When I don’t want to be a soulless creep, I turn to Jane Austen. Reading her as an uncouth youth elevated my witless literary habits and saved me from a slack-jawed, Judith- Krantz-and-her-ilk-filled future. She was my gateway to the classics, and her tart and funny novels have entertained me ever since. Her charming satire, while lively and amusing, is combined with a serious moral outlook. Personal favorite: Northanger Abbey, in which a naive girl imagines her swanky new friends to be embroiled in a Gothic nightmare of murder and deception. At the 200th anniversary of her death, I was very happy to see Jane Austen at Home, by Lucy Worsley, a respected historian and the chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, who has written a new biography of her using research about the many homes she lived in, her creative struggles, the wealthy relatives she, her sister, and her mother were dependent upon, and the domestic details of her life. According to Worsley, “She turned down four or five proposals of marriage and financial security to have a go at living by her pen. And because it wasn’t socially appropriate for her to be a writer, she had to write in secret, and go on pretending to be a good daughter, aunt and housekeeper.” It’s an interesting way to learn more about one of my favorite authors.