If you are a fan of classic literature and you have not read any Jane Austen novels, suffice it to say, that you are missing out.
While some of the famed author’s novels may be a little difficult to start off with, especially if it is your first time reading a novel from this era, once they have sucked you in, you will be trapped until you finish the story.
You may have had some of her novels recommended to you over the years, or maybe you had to read some at school and hated them.
But returning to these novels by yourself will make you realize just how much you have missed out.
Austen wrote 6 great novels and these are what we are going to be talking about in this list, as well as another of her works which was not officially published, but we will get to that when it comes up.
All of Austen’s novels are worth your time, so even though we might have ranked one higher than another, there is still a good chance that you will disagree with our order and think that what we placed lower is better, so read our descriptions carefully to see which may be the best starting point for you!
We want to emphasize just how much Austen’s books can grow on you as you age and can grow to relate to the characters more, so if you have tried to read these novels before and could not connect, it is well worth trying again in your adult years.
Austen’s work is well loved for the unique sense of humor she has in her writing, which is paired with unique social observations which make her books a perfect encapsulation of the times they were written in, but remain timeless with the way she writes her characters.
Of course, we can not overlook how important the romance is to these stories, but if you see yourself as someone who has an aversion to romantic stories, these will still appeal to you.
It is understandable that some people may not like the genre with many heroines being personified by clichéd traits like being excessively passive, but the women in Austen’s work are not as one dimensional and we can see them using their knowledge in witty ways to secure the future they desire for themselves.
We can see this in characters like Lizzie Bennett who are loved for their wit, but their pride ends up almost being the downfall for the ones they love, or perhaps Catherine Morland who is cheerful but is held back by limited experience and naivety.
There is a reason why these books have been so popular for so long and why people keep on buying and reading them.
So while we have ranked her six main works here in order of our own personal bias, do not feel discouraged from approaching the works lower on our list as they will still be very worth your time!
With that out of the way, if you want to see how we place Austen’s novels, keep reading!
The Best Jane Austen Novels
This novel was actually published around half a year after Austen’s death being in 1817 and the title was actually chosen by Henry her brother.
In this story we follow Anne Elliot who is a rather unlikely hero for a story being at the ripe age of 27 being far past the age for marrying in the era she was in.
At the age of 19 Elliot had been persuaded by her relatives to end the engagement she had to a naval officer named Fredrick Wentworth due to the lack of prospects he had.
We then join Anne in present day persuading her family to rent out their own home and live in Bath instead where Anne ends up reuniting with Wentworth who of course has now ended up successful and rich.
Austen’s plot twists continue throughout the novel making it a very easy read with a compelling narrative, and because of it, we have chosen it as our favorite.
Pride And Prejudice
Of course, we could not leave arguably Austen’s most well known novel far from the top.
The drama which is famous between leading lady Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy are entrenched into pop culture known by people who may not have even heard of Austen, but this story is popular for a reason.
So while you could choose to indulge yourself in one of the many fantastic (or not so fantastic) adaptions, our favorite being the BBC adaption, the book will always be seen by us as the prime venue for enjoying Austen’s narrative.
Reading this novel puts you in Austen’s care to drive you through her twists and turns in this iconic story, and reading it is the best way to first experience the story if you somehow have missed it until now.
This novel was actually the first which Austen finished penning, but due to the mistakes of her publishers, only made it to shelves once Austen was able to purchase the copyright, and then unfortunately passed away.
Unlike the tragic story behind its publishing, the story itself is a very fun time to read being a pastiche of the tropes of a gothic romance with a dry humor to bring it home.
Austen manages to poke fun at the genre she is replicating, without looking down at it, and ends up having an amazing narrative because of this.
Because of its status as a parody of sorts, it is not as accessible as some of the other choices on our list with knowledge of the works it is based off making it far more enjoyable.
We follow 17-year-old Catherine Morland who sees herself as ‘in training for a heroine’ after spending her youth indulging in the Gothic novels of her era.
This is the perfect framework for the gothic romance which Austen tells making it a stand out piece.
This story shows Austen stepping away from the formula of a financially struggling heroine with Emma which follows our eponymous leading lady in her life being part of an incredibly well off family.
We follow her being praised for her looks and her charm with no desire to marry instead focusing on pairing up other people who she may encounter.
Of course, not everything goes to plan with Emma after a few big mistakes and too much meddling leading to some problems which will take unconventional thinking to solve.
The dialogue of Emma is perhaps the best thing about Austen’s novel and the narrative is fleshed out because of this. It is perhaps one of the most fun books on this list to read, if not maybe a bit too clever.
Sense And Sensibility
We follow Elinor and Marianna Dashwood who in spite of their amazing names, do not have much of a dowry to help them when it comes to getting married after all the wealth of their family ended up with their brother and his awful wife.
We see the more sensible Elinor still pining after the love she has lost, and Marianna falling for a dreamy man, we see the duality of Austen’s writing style perfectly encapsulated.
The darker moments of this novel do however, weigh down quite heavily being almost tiring for some readers to be able to get through.
This is seen with the weight of family responsibilities left on the women however, the narrative of the story still manages to be entertaining due to Austen’s skill.
While it feels unfair to leave this novel so low down, but we still think it is well worth your time to indulge in reading.
We see Austen try something different with Fanny Price as her heroine who while seeming like a more reserved protagonist especially contrasted to the glamorous lifestyle she is forced to be years old.
We watch her get teased as she comes of age. This is an incredibly challenging novel to read at times, but to truly understand one of Austen’s most complex protagonists, all we can do is recommend you try reading this story.
Unpublished – Lady Susan
While Lady Susan is often overlooked not being seen as part of Austen’s main set of novels, we still think that it is worth your time to read.
We see another protagonist similar to Emma with a heroine who does not fit the standards of her day and age with a woman who instead of being a humble widow, ends up becoming “the most accomplished coquette in England” making her narrative a fun one to follow!
Hopefully this has given you a sense of what all of Austen’s major novels are like and why each of them is worth your time to read.
While not all of these may be the best starting point, getting yourself into Austen’s worlds will always be a rewarding endeavor.