Reading and books have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents and grandparents read to me all the time. I clearly recall the day, riding in the car, when I first realized I knew what the street signs said! I even remember which street we were on when it happened, and I remember the fluttered thrill of knowing I could read. From then on, I always had a book in my hand.
In Pride and Prejudice, books and libraries play an important role. Austen uses the word “book” thirty times and “library” twenty-three times. Mr. Bennet is always in his library. Everyone praises the library at Pemberley. Mr. Bingley needs to improve his library.
After Caroline Bingley ticks off her list of things an accomplished woman should be able to do, Darcy subtly communicates his growing interest in Elizabeth by adding, “All this she must possess, and to all this she must add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
This started me thinking about what the characters in Pride and Prejudice might read if they lived today. What would be sitting in their “to read” stack? I’ve included mainly books written after the Darcys and the Bingleys “lived,” although the lifetimes of Bronte, Dickens and Gaskell overlap with them. Of course, these are not the only books they read – just a sampling.
Mr. Darcy – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking (Cain); Freakonomics (Levitt and Dubner); The Intelligent Investor (Graham); Great Expectations (Dickens); Kidnapped (Stevenson); At Home: A Short History of Private Life (Bryson); Game of Thrones (Martin); Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
Elizabeth Bennet – North and South (Gaskell); Anna Karenina (Tolstoy); The Help (Stockett); Rebecca (Du Maurier); British Women Poets of the Romantic Era (Feldman); Women Who Have Changed the World Through the Eyes of Great Women Writers (Miller); How Reading Changed My Life (Quindlen)
Georgiana Darcy – This Is Your Brain On Music: Understanding a Human Obsession (Levitin); Beethoven: The Music and the Life (Lockwood); Silent in the Grave (Raybourn); Twilight (Meyer); Rolling Stone magazine; One for the Money (Evanovich)
Mr. Bennet – The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (Wilde); A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes (Hawking); The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology from Mark Twain to the Onion (Borowitz); The Downing Street Years (Thatcher); The Philosopher’s Handbook: Essential Readings from Plato to Kant (Rosen)
Mrs. Bennet – The Knot Guide for the Mother of the Bride (Roney); Bride’s Magazine; Bride’s Book of Etiquette (Bride’s Magazine editors); Kate – A Magical Year, Her Dazzling Transformation from Home Counties Girl to the Most Feted Woman in the World (Nichol)
Jane Bennet – Peter Rabbit (Potter); The Cat in the Hat (Seuss); Goodnight Moon (Brown); The New Contented Little Baby Book: The Secret to Calm and Confident Parenting (Ford); The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Garten); Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Powell)
Caroline Bingley – What’s in the Queen’s Handbag: And Other Royal Secrets (Dampier and Walton); Entertainment Weekly; Vogue magazine; William & Catherine: Their Romance and Royal Wedding in Photographs (Cohen)
Mr. Collins – Vegetable Growing Month-by-Month: The Down to Earth Guide That Takes You Through the Vegetable Year (Harrison); Inspirational Quotes Ultimate Collection (Marks)
Charlotte Collins – Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus: Practical Guide to Improving Communication (Gray); The Joy of Keeping Chickens: The Ultimate Guide (Megyesi and Hansen); Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Laurence); Copper Beach (Krentz)
Lady Catherine – A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bryson)
Anne de Bourgh – Wuthering Heights (E. Bronte); Jane Eyre (C. Bronte); The Age of Innocence (Wharton), The Sunne in Splendor (Penman); The Princes in the Tower (Weir); Katherine (Seton); The Forsyte Saga (Gallsworthy)
Mrs. Jenkinson – The Paid Companion (Quick)
Join me in the fun! What do you think our friends would be reading?