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 Austen ranking

We're finally here, reader. The time has come to declare the best of the best Austen adaptations, and I'm wordier than ever. What can I say? I get a little effusive when talking Jane.

Missed the earlier posts? You can find them here, here, here, and here.

These final adaptations aren't necessarily in the order I most enjoy watching them, but I stand by my claim that they're the best. Why? Each of these final six revolutionized Austen adaptations in one way or another, influencing adaptations to come in profound ways. They've defined Austen in our popular imagination more than anything besides the novels themselves.

8.10 Pride and Prejudice 20056) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Directed by Joe Wright
(2005)

You either love this adaptation, or you hate it, and I’m mostly on the loving it side. I was wary of Keira Knightley playing Elizabeth Bennet, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, but I am a fan of Matthew McFadyen’s vulnerable take on Darcy. Social anxiety is an interesting and plausible explanation for the character’s behavior. In general I LOVE the casting, especially Rosamund Pike as Jane and Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (that woman can play uppity old lady like no one else). And it even has a baby Carrey Mulligan!

This film is in the running against the 1995 Sense and Sensibility for most gorgeous cinematography, and I think it ultimately wins. And that score! The shot of Elizabeth standing on the cliffside, skirts billowing in the wind while "Liz on Top of the World" plays is seared into my memory in the best way possible. I also love that it brings a little bit of the grit back into period dramas – pigs and dirt and a recognition that the obsession with marriage was born out of a legitimate fear of poverty.

This version does dumb down the language in places and spends a little more time explaining Regency culture than some other adaptations, which the egalitarian in me approves of and my inner snob is annoyed by. BUT for that very reason, if you ask a millennial about Austen films, this is the one they're most likely to have watched. It's accessible for period drama lovers and period drama newbies alike.

Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to a new generation.

 

8.10 Love and Friendship5) LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
Directed by Whit Stillman
(2016)

In general, I feel like modernized adaptations have done a better job than period dramas of showing just how funny and biting Austen was, but this one is the exception. It’s a darkly hilarious period piece, and it perfectly captures the social awkwardness and subtle human cruelty that Austen delighted in laughing at. If you enjoy THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and the novels of P.G. Wodehouse, you'll likely enjoy this comedy of manners.

The novella on which the film is based is Austen at her meanest and also her cleverest, turning the stories of Samuel Richardson on their head by depicting the scheming libertine as both a woman (shocking!) and the most engaging character. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP glories in that subversion, and Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan is my favorite casting in any Austen adaptation, hands down. 

Side note: watch this movie and then the Beckinsale version of EMMA and then try to tell me the woman isn’t Benjamin Buttoning the heck out of life. I suspect she actually became a vampire for her role in VAN HELSING. Method acting at its finest.

Why it earned a top spot: for embracing Austen's satirical side.

 

8.10 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries4) THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES
Directed by Bernie Su
(2012 - 2013)

I’m a little biased in favor of this series, having spent two years researching it for my master’s thesis, but I’ll stand by my claim that it’s a brilliant modernization. The series breaks with Austen on certain plot points as a way to remain faithful to her feminist themes, social commentary, and humor in a modern setting. It modernizes the characters in compelling ways. It's funny and fresh and revolutionized online, immersive story telling as well as the world of Austen adaptations. If you’d like to hear all my thoughts on the subject (and really, who wouldn’t?), I’d be happy to loan you a copy of my super hard-hitting, very important, not at all frivolous master’s thesis.

Since it’s a Youtube series, it’s not something you can check out the library, but we do have a novelization by the series creators, THE SECRET DIARY OF LIZZIE BENNET.

Do yourself a favor and go watch THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES on Youtube. You can return many hours later to thank me.

Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen into the digital age.

 

8.10 Clueless3) CLUELESS
Directed by Amy Heckerling
(1995)

Unless you’re a super nerd like me and read articles like “The Surprising Fidelity of Clueless” for fun, this one might surprise you, but hear me out. Austen novels, though often marketed as romances, are first and foremost satires. I’ll say it again, louder for the people in the back – AUSTEN WROTE SATIRE, NOT JUST ROMANCE. She was insightfully commenting on and criticizing the world in which she lived, and it’s freaking hilarious.

CLUELESS is one of the few adaptations to bring that satire to the forefront, and it brilliantly critiques modern life. It exaggerates human behavior just enough to make us laugh, but not so much that it’s unrecognizable. It pokes holes in the self-importance of the rich and socially elite. It's not just the story of a rich, meddling girl; it's a commentary on consumerism, wealth, teenage culture, and more.

Why it earned a top spot: for modernizing Austen, wit intact

 

8.10 Sense and Sensibility2) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Directed by Ang Lee
(1995)

For me, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility has the best screenplay of all Austen adaptations, and Emma Thompson (who also starred as Elinor), made excellent calls about what to cut and include in a film-length storyline. Along with a fair amount of humor and romance, she captured Austen’s social commentary about the limitations placed on women by Regency society in a compelling way. And she even won an Oscar for it.

Beyond that, the film is visually gorgeous, the score is one of my favorites of all time, and the casting is excellent. More than any adaptation before it, Sense and Sensibility goes beyond just repeating Austen's words on camera to instead explore how visuals can tell the story when the script alone can't. That moment when Marianne, Mrs. Dashwood, and Margaret all go sobbing into their rooms and Elinor sits down to calmly drink a cup of tea perfectly encapsulates who the characters are. It gets right to the heart of the plot in a few moments of screentime. It's perfect.

Premiering just a few months after my number one pick aired on television, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility shares the honor of ushering in an era of excellent Austen adaptations. More than 20 years later, it still doesn't feel dated.

Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to the big screen, in a big way.

 

8.10 Pride and Prejudice 19951) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Directed by Simon Langton
(1995)

Okay, okay, you knew this would be number one, didn’t you? I’m not sure it’s actually my personal favorite, but it takes the cake because it’s the one that started them all. It defined Austen adaptations as a genre, and I really didn’t have a choice but to give it the top spot.

Though earlier Austen adaptations had been produced for TV and film, this BBC/A&E made-for-TV miniseries launched the “Austen Renaissance” of adaptations that beautifully blended fidelity to the original novel with general viewer appeal. Lovely cinematography, a great score, good acting – it set the standard for every Austen adaptation to follow.

And it also brought us Colin Firth, so...

Why it earned the top spot: for showing us how to do Austen right.

 

 Zero Waste

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but garbage is so passé. Pollution is a major problem, contributing to the destruction of ecosystems, ruining our health, and just making our beautiful Earth look trashy. Just Google “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” for some eye-opening images. Most of the pollution that humans put out into the ocean is single-use plastics. Plastic plays an important role in our tech and medical industries, but do we really need to use plastic just for its convenience?  

I have tried to reduce the amount of single-use plastics that I use in my home. Let’s be real, I am not Superwoman—I have a job, kids, hobbies, etc. I am busy. But here are 3 simple changes that I have made in order to make a difference:  

  1. Remember your R’s: Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.
    Refuse to bring things into your life that you don’t need (I’m looking at you, free swag). Reduce the stuff in your home that you don’t use like clothes you don’t wear. Buy items that can be reused over and over instead of just once. Recyle what you can, which includes paper, plastics, and metal cans.

  2. Bring reusable grocery bags to the store:
    This is so easy. Just keep them in the car. They are also sturdier and bigger than plastic bags, so that is a win! But don’t stop there—you can bring reusable produce bags to the store too. Reusable produce bags are easy to make, or available to purchase online. Or better yet, just skip the bag altogether. I have only had a cashier give me a strange look one time.

  3. Compost.
    I have zero outdoor space to compost, so I have tried a few methods for indoor composting. The winner? Vermicomposting. That’s right—worms. It takes a bit of time and money to get your worms going, but they eat fast, produce great fertilizer for gardens or houseplants, and best of all—no smell! 

There are TONS of other things you can do in order to reduce waste in your home. If you want to learn more about the zero waste movement and how you can reduce your dependence on single-use plastics, I personally recommend these titles that you can find here at the library: 

8.8 Trashing the PlanetTRASHING THE PLANET
By Stuart A. Kallen
(2017) 

 

8.8 Zero Waste HomeZERO WASTE HOME
By Bea Johnson
(2013) 

 

8.8 Compost CityCOMPOST CITY: PRACTICAL COMPOSTING KNOW-HOW FOR SMALL-SPACE LIVING
BY Rebecca Louie
(2015)   

 

Read to Travel

So here is the thing, I like to read AND I like to travel. And it is a sweet spot when both things happen at the same time (meaning, sometimes I pick where I travel based on a book I read or sometimes I read books based on places that I have traveled to or will travel to). If you love to read and love to travel, this series of posts is for you. I'll be sharing my top six destinations that hit the sweet spot of good books and great location, where the place has as much personality as the characters in the books. Granted, due to my being a little long-winded, it might take a few posts to get through all my favorites… 

6. Hannibal, Missouri, USA

I will confess, the first time that I went to Hannibal .…I didn’t choose to go. I was nine and my mother made the decision for a family vacation. So we went. But I liked it so much that I went two more times - that is saying something, right?

Basically this is the literary travel spot for all things Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens). Think TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Think of all the cave spelunking and riverboat rides. In Hannibal you can tour the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Properties. I loved looking at the white picket fence and thinking about how Tom tricked everyone else into white-washing it for him. When I was in Hannibal (many years ago) I also toured around other museums and saw where “Becky Thatcher” would have “lived."

8.6 tom sawyer statue

There is something to be said for skipping rocks and having a picnic next to the mighty Mississippi River, the very river that Huck Finn and Jim sailed down on a raft. In fact, there are a lot of places in Hannibal where you can just sit and watch that river. And possibly contemplate all of those many big things that Mark Twain leads you to think about when reading Huckleberry Finn. 

8.6 Mark Twain Cave with Joella

But the highlight for this area is the Mark Twain Cave Complex. There you can explore where Becky and Tom got lost. And if you happen to have an older brother the way that I do—perhaps you might jump every now and again due to said older brother’s shenanigans. Seriously. There's nothing quite like going inside just after reading the scary chapters about Tom and Becky being lost in that same cave (the very one!) and then having your brother do his best to scare the heebeegeebees out of you. Literature definitely came alive for me in that moment!

8.6 Mark Twain Cave

And with festivals and theater performances giving nods to all things Mark Twain, this is a travel destination totally connected to all things literary. 

Bonus: There is also a movie and a graphic novel adaptation of Tom Sawyer and not one but two different graphic novel adaptations for Huckleberry Finn. 

8.6 Tom Sawyer TwainTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
By Mark Twain
(1876)

 

Tom Sawyer FilmTOM SAWYER
(1986) 

 

8.6 Tom Sawyer HallTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER: A GRAPHIC NOVEL
By Margaret Hall
(2014)

 

Huckleberry Finn TwainADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
By Mark Twain
(1884)

 

8.6 Huckleberry Finn RatliffTHE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
By Tom Ratliff
(2008 

 

8.6 Huckleberry Finn SilvermoonADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
By Crystal Silvermoon
(2017)

 
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for other literary vacation destinations that I have loved!   

A 12-ish year old boy came up to the desk with full purpose and asked my coworker- “What is your favorite book?”

I was busy helping another patron and I didn’t hear much about that conversation besides that and didn’t expect him to return because he got his answer.

A couple minutes later he came back to the desk in full stride and full purpose again, stood before me and asked, “what’s your favorite book” like it was a grand request and pronouncement.

This isn’t a difficult question but not really one I get often, at least not so directly. People usually ask for suggestions or books like: Diary of a Wimpy Kid/Harry Potter/Percy Jackson. My mind went blank and all I could suddenly think of were princess/fairy tale retellings which felt way too girly to suggest to this young teen boy.

I did pull out “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman because that is one of my standard go-to’s but seriously- my mind blanked outside Ella Enchanted and Beauty. I told him this and he said he didn’t mind, he just wanted to get a variety. He went home with a stack of Louis L’Amour, Boy by Roald Dahl, The Graveyard Book and Goose Girl. It was a great stack but I’m annoyed at my brain for shutting off when he asked me a simple question.

And in typical Amanda-fashion, as soon as he left my brain flooded with ideas of books I could have suggested. I really wished I could have found him again so I could tell him my actual suggestions.

So here is a list of my *favorites I should have suggested- that I haven’t already written about already.

*Listing a favorite book is subjective. I have the right to change this opinion at will and am catering more to age of patron asking.

8.3 The Indian in the CupboardTHE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD
By Lynne Reid Banks
(1980)

On Omri’s birthday his best friend gives him a little plastic Indian toy. Disappointed, he puts the toy in a metal cupboard and locks the door with a mysterious skeleton key that belonged to his great-grandmother. He finds out when he turns the key it transforms the toy into a real live man from a different time and place. I read this book a few times as a kid and loved the adventure and friendship between this boy and his little friends.

 

8.3 HolesHOLES
By Loius Sachar
(1998)

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse- a curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has followed the Yelnats family. Stanley is unjustly sent to a boys’ detention camp where they are required to dig holes all day long- five feed wide, five feet deep. Stanley realizes they aren’t just building character- that the Warden is looking for something as a mystery of the past unfolds before these campers. This was a really fun intriguing mystery. I love seeing how the past intertwined with the present and the “ah-ha” moments when they came together.

 

8.3 SurvivorsSURVIVORS: EXTRAORDINARY TALES FROM THE WILD AND BEYOND
by David Long
(2017)

This is a fantastic collection of 23 true stories of men and women who have survived seemingly impossible circumstances from a plane crash to quicksand. The stories are fascinating and the illustrations are fantastic. I would like to own this for my own book collection and give it to everyone. 

 

8.3 A Monster CallsA MONSTER CALLS
By Patrick Ness
(2011)

Twelve-year-old Connor O’Malley is dealing with a lot. A school bully, an estranged father, strict grandmother and a sick mother. One night at 12:07 am, a tree-like Monster comes to his window and tells Connor it is going to tell three stories over three nights- three truths and on the fourth night Connor had to tell the monster his truth. I love this book. It is beautiful and sad. If you read this I highly highly suggest getting the illustrated copy. It really adds to the story and is illustrated by Jim Kay, who is illustrating the Harry Potter series.

 

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