Whenever I suggest to anyone that they read Jane Austen’s novels, which I admit is quite often, I am usually met with hesitation and reluctance. For those of you who may not know, I am referring to Jane Austen’s six finished books: "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility," "Emma," "Persuasion," "Northanger Abbey" and "Mansfield Park." Although not a series themselves, they still manage to tie with the "Harry Potter" series for my favorite set of books; I have never been able to understand why some people are so decidedly against reading Austen’s works. They seem to be under the impression that these novels are only comprised of tea parties and bonnets, and although tea is occasionally sipped — they're English books, come on — and bonnets are sometimes worn, they are so much more than that.
For one thing, each of these books feature multiple realistic and well-written female characters. Just like any living woman, each of Austen’s characters have their flaws and strengths. This should by no means be an oddity, but even today, it is unfortunately far too rare to see realistically written fictional women. Austen gave her characters real-life circumstances and problems that her heroines were forced to deal with in human ways.
The witty and clever humor that makes up 99.99 percent of these novels is also a huge plus. I will never understand people who dismiss older literature without so much as a glance with the excuse that it is “boring.” The famous opening line of "Pride and Prejudice" — “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” — is so full of wit and social satire that it tells the reader right off the bat that they are in for an entertaining read.
Austen’s work is also sneakily adaptable. After all, who doesn't love a good love story? Even if you aren’t aware of it, you are probably a fan of at least one of Austen’s stories. For example, "Bridget Jones’s Diary" and maybe more obviously "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" are both based off of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, "Pride and Prejudice." Similarly, if you have ever seen the 1995 cult-classic, "Clueless," then you are very familiar with the plot line of Austen’s fifth novel, "Emma," of which it is based. Something about Austen’s writing makes it timeless and adaptable for any age.
As much as you may enjoy "Clueless," if you are at all interested in history and anthropology, you really ought to read the original story. None of Austen’s books are actually non-fiction pieces, nor are they based on any real events. However, being written and set between 1798 and 1816, these novels are not only able to give readers an insight into how people of many different social classes lived and acted 200 odd years ago, but are also full of references to different historical events of the time. Austen’s writing helps you realize that although circumstances of life may change throughout history, people have always been very much the same at any given time. Not only does society seem to always have been obsessed with love, money, class and marriage, but there also seems never to have been a lack of ridiculous people to worry about these things.
All in all, I highly suggest that you give these books a chance. The fact that these stories are still being told and delighted in 200 years after their conception is astounding. There is so much that can be learned and enjoyed by reading classic literature, and it would be a shame to miss out on any bit of it.