For Jane Austen’s birthday, 8 books inspired by the iconic author

It's Jane Austen's birthday, yet her life & works are the gifts that keep on giving. She & her novels are inexhaustible. In other words, they're classics.

It's Jane Austen's birthday, yet her life & works are the gifts that keep on giving. She & her novels are inexhaustible. In other words, they're classics.December 16 is Jane Austen’s birthday, and yet … her life and works are the gifts that keep on giving.

They have been adapted, interpreted, and expanded every which way: for stage and screen, in fiction and nonfiction, in memoir and scholarly works, through blogs, memes, and GIFs. The breadth may seem exhaustive, but Austen and her novels are classics precisely because they are inexhaustible. “A classic,” Italo Calvino tells us, “is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

If you’ve dipped into Austen-inspired fiction, nonfiction, or memoir (or want to), let’s compare notes! Here are eight I’ve read and enjoyed in recent years:

My Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. Deresiewicz’s memoir shares his journey from being a too-cool-for-life grad-school type to a grown-up man, achieved through reading Austen’s novels. Each chapter tackles a stage in his personal development and what he learned from reading Austen’s novels. Written with a scholar’s insights but in layman’s language, his discussion of the books is the best part.

Austenland by Shannon Hale. At a hush-hush English country getaway for women of means, the conditions of Regency England are simulated (in everything from food to dress to pastimes), and women are romanced the old fashioned way. Austen-obsessed Jane Hayes is bequeathed a three-week trip to Austenland to cure her of her preoccupation with Colin Firth-as-Darcy.


Get over this? Oooh, that’s a tall glass of water order – via GIPHY

Compulsively readable, funny, and sweetly charming, it has been adapted for film starring Keri Russell, Jane Seymour, and Jennifer Coolidge. Continue reading “For Jane Austen’s birthday, 8 books inspired by the iconic author”

The unabridged list of books I read in November

My long and, dare I say, fascinating list of books I read in November includes an eclectic mix of novels and nonfiction, including lots of my own books too!

My long and, dare I say, fascinating list of books read in November includes an eclectic mix of novels and nonfiction, including lots of my own books too!I can hardly believe we’ve arrived at the last month of 2016. My quest to read my own books is almost over, and I feel like it just began. Also, my tally of books read from my existing library reflects that. Ha. I might need to keep it for 2017. It’s that or descend into chaos. Probably.

In the meantime, here is my “read” pile for November. I feel like I should call it “the long and exhaustive list of books I read in November.” Because it turns out I read quite a few books this month!

Books I read:

An asterisk (*) indicates a Read My Own Damn Books book. I’m happy to report there are many more asterisks this month as compared to last. Eight of the 13 books I read came from my pre-2016 library. Using my extremely advanced computing skills, I’ve deduced that’s more than 50 percent, which has been my most recent goal.

Everblaze, Lodestar, and Neverseen by Shannon Messenger (e-book)

These are books 3, 4, and 5 in Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities fantasy series for middle grade readers. My friend Jessica turned me on to it. I’m heartily enjoying the adventures of Sophie Foster as she learns to navigate her magical abilities and battles the nefarious and mysterious Neverseen (geddit? ’cause they’re “never seen”?). The next book doesn’t come out until later in 2017. This is good. It means I have something to look forward to next fall. I mean, besides autumn, the most beautiful season of the year in New England.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (e-book) *

Reading this novel – which I picked up in an e-book sale … at some point I can no longer recall – fulfilled both my reading challenges this year: Read My Own Damn Books and When Are You Reading? (yay).

Set in Amsterdam in 1686-87, it tells the story of Nella, an 18-year-old girl who is married off to Johannes Brandt, a successful merchant 20 years her senior. Nella moves in with Johannes and his sister, Marin. Both harbor potentially fatal secrets that are gradually revealed with … consequences (spoilers). Their narratives alone make for compelling reading. Making it even more gripping is the story of the miniaturist, the shadowy figure who crafts a, yes, miniature of the Brandts’ house. As more objects – not commissioned by Brandt – arrive for the little house, it appears to be a prophetic instrument. I found his novel an unsettling, compelling read.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (e-book) *

Well’s protagonist, identified only as The Time Traveller, journeys into a dystopian future populated by hunter and hunted. In pursuit of ease and comfort, humanity has devolved, in the extreme. It’s a must-read for science fiction fans, given that it’s credited with inventing the genre. Now that I’ve written that, it occurs to me I’ve not reach much science fiction. Well, anyway, The Time Machine is worth reading for its sage insights on the human condition and acknowledgment of a paradoxical implication at the heart of it: What we want isn’t always good for us.  Continue reading “The unabridged list of books I read in November”

Bookish Literary Characters: A Baker’s Dozen

We have quite a snowstorm underway here in New England. Outside my window, it’s all blankets of white draped across the landscape, swirling winds and snow. It makes me think of gingerbread houses encased in a snow globe.

In other words, it’s the perfect day to curl up under a cozy blanket with a good book and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. And if that book were to feature a bookish literary character, the kind that feels like spending time with a like-minded friend, well, so much the better. Continue reading “Bookish Literary Characters: A Baker’s Dozen”

The Wit and Wisdom of “Northanger Abbey”

Before 2012, “Northanger Abbey” was the only Jane Austen classic I had not read. Upon remedying this shocking lapse (I mean, she only wrote six completed novels – how hard it is to read her whole canon?), I decided it was my favorite Austen novel. Though I’m skeptical that we can trust these judgments…

At any rate, I reread this sparkling classic novel recently for a book group and fell in love with it all over again. What makes it so special, to me at least, is that it’s both a witty send-up of gothic novels and a serious defense of novels as an art form. In the process, Austen reminds us that the issue isn’t form as much as it is substance. It’s what we do with what we have that counts. Continue reading “The Wit and Wisdom of “Northanger Abbey””