South Orange County

Reading Group

(Formerly known as the Orange County Reading Group)

Sunday, March 17, 2024 at 12:30pm

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Regency Britain

by Ian Mortimer

For more information, contact

Maryann Pelensky


The Orange County Reading Group meets five or six times a year, usually to discuss a book, but members also attend movies, plays, concerts and picnics, and hold themed activities. For instance, they painted portraits of Jane Austen under the professional tutelage of Annmarie Thomas; recreated Emma’s Box Hill Picnic, with readings and food; held a Jane Austen Game Day, with Bingo, crossword puzzles, charades, Trivial Pursuit, the Jane Austen Drinking Game and more; and held a knitting demonstration.

Regular attendance is between 10 and 15 of the 25 members. They typically meet in each others’ homes, usually for a potluck lunch and conversation, but occasionally meet in restaurants.


In the late 1970s/early 1980s, a group of educators and professionals established the Orange County Reading Group. Founders included Vivian Hall, Anna Freeman, Tudie Ross and Karen Jackman. In 1989, Hall and her Orange County team (with Lucy McGruder from JASNA-Southwest) helped produce the 1989 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which focused on Pride and Prejudice. Over the decades, the original reading group members were joined by new ones, and some of the founders passed on. The group disbanded in 2005.

In March 2009, Maryann Pelensky relaunched the Orange County Reading Group, with a new schedule and fresh style. When she moved away in 2014, Viki Barie became the group’s coordinator. Maryann returned to the area in 2019 and again helms the group.

Reading List Archive


January 17
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

March 21
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

May 16
Jane Austen in Hollywood by Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield

July 18
The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
September 19
Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita

November 21

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin

January 19
Juvenilia: Volume the First by Jane Austen

March 15
Jane Austen’s England: Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods by Lesley Adkins

July 19
Pride, Prejudice and Poison by Elizabeth Blake

September 20
Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

November 15
Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels by Rachel Cohen


January 20
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

March 17
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

May 19
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

July 21
Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake

November 17
The Invention of Nature: Alexander Van Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf


November 4
Jane Austen by the Sea: Jane Austen’s Love Story by Carolyn V. Murray

July 15
“Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers” by Brian Southam

March 18
A Short History of Lyme Regis by John Fowles

January 21
Persuasion by Jane Austen


January 15
Dolley Madison: The Problem of National Unity (Lives of American Women) by Catherine Allgor

March 12
Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson

June 4
Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

July 16
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

September 17
History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding

November 12
The Janeites by Rudyard Kipling


January 17
Emma by Jane Austen

March 13
The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma by Victoria Grossack

May 15
The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen by Joan Strasbaugh

July 17
Alfresco reading of Tracy Neis’ play Box Hill Picnic

September 18
“Painting Jane Austen’s Emma” (hands-on painting workshop)

November 13
Emma by Jane Austen


July 19
Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

September 20
Jane Austen’s Juvenilia: Miscellaneous Scraps

November 15
Jane Austen’s Game Day
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Books the group has read through the years include:

By Jane Austen
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
Lady Susan
The Watsons
Poetry of Jane Austen and William Wordsworth, based on curriculum provided by Brother Paul Byrd, OP

Austen contemporaries and Victorians
Some of the “horrid novels” cited in Northanger Abbey, including The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Evelina by Frances Burney
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Inspired by Austen
The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford
Longbourne by Jo Baker
The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma by Victoria Grossack
Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman
Frederika by Georgette Heyer
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
A Visit to Highbury by Joan Austen Leigh
All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Smith
The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen by Joan Strasbaugh
Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom by Deborah Yaffe

Biographies and Criticism
The Real Jane Austen, a Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne
A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
A Fine Brush on Ivory by Richard Jenkyns
Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre LeFaye
What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Reading Lolita in Terahan by Azar Nafisi
Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian