Books to Get You Thinking

Two hundred years have elapsed since the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and yet time has not diminished the allure and unending universal appeal of Jane Austen’s books.  Avid admirers of Jane Austen have formed literary societies and book clubs, displaying timeless fascination with an author who, in her short lifetime, wrote six novels and left behind many letters, diaries and writings. There have been many fine biographies and literary criticisms related to Austen and her work, as well as sequels, spin offs, and a spate of gorgeous film adaptations.  Fans of Jane Austen, referred to as Janeites, have kept the memories of Austen alive through a variety of Austen and Regency themed paraphernalia: note cards, journals, picture hangers, and board games.

Readers can enjoy Mercer County Library’s comprehensive collection of Jane Austen-related literature and films, ranging from enthralling biographies to books about the historical period in which Jane Austen wrote. Many of these works elaborate on the interpretation and richness of her writing, the qualities that make them as relevant today as they were two centuries ago.

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Bryne
This is a fascinating biography penned by Paula Bryne in which the life of Jane Austen is examined, not in a traditional chronological fashion, but instead by structuring it around real objects and key moments in Austen’s life and works.  There are eighteen chapters, each opening with a beautiful illustration of an image connected to Austen  The author uses these illustrations to highlight engaging vignettes of Austen’s life, different facets of her personality and thinking, as well as the social, cultural, and political milieu of her times.  The first chapter begins with a silhouette of the Austen family commissioned by her uncle and takes readers into the childhood home of Jane Austen, growing up with her brothers and her sister Cassandra. Other chapters include equally fascinating perspectives: an Indian shawl serves as a backdrop to a discussion about Austen’s  awareness of England’s colonial expansion and political upheavals in France; a barouche introduces readers to the many travels of the Austen family; a wooden laptop that could be placed on a table or a writer’s lap, presented to Austen on her nineteenth birthday, provides glimpses of the years she spent penning the novels that were ultimately destined to become immortal.

Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins
Using a wide array of hitherto unpublished manuscripts, newspapers, personal letters and diaries, historians Roy and Lesley Adkins take readers back in time to late 18th century and early 19th Century England,  giving a vivid snapshot  of the society, customs, mores, and superstitions  that  characterized  the time period  forming the backdrop of Austen’s novels. It was a time of immense change brought on by the Industrial Revolution.  Society during this era was highly stratified, social mobility was practically nonexistent and a person’s place in society was determined by their wealth. Though marriage based on love was gradually becoming more common, marriages were still predominantly arranged to preserve wealth and estates.  Readers are carried to the homes and hearths of Regency England with their distinctive architectural details, and transported to everyday life for the middle and lower classes in Austen’s world – from social norms and etiquettes to theater and music. The book is replete with beautiful period illustrations, adding to the richness of the details that successfully echo voices from two hundred years ago.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen edited by Susannah Carson
Susannah Carson  has put together a compelling and engaging collection of essays and literary criticisms exploring the enduring quality of Austen’s writings, penned by a broad spectrum of classic and contemporary  literary figures including Somerset Maugham , E. M . Forster, Virginia Woolf, and Anna Quindlen.  Each writer brings forth a unique perspective on Austen’s work, her insights into human nature, the rich and multilayered quality of her prose and the timeless appeal of her stories over the centuries. In his essay on Austen’s place in literature, Alain De Botton (2009) writes:

Austen has an unusual capacity to describe our world even as she apparently concentrates only on being faithful to her own …  The author  has located words to depict a situation we thought ourselves alone in feeling and for a few moments, we see ourselves more clearly and wish to become whom the author would have wanted us to be. The value of a novel is not limited to its depiction of emotions and people akin to those in our own life – it stretches to an ability to describe these far better than we would have been able, to put a finger on perceptions that we recognize as our own, but could not have formulated on our own. (p. 142)

-Nita Mathur


  1. Can't wait to read these books!

  2. what a wonderful blog...I have rushed to find and put these books on hold in my local library in NC. Thank you!!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Neil Gaiman Ruined My Life

The Discipline of Gratitude