The best books about Jane Austen

Why am I passionate about this?

I was brought up in Maidenhead in Berkshire, a town on the River Thames to the west of London. After studying archaeology at University College, Cardiff, I worked for many years as a field archaeologist. I met my wife, Lesley, on an excavation at Milton Keynes, and we have worked together ever since, both in archaeology and as authors of archaeology and history books. It was only after studying the Napoleonic period, which was when Jane Austen lived and wrote, that I understood the context of her novels and came to a much deeper appreciation of them.


I wrote...

Book cover of Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago

What is my book about?

The book is about how ordinary people lived during Jane Austen’s lifetime, based on eyewitness accounts. Her novels are centred on the upper classes, because they were the people who had spare money to buy books and spare time to read them. To understand her novels, it is necessary not only to know the way of life of the upper classes and aristocracy, who are portrayed and often satirised in her work, but also how the vast majority of people lived who are not represented in the novels. It is the labour and skills of these people who supported the luxurious lifestyles of the wealthy minority.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Jane Austen's Letters

Roy Adkins Why did I love this book?

Jane Austen is known mainly from her novels, but her surviving letters provide a wonderful insight into her life and character. Most of them were written to her sister, Cassandra, whenever they were separated. This edition, by Deirdre Le Faye, is the most complete and accurate collection of the known letters, and it also includes invaluable notes on what she wrote and the people who were mentioned.

By Deirdre Le Faye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jane Austen's Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jane Austen's letters afford a unique insight into the daily life of the novelist: intimate and gossipy, observant and informative, they bring alive her family and friends, her surroundings and contemporary events with a freshness unparalleled in biography. Above all we recognize the unmistakable voice of the author of Pride and Prejudice, witty and amusing as she describes the social life of town and country, thoughtful and constructive when writing about
the business of literary composition.

R. W. Chapman's ground-breaking edition of the collected Letters first appeared in 1932, and a second edition followed twenty years later. A third edition,…


Book cover of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

Roy Adkins Why did I love this book?

Nowadays, Jane Austen’s novels look superficially like historical romances, but she actually wrote contemporary novels for a contemporary audience, and they are much more complicated and subtle than they first appear. This book explains many of the mentions of people, places, and events in her novels that were obvious to her readers, but which are far from obvious now.

By Janine Barchas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Matters of Fact in Jane Austen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, Janine Barchas makes the bold assertion that Jane Austen's novels allude to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates. Barchas is the first scholar to conduct extensive research into the names and locations in Austen's fiction by taking full advantage of the explosion of archival materials now available online. According to Barchas, Austen plays confidently with the tension between truth and invention that characterizes the realist novel. Of course, the argument that Austen deployed famous names presupposes an active celebrity…


Book cover of Jane Austen: A Family Record

Roy Adkins Why did I love this book?

Although we have some of Jane Austen’s letters and other writing, besides her novels, many more letters have been lost, and relatively little is known about her life. In 1913, nearly a century after her death, William and Richard Austen-Leigh (descendants of her brother James) published what was then known in a book called Life and Letters of Jane Austen. Much more material has been accumulated since, and in 1989 the work was extensively enlarged and revised by Deirdre Le Faye. It is essential reading for those who want to find out about Jane Austen’s life.

By Deirdre Le Faye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jane Austen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is the outcome of years of research in Austen archives, and stems from the original family biography by W. and R. A. Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: her Life and Letters. Jane Austen, A Family Record was first published in 1989, and this edition incorporates information that has come to light since then, and provides new illustrations and updated family trees. Le Faye gives a detailed account of Austen's life and literary career. She has collected together documented facts as well as the traditions concerning the novelist, and places her within the context of a widespread, affectionate and talented family…


Book cover of Martha Lloyd's Household Book: The Original Manuscript from Jane Austen's Kitchen

Roy Adkins Why did I love this book?

Martha Lloyd was a close friend of Jane Austen and a relative by marriage. She lived with the Austen family at Chawton in Hampshire when Jane was there with her mother and sister, and much later Martha married Jane’s widowed brother, Francis. Her household book shows us the recipes and homemade medical remedies that they used at that time. This book has a facsimile of the original manuscript, along with various notes, as well as a section on Martha Lloyd that is the best available summary of her life.

By Julienne Gehrer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Martha Lloyd's Household Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first facsimile publication of 'Martha Lloyd's Household Book', the manuscript cookbook of Jane Austen's closest friend. Martha's notebook is reproduced in a colour facsimile section with complete transcription and detailed annotation. Introductory chapters discuss its place among other household books of the eighteenth century.

Martha Lloyd befriended a young Jane Austen and later lived with Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother at the cottage in Chawton, Hampshire, where Jane wrote or revised her novels. Martha later married into the Austen family. Her collection features recipes and remedies handwritten during a period of over thirty years and…


Book cover of Jane Austen: Her Life: The Definitive Portrait of Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Art, Her Family, Her World

Roy Adkins Why did I love this book?

There are many biographies and other narratives of Jane Austen, with many published since 1997, when Professor Park Honan updated his original book. Even so, his biography is still, in my opinion, the best. It is comprehensive, detailed, and accurate, with copious endnotes. The author also had unparalleled help from descendants of Jane Austen. His writing style is straightforward, and he is excellent at depicting the overall context of her life and how it influenced her writing, from her two brothers in the Royal Navy to productions in the London theatres.

By Park Honan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jane Austen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Park Honan's landmark biography of Jane Austen has been lavished with praise since its original publication. Written in an accessable atyle and meticulously researched, this book combones intanacy with Austen as a child and a woman.


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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Interested in Jane Austen, letters, and the sociology of literature?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Jane Austen, letters, and the sociology of literature.

Jane Austen Explore 89 books about Jane Austen
Letters Explore 35 books about letters
The Sociology Of Literature Explore 17 books about the sociology of literature