The best books about Jane Austen

The Books I Picked & Why

Jane Austen's Letters

By Deirdre Le Faye

Book cover of Jane Austen's Letters

Why 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.


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

By Janine Barchas

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

Why 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.


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Jane Austen: A Family Record

By Deirdre Le Faye

Book cover of Jane Austen: A Family Record

Why 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.


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

By Julienne Gehrer

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

Why 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.


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

By Park Honan

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

Why 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.


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