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A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,192 ratings  ·  725 reviews
Before Jane Austen, William Deresiewicz was a very different young man. A sullen and arrogant graduate student, he never thought Austen would have anything to offer him. Then he read Emma—and everything changed.

In this unique and lyrical book, Deresiewicz weaves the misadventures of Austen’s characters with his own youthful follies, demonstrating the power of the great nov
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Hardcover, 255 pages
Published April 28th 2011 by Penguin Press
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3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,192 ratings  ·  725 reviews


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Holly
Jul 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Brain-nuking platitudes! I thought this was going to be an interesting little book by the William Deresiewicz who wrote that American Scholar piece on solitude and leadership that blew me away earlier this year. But instead I find dreck. All the Goodreads reviewer but approximately one appear to love it, and the one who didn't is spot on:
Take one intellectual graduate student, force him to read Emma, add one professor whose technique is styled as "stripping the paint off our brains," and mix in
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Abigail Bok
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Former associate professor William Deresiewicz has written what is today a rather unusual type of book. At first blush it looks like an entry in the exploding genre of popular Jane Austen criticism, and in a way it could be so described. But it’s really more of a memoir—a memoir that uses literary criticism as a vehicle for explaining the author’s moral and intellectual development at a certain stage of his life. Seen in that light, it is a throwback to a kind of book that was common in the eigh ...more
Jessica
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, own
My mom sent me and my sister each a copy of this after she read it for her book club! Thank you, Mom! This book is awesome, both as a literary exploration of Jane Austen and as a self help book. I don't really like self-help books, personally, but Deresiewicz's style is so engaging and down-to-earth that I just adored it. He freely admits his mistakes, he is honest about what he likes and doesn't like about Jane Austen, her books, and his life. The book is divided into six sections, one about ea ...more
Laurel
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
We have long harbored the belief that everything worth knowing about life and love can be learned in a Jane Austen novel. William Deresiewicz thinks so too, and we could not be happier. In A Jane Austen Education he soundly reaffirms our opinion that the world would be a better place if everyone just paid attention and listened to Jane Austen.

We realize that he is preaching to the choir here, but thought it important to point out that he started out in a much different place as a twenty-six year
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Claire
A few days ago, while I was finishing my reread of Mansfield Park and loving it more than I thought I would, I stumbled, here on GR, on a rather heterosexist (and when I say rather, I mean very) review of Pride and Prejudice that said that women appreciate it because they fall in love with Darcy.
I never loved Mr. Darcy, not really. I like him and all, and I can see the appeal of the likes of Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen, but what I always loved were Elizabeth, Kitty's ill timed coughs and
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Belinda
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book is a blend of light textual analysis, Jane Austen biography and memoir. As I haven't studied literature beyond high school, I enjoyed the textual analysis and did gain a new perspective of aspects of these texts. I also enjoyed the biographical information, especially the quotes from letters written by Austen and her family.

What I found incredibly frustrating about this book was the memoir aspect. Basically, Deresiewicz says he was a self-centred, arrogant psuedo intellectual who is a
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 ~Geektastic~
I don’t read Jane Austen’s novels for life lessons. Neither do I read her for history, romance or social commentary. I read Jane Austen because I have never (and I mean that unequivocally) met an author with such a gift for words. However, this does not mean that I won’t read and enjoy the lessons someone else has gleaned from her work. In fact, I have probably read more words about Austen and her works than she has actually written, the juvenilia and incomplete works included.

As far as critici
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Melanie
Jul 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
Take one intellectual graduate student, force him to read Emma, add one professor whose technique is styled as "stripping the paint off our brains," and mix in some Austen plot synopses. What do you get? In this case, you get a quasi-memoir-cum-appreciation of Jane Austen's major novels that (I believe) would make Austen wince and Oprah applaud.

Bleah.
Amy
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who knows me relatively well, knows I love Jane Austen's books. I have read Pride and Prejudice more times than I can remember, own all her works, and quite a few of the movie adaptations of those books.

There are those who dismiss Austen as merely a romance novelist of the Regency period and, while its true that romance is definitely a large component of her work, I think those people who categorize her as such are missing the forest for the trees. William Deresiewicz does a fine job in
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Julie Bestry
Sep 04, 2011 rated it liked it
I'd had this title on my Amazon wish list since the day it came out, but was happily surprised to find my library had just acquired a copy. Since I'm pretty frugal, I have to say I'm glad I didn't pay for this...which is not to say it's unworthy. But the book is about 50% memoir, with the remainder given over to professorial analysis of the six Austen novels (and cursory commentary about Austen's actual life). The author is very honest about what a jerk he was, but not warm enough for me to feel ...more
Carol
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an excellent read! It took me two days to read this 255 page book on "A Jane Austen Education. This is a beautiful memoir written by New Yorker/ Connecticut author William Deresiewicz, whose life was completely transformed by Jane Austen's literature: which not only revealed the remarkable life lessons hidden within her six novels- – Emma: “everyday matters;” Pride and Prejudice: “growing up;” Northanger Abbey: “Learning to Learn;” Mansfield Park: ”Being Good;” Persuasion: “True Friends;” S ...more
Mary Simonsen
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Although I enjoy most of what Jane Austen wrote, I never liked Mansfield Park. I found Fanny Price insufferable, and Edmund Bertram a bit of a bore. As for the other characters, with the possible exception of Mary Crawford, I didn’t like them enough to care about them. For me, personally, the novel was a dud, but that was before I read William Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love and Friendship.

According to Deresiewicz, Austen had something to teach us in Ma
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Gabriela
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a good read for any fan of Jane Austen who has read all her books (because if you haven't this one is full of spoilers). Each chapter is focused on a different book and through them the author William Deresiewicz tells you what each book taught him. Being that said, the chapters are:
- Emma: "everyday matters"
- Pride and Prejudice: "growing up"
- Northanger Abbey: "learning to learn"
- Mansfield Park: "being good"
- Persuasion: "true friends"
- Sense and Sensibility: "falling in love"
It wa
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Lavinia
For some it might be just another Jane Austen-related book, for me it was equally delightful and useful. Useful, as in: Look! There's more Jane Austen trivia I had no idea about. Far from being a Janeite or an Austenite, or how on earth they call themselves (I've only read Pride and Prejudice and loved it, just like anyone else, and Emma, which I barely tolerated), I'm not to judge her by the books, rather by the films, I guess I've seen them all but Northanger Abbey. Shameful, I know. However, ...more
Diane
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pleasant memoir about a graduate student who reads Jane Austen's novels and sees connections between his own behavior and the behavior of the characters. My favorite chapters were about Mansfield Park and Persuasion. William noticed that some people in his social circle in New York were as shallow and selfish as the Crawfords in Mansfield Park, and he decided to place more emphasis on true friendship and on finding ways of being useful to others.

Austen fans will appreciate the various
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Christy
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
How do you miss the whole point of Jane Austen? Read this book to find out!
Anna Mussmann
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
Deresiewicz's memoir tells how, as a graduate student in English, he slowly acquired the values that allowed him to grow up, learn to be a friend, and become capable of true love. His teacher in all this was Jane Austen. His book is structured around Austen's six novels (one chapter each) and interweaves events from his own life with commentary upon the major lesson he drew from each book.

My reaction was mixed. On the one hand, Deresiewicz writes engagingly and is easy to read. It's a lot of fu
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Kressel Housman
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Professor Deresiewicz’s book Excellent Sheep affected me so strongly, I just had to follow up with his book on Jane Austen. It has none of the polemics of Excellent Sheep; it’s just a memoir of his grad school years and how he went from a Jane Austen hater to a fan. His dissertation covered all six books, so presumably, this book contains all the personal reactions that didn’t fit into his academic research. The book circulates between summaries of the novels and the life lessons he learned fo ...more
Lydia Presley
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, memoirs, non-fiction
A man? Writing about Jane Austen? Really?

Those were the first thoughts through my head when I took this book out of the shipping envelope it came in. Then I remembered why I requested it - because I loved the cover and for that cover alone I was willing to give it a shot.

And as I began reading I began to really understand just why it's a bit significant that a man wrote this book.

If you are anything like me, you've attempted to get at least one boyfriend to read Jane Austen. And then you have he
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Mary Ronan Drew
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
You do need to be a Jane Austen fan to appreciate William Deresiewicz' new book, but if you are a Janeite it is a treasure. The author was studying English literature when he began reading Austen novels and with the help of a particularly skillful professor he began to appreciate her work in a new way.

From the Amazon.com review: A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him.
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Cassandra
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, adult, non-fiction
A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz is a fascinating exploration into Jane Austen’s six novels and the lessons we can learn from them. It is broken up by novel with each chapter consisting of a theme/overall lesson. The list of themes include

1) Emma: Everyday Matters
2) Pride and Prejudice: Growing Up
3) Northanger Abbey: Learning to Learn
4) Mansfield Park: Being Good
5) Persuasion: True Friends
6) Sense and Sensibility: Falling in Love

I enjoy the way Deresiewicz delves into each individu
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Nichole Parks
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read a few Jane Austen books.

But halfway into "A Jane Austen Education," I wasn't sure if I actually had. There was so much that I'd missed! I'd never paused to truly reflect over the truths Austen illustrated through her stories.

Within these pages, Deresiewics gave me that chance. Once I got to pondering, I began asking the same questions the author posed to myself. . . and then to friends. I was excited, interested. I was back in the literature courses I loved.

This is a thoughtful read.
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Jenn
I'm really grateful to my mom for sending this to my sister and me, because, first of all, it got me reading or re-reading all of Austen's novels and that was a fabulous time, and then, this memoir gave me such amazing insights into Austen's work, that I didn't want it to end. In fact, I started looking to see how many pages left and began slowing down so that I could really stop and think about what he was saying about the incomparable Ms. Austen and her incredible works of art. This was an exc ...more
Danya
I really enjoyed how the author wove the lessons he learned from Austen together with tales from his own life. The chapters on Mansfield Park and Persuasion were particularly enlightening, discussing aspects of the novels that I hadn't really noticed or thought about before (and really putting Mansfield Park, my least favourite of the Austen books I've read, in a whole new light!). I also learned some new things about Austen's life as well, which made events/details of her novels make more sense ...more
Diana
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain, owned, reviewed
Я уже не раз говорила о своём отношении к Джейн Остин. Её романы — моя безапелляционная любовь. Так что пройти мимо этой книги я не могла. Как только я дочитала последний из непрочитанных мною романов Остин, «Мэнсфилд-парк», то сразу же принялась за чтение «Уроков Джейн Остин». И, знаете, мы с автором «Уроков..» даже немного похожи: я тоже не воспринимала Остин и вообще дамские романы XIX века всерьёз, считая их длиннющими, тоскливыми, тяжеловесными и скучными и восхваляла модернизм. ( да и с Эм ...more
Natira
Hm...

Pro Kapital beschäftigt sich der Autor mit einem der vollendeten Romane Austens. Dabei erzählt er (bzw. will erzählen), wie und was er von Austen und ihren Charakteren für sein persönliches Leben gelernt hat und kombiniert dieses mit biografischen Details aus Austens Leben. Ich mag grundsätzlich diese Art von Büchern. Es muss nicht gleich "Alles was ich über ... weiß, habe ich von ... gelernt" sein, aber was Leser aus bestimmten Dingen wie Buch oder Film o.ä. für sich mitnehmen, das finde
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Irene
May 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Jane Austen Fans
Recommended to Irene by: Shan
Shelves: non-fiction
I would give this book 3 1/2 stars if 1/2-stars were allowed.

When Ken first mentioned this book to me, I admit I was a bit indignant. Being just in the middle of reading all six of Jane Austen's novels, and thoroughly enjoying the experience, I thought, "I am getting so much out of these books, do I really need to read what some other random person got out of them?"

To my surprise, my cousin Shan mailed me this book a couple days after I finished Northanger Abbey, the last of her novels that I
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Amy Anderson
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really did not want to like this book! I was convinced that most men could never really get Jane Austen, and this particular author was probably writing this book to get a girl. Well I am ashamedly wrong, I enjoyed every minute of it! There were different things I got out of many of Jane Austen's books, but I found myself nodding in approval to the things William Deresiewicz discovered for himself. And it has a happy ending. Sigh... I love Jane Austen!

Favorite Quotes:

"I could grow up and find
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Skye
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It’s no secret: I absolutely adore Jane Austen. I usually read one of her novels a year, usually during the summer months when I feel like I’ve been granted an excursion to take in the fresh sea air of Bath. So far I’ve made my way through Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and (just this past month) Persuasion. The girl was a genius.

Imagine my excitement when I found an Austen-related book in one of the most unexpected places. I was at Costco, and spotted this find on the book table
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William Deresiewicz was an associate professor of English at Yale University until 2008 and is a widely published book critic. His reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Bookforum, and The American Scholar. He was nominated for National Magazine awards in 2008 and 2009 and the National Book Critics Circle's Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Rev ...more
“There's no doubt about it: fun people are fun. But I finally learned that there is something more important, in the people you know, than whether they are fun. Thinking about those friends who had given me so much pleasure but who had also caused me so much pain, thinking about that bright, cruel world to which they'd introduced me, I saw that there's a better way to value people. Not as fun or not fun, or stylish or not stylish, but as warm or cold, generous or selfish. People who think about others and people who don't. People who know how to listen, and people who only know how to talk.” 27 likes
“...Novels--which, after all, are training grounds for responding to the world, imaginative sanctuaries in which to hone and test our ethical judgments and choices.” 4 likes
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