Author Jane Austen still inspires and entertains readers today. Photo from Columbia College.

If you’re an avid rom-com watcher like me, then Jane Austen’s books should be the next thing you pick up in your local bookstore. 

At first glance, books like “Pride and Prejudice” or “Emma” seem dense, hard to understand and somewhat tedious, but deep down they are your favorite stories and you might not even know it.

Every modern romantic comedy today can be chalked up to the works of Austen. How, you might ask? Austen was the turning point of romance novels in her day. Before she came along romance novels were mostly “bodice-rippers.” There was no depth to the romantic relationships in the stories, just exactly what you would expect. 

Austen was the one to introduce the back-and-forth we see on our screens today. That couple that hated each other at first and then slowly fell in love? The best friends that realized after years that they had always been in love with each other? That’s all Austen.

“Pride and Prejudice” is among the most known of Austen’s works. It follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of an average family. She and her four sisters are all nearing the age of finding a man to marry, although Lizzie never really considered this for herself. The story is, of course, equipped with the usual ill-fitted suiter, perfect sibling and a man, Mr. Darcy, that drives Lizzie absolutely nuts. 

Lizzie is immediately met with Darcy’s disrespectful and pompous attitude at a ball, where he deems her not “handsome” enough to dance with him, and refuses to even make her acquaintance. This tension builds and builds throughout the story, but leaves readers with an ending Austen basically has them begging for throughout the book.

This may sound familiar because fan-favorites such as “10 Things I Hate About You,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and even “Five Feet Apart” follow the same enemies-to-lovers plotline that Austen introduced back in 1813.

Austen’s “Emma” is another novel that’s sparked a trend for romance. “Emma” follows the story of Emma Woodhouse, a girl who spends all of her time trying to be the matchmaker of the town. She focuses on the popularity and drama of others and finds herself too busy with those things to consider love in any capacity. Throughout “Emma,” we see the growth of her relationship with Mr. Knightley, a man who is always there for her, and who knows what’s best for her.

Mr. Knightley was never someone Emma ever considered for herself, but just like many movies we know and love today, readers experience her “a-ha!” moment of realizing that Mr. Knightley is the perfect man for her.

So, if you’re a fan of “Clueless,” “Love, Rosie” or even Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” pick up a copy of “Emma.”

And if you’re not big on reading, next time you watch a sappy rom-com consider whether “Emma” or “Pride and Prejudice” inspired it. 

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