My Favorite Jane Austen Books in My Personal Library

St Nicholas Church, Steventon Jane Austen Tour 2013

It’ Jane Austen’s birthday! The festivities are especially poignant to me this year after visiting her birthplace and home for twenty-five years on our tour of Jane Austen’s England last fall. Our stop at the former site of Steventon Rectory, and St. Nicholas Church, were my favorite sites along the tour. The original rectory was demolished in 1823, however the site is still viewable as an empty field where cattle now graze. Just up the road is St. Nicholas’ Church where Austen’s father, Rev. George Austen, was rector for forty years (1761-1800). The church is a small, simple, Norman building which was originally constructed around 1200. It has had a series of revisions over the 800 of years that it has been in existence, including the addition of the prominent spire in the mid nineteenth century.

Laurel Ann at St. Nicholas Church, Steventon during Jane Austen Tour 2013

Of all the many Austen related sites that we visited on our 10-day tour, my visit to St. Nicholas Church was the most moving. The neighborhood is very isolated and rural with large oak trees lining the narrow roads and other mature trees, including the huge 900-year-old yew tree, spanning 50 feet, at the front the church property. When we departed the coach, I was immediately struck by the quiet, unassuming, and uncommercial atmosphere we were privileged to enter. The church is surrounded on three sides by a graveyard and many of the local family names Jane mentions in her letters appear on the stones, including the Digweeds and LeFroys. The graves of her elder brother James Austen, who followed her father as rector of the parish, and his two wives are situated there; and inside is a plaque in their memory.

It would not be Jane Austen’s birthday if I did not talk about my favorite Austen books in my personal library. Here is a list of my top-ten favorite biographies, historical bio-ficts and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed over the years. Just click on the links to read a review or to learn more about them.

Image of the book cover of The Real Jane Austen, by Paula Byrne © 2013 HarperCollins

Jane Austen Biographies

Image of the cover of The Lost memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James

Jane Austen Bio-Fict

The entire Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron

Jane Austen, Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels by Janet Todd (2013)

Jane Austen’s Life & Times

The Complete Novels of Jane Austen by Race Point Publishing 2013

Happy Birthday Jane!

Cover image of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen courtesy of Race Point Publishing © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013,

103 thoughts on “My Favorite Jane Austen Books in My Personal Library

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    1. Whoops! Didn’t get finished before it posted. Let’s try again! “The person be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid.” Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey


  1. Happy 238th to Jane Austen! I’m in Canada, so I can’t enter the giveaway, but here’s my favourite quotation anyway, from Mansfield Park: “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

    Thanks for sharing the story of your visit to St. Nicholas Church, Laurel Ann. It’s lovely to be reminded of the peace and quiet there, on this important day.


  2. Loved the picture and description of St. Nicholas Church, would love to visit it in person. So many quotes that are wonderful but a favorite of mine, already posted, is: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” (from Northanger Abbey)


  3. “I must keep my own style & go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.”


  4. It’s already been mentioned here, but I will always adore the truth and snark behind Miss Jane’s quote: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” Of course, she could have said just about anything and I would laud it as brilliant :)


  5. I am grateful that Jane Austen’s birthday comes in the midst of a hectic pre- holiday season. It makes me stop for at least a bit and wish for a quieter December – a December from Jane Austen’s time.

    My favorite Austen quotes tend towards the romantic. I love them all, but my absolute favorite is one that stops my heart every time: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope… I have loved none but you.”

    Happy Birthday, Jane!


  6. One of my many favorite chapters in the book is when Lady Catherine comes to see Elizabeth to see if she plans on marrying Darcy. I love Elizabeth’s courage as she stands up to that great lady – I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

    Just love that Jane Austen gave Elizabeth a mind of her own, and made her into a courageous woman, not a simpering ninny.


  7. I have so many favorite quotes, but my top favorite probably seems like an odd one. Just the simple words from Knightley to Emma: Badly done. I quote it all the time.


  8. Because my sweet husband is a man of few words, I’ve always loved how Mr. Knightley professed his love to Emma: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

    But like Ann Wallace above, “Badly done” is the perfect fit for so many situations. Great choice.

    Happy birthday, Jane!


  9. Thank you, Laurel Ann, for this touching tribute to Jane, and for allowing us all to join in celebrating her on this her birthday!

    As others have said, how difficult it is to choose one favorite quote, but this morning I’m moved to select this one: “The letter, perhaps, began in bitterness, but it did not end so. The adieu is charity itself. But think no more of the letter. The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person who received it, are now so widely different from what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it, ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy. THINK ONLY OF THE PAST AS ITS REMEMBRANCE GIVES YOU PLEASURE.”

    Christmas joy, happy memories, and blessings to you and all my fellow Janeites! Thank you, Laurel Ann for this wonderful year of sharing and introducing me to this enchanting world of Austenesque writings!
    With sincere gratitude!


    1. Great choice Carol. You can never go wrong with anything that Darcy says after the first proposal!

      I am really touched that we have been able to introduce you to Austenesque books.
      It’s gratifying to know I have converted one acolyte this year!


  10. Wonderful post. The church sounds idyllic! There are so many great Austen quotes, that it’s tough to choose one. I’ll go with Elizabeth Bennett when she realizes how her prejudice towards Darcy has blinded her, and resolved to change: “Till this moment I never knew myself.”


    1. Great! Another pivotal moment for a heroine. Austen was so brilliant at this. I am sure their is some technical term to describe this type of occurrence in a story, maybe apex? My writer friends will know. After this point of self realization and growth, the heroine usually realizes her faults and grows. Love that.


  11. Thanks for your wonderful giveaway and fascinating feature. A quote that is a favorite, One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.


  12. Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love appeals to me. I enjoyed this delightful journey and learning about your trip and interesting world.


  13. Fantastic post!! I hope to one day make the pilgrimage to see Jane Austen’s birth place. I love your pictures!

    I’ve been listening to Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne off and on the last couple of months and I love it! I’m said I’m almost through with it. I want to listen to it on a continous loop. It’s really enhanced the Austen inspired novels that I read while listening to it.

    I love so many quotes from Jane Austen, but one of my favorites is:

    “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”


  14. I love your blog post! It is my dream to travel to Jane Austen country one day.

    Here is one of my many favorite quotes:

    “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
    ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

    Thank you!


      1. Yes! I actually read NA for the first time last summer. I loved it. It is actually at the top of my favorites list!


  15. Because I share Jane Austen’s birthday with my anniversary my favorite quote (at least today) is-
    “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” -Pride and Prejudice


  16. “Mama, the more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”

    I’ve liked that quote ever since I’ve noticed boys ;)


  17. Laurel Ann, I am so honored that my novel THE LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN is on your list of favs! I have 3 favorite Jane Austen quotes:

    Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.

    It is only a novel… or, in short, some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.
    -Northanger Abbey

    And of course, Captain Wentworth’s entire letter at the end of Persuasions, which is my top favorite excerpt from her novels!

    I hope you will all join me at today– –where I’m celebrating Jane’s birthday with an original Austen short story and a giveaway!


  18. Great list,Laurel-I put The Real Jane Austen on my personal best books of 2013 line-up and highly recommend it for the holiday shopping season.

    As for my quote,I will try to recall Mr. Bennet’s words to Elizabeth as best I can:”An unhappy choice lies before you as from this day forth, you must be a stranger to one of your parents for your mother will never speak to you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins and I shall never speak to you again if you do.”

    Love that moment! Happy Jane Austen birthday,everyone!


  19. I love seeing all these quotes, and while my favorite has already been mentioned (Oh, Captain Wentworth), I just feel so much for Anne. Maybe because we share the same name. But her pained comment which fueled Wentworth’s letter just makes me so devastatingly sad for her:

    “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!”


  20. I shall trespass on your time no longer

    Jane Austen and I share the same birthday – it would be a great birthday gift to win this giveaway!!!


    1. Oh, I had to look that one up. Here is the expanded quote from P&P

      “Elizabeth had the satisfaction of receiving an answer to her letter as soon as she possibly could. She was no sooner in possession of it than, hurrying into the little copse, where she was least likely to be interrupted, she sat down on one of the benches and prepared to be happy; for the length of the letter convinced her that it did not contain a denial.”

      She is of course reading the letter from her Aunt Gardiner. Great moment. Thanks for sharing Shea!


  21. Happy Birthday, Jane!!!
    Favorite quote: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
    ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


    1. This quote has recently caused a kerfuffle when it was used in the preliminary designs for the new English ten pound note that will contain the image of Jane Austen. Since is comes from an unpopular character, Caroline Bingley, and not Jane Austen herself, many were put off the choice. One wonders if they will change their choice and select a quote from Austen’s letters for the final design?

      Thanks for sharing Raquel.


    1. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that one! I was hoping someone would include it. It is from Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth is reacting dramatically to her aunt and uncle’s invitation of a pleasure tour of the Lakes. HA! Thanks for sharing Haliegirl. I like to use when a friend has been crossed in love!


  22. One of my favorites is from Mansfield Park. “There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.” :)


  23. Thought I was the only person who ever heard of Stephanie Barron’s “Jane Austen” mysteries! Fave quote- “You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”


    1. WHAT? Only person who ever heard of the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series? Impossible. We adore them here and spent an entire year reading and reviewing them. You are in good company I assure you.

      Elizabeth’s stinging retort to Mr. Darcy’s arrogant first proposal still rings in her ears until she asks him to never remember it again after the second proposal. It is good to clear the air and puts them on equal footing to start a fresh. It was a worthy blow the first time. She is quite an opponent in the throw down arena.

      Thanks for sharing.


    1. Oh, Mr. Bennet does tease his wife so. Here is the entire passage from P&P for context.

      Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.

      “I have not the pleasure of understanding you,” said he, when she had finished her speech. “Of what are you talking?”

      “Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.”

      Is Mr. Bennet one of your favorite characters Amy Jo?


  24. I have so many but one of my favorite quotes is from Emma by Mr Knightley… “Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do.” That whole scene between Emma and Mr Knightley is wonderful!!


  25. This has been niggling at me all day, and FINALLY I saw elsewhere ““I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal,” and I said THAT’S the one I was trying to think of. But by this time others have already thought of that here. :) And LynnS’s “I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible” right above me, that’s another classic. So MANY classics, which is why this was so hard!


  26. Happy Birthday, Jane!!
    One of my favorite quotes is from P & P when Mrs. Bennet tries to get Mr. Bennet to persuade Elizabeth to marry the odious Mr. Collins:
    “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”


  27. Favorite quote? That’s like asking which is my favorite novel! Nevertheless, I have let this particular quote guide me:
    “Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint!”

    The complete works looks beautiful and would be a treasured addition to my Austen shelves.

    I love Paula Byrne’s books too.

    I need to finish reading Stephanie Barron’s JA mysteries. I got stuck on Genius of the Place but have Wool House and the Canterbury Tale ones–I don’t think I need to read them in order.

    I loved your photos of St. Nicholas church–I’m hoping to do an Austen-inspired tour in 2015, and now I want to more than ever!

    Happy Holidays, and thanks for the great work you do on your blog.


  28. Great post. Yay for Jane Austen! I’ve been to many Austen places in the UK, but not St. Nicholas (or Lyme — argh). Now it’s on my list!

    One of my new favorite Austen quote:
    “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”


  29. Just as delightful as your post regarding your sojourn in Austen’s birthplace, has been reading all of the insightful, clever, and moving favorite quotes of fans, nay, friends of Jane’s and your faithful responses Laurel Ann. This has been a pleasant way to reflect on Jane’s day of birth and to revel that the gift that was bestowed upon her made it to light and still 200 years later, bring so much joy. Happy, Happy Day!

    My favorite quote isn’t very long, but I use it almost daily:
    ” I am all astonishment.” ~Caroline Bingley.


  30. My favorite quote is captain wentworth’s letter from Persuasion “you have pierced my soul, I am half agony half hope”


  31. Oh, so many to choose one. I really like: “Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. … But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Hah!


  32. What a fun entry! My favorite quote is from Persuasion when Anne and Mr Elliot are discussing “good company”:

    “My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”

    “You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company; that is the best.”

    Austenprose is definitely good company!



    Favorite quote among many: “My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me..”

    I was so excited when I found out about the Bicentenary Challenge you were doing on Austenprose through the Jane Austen Books catalog. I have learned so much more about being a Janite. I enjoyed reading everyone’s opinions and comments. I am an austenprose fan forever more.


  34. How to choose a single favorite?! She was so good at capturing human foibles. I count her quips as among the most clever in all of literature.

    From Mansfield Park: “She was, of course, only too good for him; but as nobody minds having what is too good for them, he was very steadily earnest in the pursuit of the blessing…”

    From a letter to Cassandra: “What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.” (I grew up in a very hot climate and appreciate this genteel understatement.)

    Thanks for another wonderful post. I, too, will be saving it to bolster my “to be read” list. By the way, I finished the copy of Longbourn that I won and want to let you know that I absolutely loved it. I didn’t know what to expect and am happy to say it is legions better than I imagined. Very well written and solid, imaginative back stories makes it a delight. Thank you so much!!


  35. From Emma: “There are people who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.”

    I’m a nurse and feel this is soooo true sometimes, that it has kind of stuck with me, even though it is not from my favorite P&P. And thanks for the wonderful giveaway chance!


  36. I smile every time I read or hear Mr. Bennet’s philosophy of life, “‘we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn.’” I love Jane Austen’s humor!


  37. Oh so many…but here is one of my favorites:

    “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”


  38. My favorite quote from Jane Austen is,“…I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
    W. Lesso


  39. For any situation in our daily lives there is a Jane Austen quote. There are just too many to choose to from. But I’ve always found this one from Sense and Sensibility has always humoured me. “People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid them”


  40. It’s St. Nicholas’s day in the Eastern Orthodox faith today!

    My quote is “Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?” My cell phone cover has the Charles Brock artwork that goes with this, you know, the one in the window seat.


  41. I have two that never fail to make me smile:
    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
    “‘The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”


  42. So many wonderful quotes, I hardly no which one to choose. On Jane’s birthday, I reread the opening chapter of Persuasion and was struck as always by these poignant lines:

    “but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way; — she was only Anne.”

    I’ll add that I noticed Anne’s late mother Lady Elliot was described as “an excellent woman,” a very Barbara Pymmish quote.

    I loved Laurel Ann’s article in honor of the birthday and her book lists. I’m partial to Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mystery series myself. I’ll keep the lists for reference.


  43. Of course I like the opening of Pride and Prejudice with the quote about a single man with a good fortune in want of a wife. I also like the one where Mr. Darcy says Elizabeth has enchanted him body and soul. I’m just paraphrasing because I don’t have the book in front of me.


  44. I’m very interest about Jane Austen’s First Love story and her life, I just don’t understand, why she never find a man so strong enough to get marry, I wonder if she afraid get marry and leave her family, she can always visit her mother and sister any time she want, her sister had marry, did she.


  45. How to pick just one?!?!?!

    “What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?”

    Seems appropriate for the season of buying and gifting.


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