Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme created by The Broke and the Bookish blog.
TTT is taking a well-deserved break until August 15th, so I will be making my own lists- or recycling old topics from before I had this blog- during the hiatus.
Since today marks the Bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death, I thought I would share ten books I enjoyed about my favorite author.
1. Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman
Jane’s Fame tells the fascinating story of Jane Austen’s renown, from the years of rejection the author faced during her lifetime to the global recognition and adoration she now enjoys. Almost two hundred years after her death, Austen remains a hot topic, constantly open to revival and reinterpretation and known to millions of people through film and television adaptations as much as through her books. In Jane’s Fame, Claire Harman gives us the complete biography―of both the author and her lasting cultural influence―making this essential reading for anyone interested in Austen’s life, works, and remarkably potent fame.
2. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne
Acclaimed literary biographer Paula Byrne takes a highly original approach in this landmark biography, providing the most intimate and revealing portrait yet of the distinguished and beloved novelist-a Jane Austen for the twenty-first century.
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things offers a startlingly original look at the revered writer through a variety of key moments, scenes, and objects in her life and work. Going beyond previous traditional biographies which have traced Austen’s daily life from Steventon to Bath to Chawton to Winchester, Byrne’s portrait-organized thematically and drawn from the most up-to-date scholarship and unexplored sources-explores the lives of Austen’s extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Through their absorbing stories we view Austen on a much wider stage and discover unexpected aspects of her life and character. Byrne transports us to different worlds-the East Indies and revolutionary Paris-and different events-from a high society scandal to a petty case of shoplifting, She follows Austen on her extensive travels, setting her in contexts both global and English, urban and rural, political and historical, social and domestic-wider perspectives of vital and still under-estimated importance to her creative life.
Literary scholarship has revealed that letters and tokens in Austen’s novel’s often signal key turning points in the unfolding narrative. This groundbreaking biography explores Jane’s own story following the same principle. As Byrne reveals, small things in the writer’s world-a scrap of paper, a simple gold chain, an ivory miniature, a bathing machine-hold significance in her emotional and artistic development. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things introduces us to a woman deeply immersed in the world around her, yet far ahead of her time in her independence and ambition; to an author who was an astute commentator on human nature and the foibles of her own age. Rich and compelling, it is a fresh, insightful, and often surprising portrait of an artist and a vivid evocation of the complex world that shaped her.
3. A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen edited by Susannah Carson
For so many of us a Jane Austen novel is much more than the epitome of a great read. It is a delight and a solace, a challenge and a reward, and perhaps even an obsession. For two centuries Austen has enthralled readers. Few other authors can claim as many fans or as much devotion. So why are we so fascinated with her novels? What is it about her prose that has made Jane Austen so universally beloved?
In essays culled from the last one hundred years of criticism juxtaposed with new pieces by some of today’s most popular novelists and essayists, Jane Austen’s writing is examined and discussed, from her witty dialogue to the arc and sweep of her story lines. Great authors and literary critics of the past offer insights into the timelessness of her moral truths while highlighting the unique confines of the society in which she composed her novels. Virginia Woolf examines Austen’s maturation as an artist and speculates on how her writing would have changed if she’d lived twenty more years, while C. S. Lewis celebrates Austen’s mirthful, ironic take on traditional values.
Modern voices celebrate Austen’s amazing legacy with an equal amount of eloquence and enthusiasm. Fay Weldon reads Mansfield Park as an interpretation of Austen’s own struggle to be as “good” as Fanny Price. Anna Quindlen examines the enduring issues of social pressure and gender politics that make Pride and Prejudice as vital today as ever. Alain de Botton praises Mansfield Park for the way it turns Austen’s societal hierarchy on its head. Amy Bloom finds parallels between the world of Persuasion and Austen’s own life. And Amy Heckerling reveals how she transformed the characters of Emma into denizens of 1990s Beverly Hills for her comedy Clueless. From Harold Bloom to Martin Amis, Somerset Maugham to Jay McInerney, Eudora Welty to Margot Livesey, each writer here reflects on Austen’s place in both the literary canon and our cultural imagination.
We read, and then reread, our favorite Austen novels to connect with both her world and our own. Because, as A Truth Universally Acknowledged so eloquently demonstrates, the only thing better than reading a Jane Austen novel is finding in our own lives her humor, emotion, and love.
4. What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen’s brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.
In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austen’s novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen’s characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen’s letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.
Written with flair and based on a lifetime’s study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen’s work in greater depth than ever before.
5. Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom by Deborah Yaffe
For anyone who has ever loved a Jane Austen novel, a warm and witty look at the passionate, thriving world of Austen fandom
They walk among us in their bonnets and Empire-waist gowns, clutching their souvenir tote bags and battered paperbacks: the Janeites, Jane Austen’s legion of devoted fans. Who are these obsessed admirers, whose passion has transformed Austen from classic novelist to pop-culture phenomenon? Deborah Yaffe, journalist and Janeite, sets out to answer this question, exploring the remarkable endurance of Austen’s stories, the unusual zeal that their author inspires, and the striking cross-section of lives she has touched.
Along the way, Yaffe meets a Florida lawyer with a byzantine theory about hidden subtexts in the novels, a writer of Austen fan fiction who found her own Mr. Darcy while reimagining Pride and Prejudice, and a lit professor whose roller-derby nom de skate is Stone Cold Jane Austen. Yaffe goes where Janeites gather, joining a pilgrimage to historic sites in Britain, chatting online with fellow fans, and attending the annual ball of the Jane Austen Society of North America—in period costume. Part chronicle of a vibrant literary community, part memoir of a lifelong love, Among the Janeites is a funny, touching meditation on the nature of fandom.
6. Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan
Jane Austen’s six novels are true classics, still immensely popular some 200 years after their first publication. But although the celebrated stories never change, the covers are always different. Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design, from elegant Victorian hardcovers and the famed 1894 “Peacock” edition to 1950s pulp, movie tie-in editions, graphic novels, foreign-language translations, and many, many others. Filled with beautiful artwork and insightful commentary, this fascinating and visually intriguing collection is a must for Janeites, design geeks, and book lovers of every stripe.
7. Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury by Rebecca Dickson
In the minds of fans and scholars alike, Jane Austen has never grown old. Now more than ever, Jane Austen is a presence in pop culture—a major accomplishment for someone who published her books anonymously all her life. Who was Jane Austen? We have only a couple of sketches and letters to tell us about her, but from this slim thread hangs a library’s worth of speculation, including countless Hollywood interpretations of her life and her books.
Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury takes you inside the author’s world—the hardships she faced, the loves she lost, and the keen sense of irony that kept her going. Fully illustrated with Regency-era artwork, the book also explains key aspects of life in Austen’s time.
This treasury also contains removable reproductions of many important documents, including a handwritten letter from Jane to her sister Cassandra, pages from the rough draft of Persuasion, and a quirky “History of England” written by Jane as a schoolgirl and illustrated by her sister. These special features, combined with the insightful narrative and evocative images, make Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury an intimate and unique experience for anyone who appreciates the timeless significance of her work.
8. 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen: The Truth About the World’s Most Intriguing Romantic Literary Heroine by Patrice Hannon
You’ve read Emma. You own Pride and Prejudice. You love Sense and Sensibility. But do you know all there is to know about Jane Austen?
Find answers to questions such as:
Who was the Irishman who stole her heart?
Why was their affair doomed?
Which Austen heroine most resembled Jane?
Who were the real Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?
Why did Jane never marry?
These fascinating secrets and much more are revealed in 101 Things You Didn’t Know about Jane Austen.
Romantic. Tragic. Mysterious. And you thought Austen’s heroines led intriguing lives.
9. Library of Luminaries: Jane Austen: An Illustrated Biography by Zena Alkayat, with illustrations by Nina Cosford
Discover the stories behind the stories in this treasurable illustrated biography of Jane Austen. Enchanting illustrations and handwritten text featuring excerpts from Austen’s personal letters outline the intimate details of the literary icon’s life–her childhood on a farm, the writing of her first novella, her marital woes, the inspiration behind Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and more. Brimming with delightful details like the objects Austen kept on her desk and how much Emma originally sold for, this beautiful ebook is a lovely new way to celebrate Austen’s legacy.
10. Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece by Susannah Fullerton
“Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure,” Elizabeth Bennet tells Fitzwilliam Darcy in one of countless exhilarating scenes in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The remembrance of Austen’s brilliant work has given its readers pleasure for 200 years and is certain to do so for centuries to come. The book is incomparable for its wit, humor, and insights into how we think and act—and how our “first impressions” (the book’s initial title) can often be remarkably off-base. All of these facets are explored and commemorated in Celebrating Pride and Prejudice, written by preeminent Austen scholar Susannah Fullerton. Fullerton delves into what makes Pride and Prejudice such a groundbreaking masterpiece, including the story behind its creation (the first version may have been an epistolary novel written when Austen was only twenty), its reception upon publication, and its tremendous legacy, from the many films and miniseries inspired by the book (such as the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth) to the even more numerous “sequels,” adaptations, mash-ups (zombies and vampires and the like), and pieces of merchandise, many of them very bizarre.
Interspersed throughout are fascinating stories about Austen’s brief engagement (perhaps to the man who inspired the ridiculous Mr. Collins), the “Darcin” pheromone, the ways in which Pride and Prejudice served as bibliotherapy in the World War I trenches, why it caused one famous author to be tempted into thievery, and much more. Celebrating Pride and Prejudice is a wonderful celebration of a book that has had an immeasurable influence on literature and on anyone who has had the good fortune to discover it.
I have several more books about JA on my TBR that I can’t wait to read too.
What are some of your favorite books about Jane Austen?