breakdown of Austen’s best loved novels with helpful comparisons to pair you up with the perfect novel!


Serial matchmaker Emma is easily one of Austen’s most entertaining heroines, her quick wit and sharp replies often land her into trouble as she tries to orchestrate the love lives of people in her village, causing her to ignore her own desires.  Emma stands out compared to other more passive Austen’s protagonists as although she’s charming and bright she’s a little self entitled and at times lacks compassion but this just makes her relatable and you end up loving her like a sister, flaws and all.

When to read?

Summer. One of the novel’s most memorable scenes takes place on a summer’s picnic where the heat causes tensions and relationships to reach boiling point, solidifying it as the perfect companion to a lazy summers day reading.

If you liked…

The 1995 film ‘Clueless’. The cult phenomenon clueless was actually based on Emma and although the novel is sadly lacking yellow tartan miniskirts it’s still enjoyable to read the origins of Cher.

‘Sense and Sensibility’

Two sisters, rational Elinor and romantic Marianne Dashwood, are forced from a life of decadence into poverty and a decaying cottage in Devonshire. The novel explores the relationship between the sisters and deals with heartbreak from the men who enter and leave their lives. Secret engagements, manipulative families and wayward men pull the story in often unforeseen ways causing the reader to feel like the final Dashwood sister.

When to read?

If you’ve had a recent unexpected downgrade, you didn’t get that job or the rent’s too expensive for your dream flat, this novel depicts women coming together and making the best from their new financial situation.

If you liked…

The 2013 film ‘Frozen’. This seems like a tenuous link but bear with me. If you have a sister you no doubt assigned to Ana/Elsa roles to each other and this novel will cause you to do the same. Romance and marriage is no doubt at the foreground in this novel but it is definitely second to the relationship between the two sisters as the novel equally conveys the complexity of family relationships.

‘Mansfield Park’

Removed from her home as a child, protagonist Fanny Price is alienated by her new family and surroundings at Mansfield Park. From a life of poverty to a life of servitude to her wealthy aunts. Fanny is perhaps one of Austen’s most passive and humble protagonists no doubt due to the divisions in Fanny’s life from the separation of her brother and the unrequited love she has to bear every day. The novel successfully deals with ideas of alienation and the discovery of sexuality and how to survive both is through moral strength.

When to read?

If you’ve returned to an old place, perhaps your childhood home, and feel alienated by it. As Fanny realises her place of birth doesn’t define her or make her feel at home, the concept of ‘home’ can be wherever you make it.

If you liked…

The 2010-15 TV series ‘Downton Abbey’. Arguably all Austen novels can be compared to the ITV costume drama but particularly Mansfield as similarly to Downton Abbey, the house itself is almost a character as each stately home contains the scandal and tensions of upper class families.

‘Pride and Prejudice’

Reading this novel is a rite of passage. One of five sisters, Elizabeth Bennet is a women before her time, in a society that treats being an unmarried female as an illness, Lizzie is constantly reminded that she isn’t the prettiest or the smartest or even the most outgoing sister. Enter the wealthy and proud Mr.Darcy. The novel explores first impressions, loyalty and the burden of marriage placed upon women with Lizzie acting as a witty, strong heroine whose humour and grace cuts through the restrictions society places on her.

When to read?

When you are disillusioned with society. Lizzie rejecting a proposal is similar to refusing to get a tinder account even though all your friends tell you it’s the only way to meet people. In a culture that associates being single with being alone and sad, sometimes you need Lizzie to remind you not to settle for less than love and remain true to yourself.

If you liked…

The 1996 novel ‘Bridget Jones Diary’. Which romantic fictional leading man has not been influenced by Mr Darcy? In now what is a romance cliché of a couple’s first impressions being proven incorrect with romantic consequences, the original Darcy and Lizzie still remain stronger than their duplicates.

‘Northanger Abbey’

Innocent Catherine Morland is thrown into Bath’s society with an overactive imagination and obsession with reading Gothic novels. Her eventual stay at the mysterious Northanger Abbey is filled with tension and mystery with the novel using Gothic tropes to display the horrors of society, such as being rejected due to lack of wealth or being denied freedom to marry. Austen hints and alludes to Gothic themes without fully committing the novel to the genre making it the perfect introduction to Gothic.

When to read?

When your craving a Gothic romance pre-Twilight. Northanger Abbey includes a creepy gothic setting, a couple in love, and just a hint of horror with no teenage angst or a sparkling vampire in sight.

If you liked…

The 2015 novel ‘Girl on the Train’. Northanger Abbey similarly uses tension and suspense to surround the mystery of the Abbey with deceptive characters whose surprising ulterior motives creating a shocking plot.


Anne Eliot is separated from her first love Wentworth due to class and pressure from her family, the novel explores if you can reconnect with your past love after years of distance. Anne, the oldest of Austen’s heroines, offers a more reflective view of love compared to the impulsive Emma or Lizzie. The endurance of love is questioned throughout the novel and it considerers whether time can injure or heal a relationship, ultimately it champions forgiveness and self acceptance.

When to read?

When you’re about to make a big decision. Whether if its to try again with an ex or travel the world, this book will help you see the importance of believing in yourself and being the creator of your own fate.

If you liked…

The1978 film ‘Grease’. Similar to the reserved Sandra Dee, Anne in the novel transforms from a passive protagonist into a stronger figure who is not afraid to determine her own destiny.

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