Happy birthday, Jane Austen! Jane Austen would have been 243 years old this year. To celebrate the works of this much beloved author, we’re rounding up what books the leading ladies of her novels would read if they were alive today.
Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility
In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor represents sense. Her life, her choices, and her future happiness are all guided by logic and reason. This is how she operates. Thus, if Elinor were around today, she would likely spend her reading time learning something new. She would prefer nonfiction, such as self-help books, business, and memoirs of people she can learn from. Krishan Bedi’s memoir, Engineering a Life, would fit perfectly on her bookshelf. By reading such a book, she would learn about life in India, immigration, and engineering.
Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility
If Elinor is sense, Marianne is sensibility. For her, everything is guided by her heart. She has grand ideas about romance and wears her heart on her sleeve. In addition to loving anything with flowery language, she would absolutely devour love stories. As she figures out how to make her way in the world and find a man who’s good for her, Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCesare could become her bible—a way to sift through the men who tug on her heartstrings and to help heal her broken heart when left by a fork.
Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice
Arguably the most well-known of Jane Austen’s characters, Elizabeth, or Lizzy as she’s known to her friends, is known for her sharp wit—and even sharper tongue. She has no use for the frivolities of her younger sisters. A modern Lizzy would be highly educated and love a biting social commentary as much as a good story, which is why Mission Afghanistan by Elie Paul Cohen would absolutely be on her TBR pile. Part exploration of the effects of the expansion of terrorism and part spy thriller—how can you go wrong?
Fanny Price from Mansfield Park
Of all of Jane Austen’s heroines, Fanny is by far the most reserved. She’s shy, quiet, and mostly keeps to herself—an introverted reader perhaps? Today, many cripplingly shy introverts have done a deep dive into fan culture. Connecting with others on the internet over a shared love of a book is way easier than talking to people in real life. Fanny would be deeply entrenched in communities surrounding fantasy series. She’d already have read Above the Star by Alexis Marie Chute, loved it, and be anxiously awaiting the second in the 8th Island trilogy, due out Fall 2019.
Emma Woodhouse from Emma
Emma is the very definition of an unlikeable narrator. She’s headstrong, spoiled, and thinks she knows best. She regularly meddles in others’ lives, all in the name of love and matchmaking. Her head has been so filled with romances, like First Rodeoby Judith Hennessey, for so long that she’s fallen in love with the idea of love. She can no longer distinguish who actually likes whom from who she thinks should be together. And of course, she’s completely blind to the man she’s been in love with the whole time.
Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey
In Northanger Abbey, Catherine is obsessed with the gothic novel Mysteries of Udolpho. It stands to reason that a modern Catherine would also love books with gothic themes: death, secrets revealed, and just a touch of romance. A story like The Absence of Evelyn by Jackie Townsend would appeal to her gothic sensibilities. Spurred by Evelyn’s death, Rhonda and Olivia cross oceans—separately—in search of Marco, the man who stole Evelyn’s heart once and is now only spoken of in whispers.
Anne Elliot from Persuasion
Anne thought she had lost the love of her life when Lady Russell convinced her to break of her engagement to Commander Frederick Wentworth. After not seeing him for many years, she’s all but given up on love when she finds herself in his company once again. She still loves him—but he has not yet forgiven her for leaving him all those years ago. A story about a second chance at love later in life, like The Opposite of Never by Mary Kathleen Mehuron, would inspire hope in Anne’s heart.