Though she lived and wrote more than two hundred years ago, Jane Austen’s prolific bibliography, which includes such literary classics as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, still captures the minds and hearts of readers and authors everywhere today.
Her work has been retold and reworked countless times, in many different types of media, including our personal favorite… books. Below, we’ve compiled ten of the best books out there that were inspired by Austen’s novels and every fan of her work is sure to find something to enjoy!
Set at a boarding school, Being Mary Bennet tackles Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of Marnie Barnes, the middle child of a family of six girls. Marnie has spent her entire life in the shadow of her family, bitter and awkward and overlooked. When her roommate calls her Mary Bennet, Marnie realizes she doesn’t want to spend her life as a side character in her own life—she wants to be Lizzie Bennet and take charge of her own story.
Peterson does a fantastic job developing Marnie from a grumpy, difficult character to a loveable heroine without ever losing her core personality along the way.
Who among us hasn’t watched the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and paused the film on the iconic Lake Scene? Or swooned when Matthew MacFadyen’s Mr. Darcy flexed his fist after helping Lizzie (Kiera Knightly) into her carriage in the 2005 version. (IYKYK.) We don’t think we’re speaking out of turn to say Mr. Darcy is something of an icon.
In Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Grange gives readers the opportunity to get a glimpse into the character’s head, allowing us to experience the events of the original book through his lens, always a fascinating experiment. Fans of Mr. Darcy (and isn’t that all of us?) should check this one out!
Uzma Jalaluddin’s debut, about a Toronto-based Muslim family, is inspired by Pride and Prejudice but is by no means a straight retelling of the original text and is all the better for it.
Ayesha Shamsi is a dreamer and poet, currently working as a teacher because she has debts to pay to her family. When she meets Khalid at a local mosque, the pair initially dislike each other (a nod to Darcy and Lizzie), but slowly come to accept their feelings. Jalaluddin does a remarkable job balancing the central romance against heavier issues like family and faith and culture and prejudice.
Are you an Austen fan, but have sometimes wished that her books were just a little bit more… murder-y? Well, Tirzah Price has written the book for you!
In this retelling, Price tackles Pride and Prejudice from an entirely new angle, reimagining the story as a tightly plotted murder mystery. The best part? Pride and Premeditation is the first in a series of Jane Austen murder mysteries, and the second, Sense and Second-Degree Murder, released earlier this year!
In her Rajes series, award-winning author Sonali Dev modernizes four of Austen’s best-loved works through the lens of an immigrant Indian family living in San Francisco.
Each book in the rom-com series—Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, Recipe for Persuasion, Incense and Sensibility, and The Emma Project—is told from the POV of a different member of the Raje family, and they are all heartwarming, fun reads that cleverly nod to Austen’s original books while giving readers fresh spins on their plots.
You don’t have to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy the Rajes—every fan of romcoms is sure to love them!
A Sapphic retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that also includes the fake dating trope? Sign us up. Not to mention, it takes place over Christmas time and the chemistry between its two leads literally jumps off the page.
Bellefleur’s novel is a refreshing play on an Austen retelling because although she’s taken the vibes of Austen’s original characters, she’s built an almost wholly original plot around them. Darcy is a stuffy actuary and Elle is a free-spirited astrologist, who are both set up by Darcy’s brother, the owner of a dating app. After a disastrous first date, the women are certain they are not meant to be, but both have their own motives for entering into a fake dating pact…and, hijinks (and love) ensue.
Those looking to branch out from the numerous Pride and Prejudice retellings out there on shelves will be excited to learn of Kate Watson’s charming debut, which updates Austen’s Mansfield Park for the YA crowd. In Seeking Mansfield, Watson deftly updates the main character of the original text, giving her a strong character arc, and the book is better for it.
Pro-tip: if you enjoy this book, check out Watson’s latest, Off Script, which is a retelling of the Austen classic Emma.
National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi deftly puts her own spin on Austen’s classic, incorporating topics like culture and gentrification to her take on Pride and Prejudice wholly unique.
Set in modern-day Bushwick, Brooklyn, Zuri Benitez is a Haitian-Dominican teen with five sisters, who is fiercely protective of her neighborhood. When the old home across the street is renovated into a mini-mansion, she’s furious, and immediately dislikes the people who move in. One who happens to be Darius Darcy. A heads-up for audiobook and YA fans: Elizabeth Acevedo narrates it!
Part of The Austen Project, a failed attempt by a U.K. publisher to modernize several of Austen’s novels, Eligible is by far the most interesting of the bunch.
Author Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife) updates Pride and Prejudice, modernizing the characters for the 21st century: Lizzie (Liz) is now a magazine writer, Jane is a yoga instructor, Kitty and Lydia are into Paleo and Crossfit, and Mary is enrolled in an online college. There’s even a plotline about a reality dating show. But, through it all, Sittenfeld retains the heart of Austen’s classic, and her update makes for a thoroughly entertaining read.
No list of Jane Austen retellings would be complete without Bridget Jones’s Diary, a modernization of Pride & Prejudice.
No matter your feelings on the book itself, it’s an indisputable fact that it rocked the world upon its release, spawning multiple sequels and film adaptations.
Speaking of the film adaptation, the casting of Colin Firth as hate-love interest Mark Darcy is clever, considering he also played Mr. Darcy in 1995’s iconic Pride and Prejudice adaptation.
Liz Lawson is the author of “The Lucky Ones, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020, and the upcoming YA mystery The Agathas, which she co-wrote with NYT Bestselling author Kathleen Glasgow. She lives outside of Washington DC with her family and two bratty cats.