Meet Fanny Burney, the Author Every Austenite Has Been Looking For


It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen left us far too little to read.

If you’ve re-read her novels so many times that your copies have split spines and pages so dog-eared that they’re falling apart, you’re in good company. Austen is still one of the most beloved writers of all time, even two centuries after her death. Her books are continually sought-after, and the movie and television adaptations just keep coming—PBS Masterpiece just aired a Sanditon miniseries, and a new Emma film is set to premiere tonight.

There’s something irresistible about her works—perhaps because they’re equal parts witty and whimsical, they’re somehow satirical and romantic at the same time, and they manage to be deeply insightful and effortlessly enjoyable.

But, before there was Jane Austen, there was Frances (Fanny) Burney, an eighteenth-century author who inspired the next generation of women writers. In fact, when Burney released her novel Camilla in subscription format in 1796, among the list of subscribers was one Miss J. Austen.

When I stumbled upon Burney for the first time, I was instantly smitten. Reading her novels made me feel like I was in a familiar place—they are witty, intelligent, and lovely, just like Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park.

So, who was Fanny Burney?

Burney was born in 1752 in the English county of Norfolk, the daughter of musician Charles Burney. She was supposedly a slow learner, only beginning to read at 10 years old, but from that point on she devoured everything she could get her hands on.

As a young girl, words poured out of her, and she produced piles of juvenilia, including plays, songs, and poems. At 15 years old, she tossed it all into a bonfire—perhaps due to her stepmother’s disapproval, who did not consider writing a ladylike pursuit.

But she couldn’t keep her pen down, and soon she was back at it. She began writing a journal, which she would keep for more than 70 years, commenting on the everyday happenings of London society from the Georgian era into the early years of Victoria’s reign.

A lady of letters

Her social observations inspired her professional work, and in her mid-twenties, she released her first novel: Evelina, or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World(1778). Told in epistolary fashion, this satirical book follows the foibles of a young inexperienced girl when she enters fashionable society.

She published it anonymously, but it was so well-received that everyone wanted to know the identity of its mysterious author. Once her identity was announced, her success persuaded her father to reconsider his disapproval of her profession.

Her next novel was Cecilia, or, Memoirs of an Heiress(1782), which tells the story of a spirited young heiress who can only keep her fortune if her husband agrees to take her name in marriage. It was likewise successful, and Burney’s name became even more recognized.

In contrast to Austen’s charming country life, Burney lived right in the center of things—frequenting the theatres and operas of London and even serving Queen Charlotte (wife of George III) for a time. She regularly encountered important men of the time like Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson.

Later life and legacy

After her stint at court, Burney visited family friends and her sister Susan at Norbury Park, where she met a group of French émigrés settled nearby. A man named Alexandre-Jean-Baptiste Piochard d’Arblay began to court her, and the two married in 1793.

She resumed her writing and published Camilla, or, A Picture of Youthin 1796. Her husband was supportive of her work and acted as her copyist. Camilla was another widely successful book, beloved for its romance, sharp insight into human nature, and endearing characters.

In 1802, they moved to France in hopes of recovering property that d’Arblay lost in the French Revolution. There, Burney continued to write and publish, and her husband took a job in the Napoleonic government. After her husband died, she returned to London and edited her father’s memoirs for publication. She died in 1840 at 87 years old.

Though much-neglected by readers today, her legacy is lasting and important. Virginia Woolf dubbed her the “mother of English fiction.” Her influence can be traced through the next century, carrying us right through Jane Austen’s comedies of manners, Charles Dickens’ insightful realism, and the social satires of William Makepeace Thackeray—not to mention that her reputation as a respected lady of letters also paved the way for female writers like the Brontës and Elizabeth Gaskell.

So, before you pick up that battered copy of Pride and Prejudice for the hundred-seventy-third time, give one of Burney’s novels a try instead. Don’t worry, Austen’s novels will still be there when you’re done.

Rediscovering Your Local Library


If you heard a rumor that the internet and ebooks were making libraries obsolete, it could not be further from the truth. In addition to playing an important role in local communities—offering everything from classes in ESL, technology support services, public space, and so much more to all ages and demographics—libraries still remain the best resource for bibliophiles.

One of my best friends just graduated with her master’s in library science after working at several libraries in various roles. She has been teaching me more about what libraries have to offer, and now it is my pleasure to share some of those resources with you, dear reader.

If you ever have questions about what resources are available to you, don’t hesitate to ask your local librarian—they are there to help you discover a new book, locate an answer to a tough question, or find the right research tools.

To get started, here are a few tips and tricks you may or may not already know about:

Your online account

Many libraries are moving towards incorporating newer technologies into local systems. They make it their mission to make these resources available to everyone. In this digital age, many libraries have moved their services online, making it easier than ever to locate and access the resources you need.

Look up your local library online, and see what they have to offer. Many libraries allow you to search their collections online, just like a Google search. This way you can place holds or requests on materials from the comfort of your home.

I love this feature because it saves me extra trips to the library. I will request the book I am looking for, and the library staff will place it on a special shelf with my name on it and send me an email notification that it’s ready to be checked out.

You can also use your online account to keep track of what materials you have checked out and when they are due.

Don’t have a library card? Many libraries allow you to apply online.

Subscriptions, databases, and more

Libraries subscribe to a variety of online resources and databases which are free for you to use. Resources might include genealogical databases like, language learning programs, and online courses so you can acquire new skills. If you have a research project or you want to learn something new, check out your local library first. Knowledgeable librarians can save you time spent searching for answers and library resources can save you money on subscriptions to these services.

Some libraries are moving towards purchasing and lending more unusual items that might also come in handy, from camping gear to digital projectors, sewing kits to sports equipment. Go online and/or ask your local library if any initiative like these exist for your local system.

Interlibrary loan system

Is there a book, movie, or CD that you are interested in, but your local library doesn’t have a copy? Place an interlibrary loan request! I did not come across this service until I was in college, and it has been a game-changer. I was able to borrow books for my senior thesis from other academic libraries and expand my bibliography.

For an interlibrary loan (ILL), libraries borrow materials from other libraries on your behalf. This cooperative effort across library systems majorly expands what resources you have at your disposal. It really comes in handy if you are a member of a smaller community library with a more limited selection. If you are in a more urban area, your library might also share books within the local system itself, which also expands what you can check out.

If you don’t find a book on the shelf, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not available to you. Place an ILL request online from your library’s website, or ask a librarian to assist you.

Online media and apps

Almost every library offers e-resources today. This means that you can check out eBooks, audiobooks, music, movies, and more right on your computer or mobile device. Many libraries offer these resources through an app that you can download to your phone, such as Libby or Hoopla. Libby is great if you are a member of multiple libraries, as they will allow you to link your account to multiple library cards and browse the different collections each library has to offer.

This is hands down my favorite way to utilize my local library. I can place a hold for an audiobook in the Libby app which is automatically checked out when it becomes available, and I receive an email to let me know I can start listening. If I don’t finish the audiobook before it is due back to the library, the next time I check it out, the app picks up right where I left off. Now I have made a habit of downloading books to take with me on road trips. And the best part is, it’s completely free!

Local events

Libraries are about more than just books. They are important community centers and offer a variety of activities and resources for just about everyone. ESL, tech support, assistance in filing taxes, computer classes, story-time for kids of all ages—the list goes on and on!

If you are new in town and looking to become more involved or make new friends, your local library is a great place to start. I used to participate in a local writers’ group in my hometown that met monthly at the library, and I met writers of all ages through the group. They also host a knitting and crochet circle as well as weekly rounds of chess, Mah Jong, and bridge. Now, when I visit my new local library, I often come by during story time for parents and children under two, which as you can imagine is just adorable. My grandmother is a member of two book clubs at her local library, which has been a highlight of her retirement (and I get to read her copies of past book-club reads when I go to visit!). It’s never too late to get involved!

Libraries also host a variety of one-time events. For example, I check the website regularly to find out about used book sales at the various branches in my city. Consider signing up for e-updates to stay in the loop about what is new.

One of the great benefits to your local library is that it gets you involved in the community in ways great and small. From interacting with other patrons to getting involved with local clubs, libraries can help you to find personal connection in an increasingly digital and solitary age. Libraries are more necessary and vital than ever!

Three Books to Help You Simplify Your Life


As champagne toasts and countdowns ushered in the New Year, many of us jumped to add new habits, workouts, diets, routines, and rituals to our already-busy lives. There is nothing wrong with this—as a self-professed planner junkie and goal-setting veteran, I love me some New Year’s resolutions.

However, adding to an already-full plate often leaves us bailing on our goals before we even hit the end of January. To avoid burnout this February, here are three books to help you simplify your life, live more intentionally, make room for what matters, and set attainable and meaningful goals that you’ll actually stick with.

Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy by Emily Ley

I first encountered Emily Ley on Instagram, when I stumbled on photos of her beautifully designed line of planners. The Simplified planners encourage women to find balance in their days and leave white in their schedules for what really matters in life (like the dance parties, tickle fights, and crafting sessions that pop out of nowhere). After catching the Simplified Planner bug, I tried to get my hands on all things Emily Ley, including her various books.

Her first book, Grace, Not Perfection, is all about embracing simplicity in all aspects of life in order to beat perfectionism. The book recounts her own journey as a mom and business owner who got to the point where she was so overwhelmed by her bursting calendar that she knew something in her had to shift. Instead of adding more to her schedule, Ley made a resolution to prioritize and make time for what mattered. She began striving for grace rather than perfection, and her life was transformed. This book walks readers through this process and offers helpful tools, such as tips on effective to-do list writing and slowing down your schedule.

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisionsby Emily P. Freeman

As someone whose ultimate kryptonite is decision making, when I heard Emily P. Freeman talk about learning to say “no” on this podcast episode, I was hooked. If you’re like me and you RSVP to social invitations out of FOMO and agree to do things out of guilt—or worse, you don’t do anything, because you suffer from chronic hesitation and never make up your mind about it either way—then her book is for you.

Freeman explains how unmade decisions become mental clutter, which in turn causes anxiety that leaks into other areas of our lives. She lays out a step-by-step process that turns decision-making into a simple, soulful practice, in terms of both major life choices and the little decisions that fill our everyday lives. She encourages readers to let go of the fear of making the wrong decision and the guilt of saying “no.” For everything we say “no” to, we make room for something else!

Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Lifeby Lara Casey

This book, from the creator of the ever-popular Powersheets (and the host of the podcast that introduced me to Freeman!), is all about cultivating the right goals and routines for the season of life you’re in. Lara Casey recounts her own story of leaving behind a life of overwhelm for one of intentionality by coming to terms with an important truth: “We can’t do it all, and do it all well.” The book does a deep dive into the philosophy behind the goal-setting system that her company, Cultivate What Matters, is known for.

Casey explains that if our goals are connected with what matters to us in the big picture and lead us to where we want to be when we’re 80 years old, we’ll actually stick to them. She encourages women to abandon meaningless goals like “lose 10 pounds” for meaningful ones like “love my body so I can see my grandchildren grow up.” By following the journal prompts she includes throughout each chapter, readers reflect on their own goals and learn how to embrace an imperfect, joy-filled life.

Hard Books As an Antidote to Burnout


If you’re anything like me, sitting down with a copy of War and Peace isn’t the first impulse you have during a time of especially vicious burnout. When life seems to be coming at us from every direction, our reading tastes tend to turn to the lighthearted, the fanciful, and the familiar. After yet another exhausting day of studying, working, or parenting, it can even feel easier to just forego books altogether and let YouTube put us to sleep.

But picking up a “challenging” book might actually be a challenging form of self-care that can help mitigate the symptoms of burnout. Far from being draining and adding to our already heavy workload, reading challenging books can relieve frazzled feelings and restore our minds while helping us find catharsis in our daily lives.

Returning to focus

For me, burnout often manifests with scattered attention and fragmented energy. I feel pulled in so many directions at once by my to-do list that it’s impossible to actually address the important issues among the ones clamoring for my attention. Regular tasks become hard to organize, and if I manage to get them done, it feels like I have nothing left in the tank for what I really want to do.

Challenging books can, counterintuitively, help ease this frustration. These works demand all of our attention and energy to absorb, helping us reorient our inner lives into a more linear and focused pattern. You just can’t read A Tale of Two Cities or The Silmarillion while simultaneously answering emails on your phone and cooking dinner. To follow the story and really enjoy the rich prose of these and similar works, the reader must let her mind rest on the story and the story alone.

I know what you might be thinking: “Great, the last thing I need is another demand on my attention.” But hear me out. When you pick up a long or challenging book like The Brothers Karamazov, the very act of comprehension in reading requires that you put down the phone, cancel distractions, and pay attention to only one thing. This simple act of directing your attention at one thing is in and of itself helpful for resting your overworked mind while giving you the reward of a great story. With a good hard book, there are no consequences, no deadlines, no tests, in fact, no real demands on you at all. During high-pressure times, I’ve found real solace in this demand-free space.

The pleasure of accomplishment

Another big contributor to burnout is the lack of closure or reward and the repetitive weight of seemingly endless tasks, like keeping up with bills, packing lunches, or commuting. In contrast, books have a clear narrative and physical form, and good ones have a moment (or moments) of definite catharsis. They have a beginning, middle, and end. Their very structure stands in stark contrast to the habits that burn us out: they aren’t repetitive tasks or formless to-dos.

Finishing a chapter, a section, and eventually a whole book can help you achieve a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. For too many of us, the cathartic feeling of total completion is rare in our everyday adult lives. Reading a challenging book and actually finishing it can inject a dose of that satisfaction into an otherwise frustrating day.

Something you get to do, not something you have to do

It’s easy to feel like we’re always working. From checking email first thing in the morning to picking up after family members to using her free time to clean, shop, pay bills, and do battle with the IRS, the modern woman puts in a lot of hours. Although reading “hard” books does require a little effort, it’s really helpful to think about doing so as real leisure—adding another thing to life’s never-ending to-do list is the opposite of the point. Although I am a huge proponent of reading on a schedule, the minute you see reading as a task you “have” to do rather than a beautiful activity you “get” to do, the fun is over. For this reason, it’s really important to choose books that you actually want to read; if a book gives you a sinking feeling when you look at it, put it back! Do you enjoy fantasy? Pick up some Tolkien or an epic poem like Beowulf or the Odyssey. Romance? Try Madame Bovary or Lorna Doone. Politics? Grab Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Non-Fiction? Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World or Oswald Chambers’ Witness are both enthralling.

Think of it this way: having access to both the “hard” books and the education necessary to read them is a rare combination, possessed by relatively few women throughout history. To read is not only to rest, but also to delight in a precious gift.

Reading is also one leisure activity in which there need be no guilt. This is a neat feature of books—I’ve felt guilty many a time after a four-hour binge on Netflix, but never yet have I felt like time reading was ever misspent or “lazy.” There’s nothing wrong with watching movies on streaming services, but let’s be honest, rarely does spending our tired hours sitting in front of a screen make us feel better. (Most of the time, I find it just makes me feel “not-worse.”) Not to mention, I have found that it is easier to justify “me-time” to your family members or co-workers if you’re wielding an impressive book (as opposed to an iPad or a pair of headphones).

The inspiration of stories

One of the many rewards of these difficult books is the potential they carry to inspire and support us as we confront difficulty and stress. Besides their anti-burnout properties, books offer delight, inspiration, and a deeper connection to what makes us human. For example, as a mariner, I identify with Ishmael’s famous words on the first page of Moby Dick about hearing the call to the sea when I feel “a damp, drizzly November in my soul.”

If it’s a damp, drizzly November in your soul, go to sea with Ishmael. Adventure through magical lands with King Arthur and his knights. Tell myths with the rabbits of Watership Down. Reckon with your soul alongside Anna Karenina. These and many other stories between the covers of challenging books have the power to lift the veil of stress and busyness that so often clouds our vision and to replace it with beautiful stories. In the words of Declan O’Donnell, the protagonist of Brian Doyle’s The Plover, “For thousands of years we said [we wanted] gold and food and land and power and freedom and knowledge and none of those were true . . . because we are starving for story, our greatest hunger.”

Reignite Your Love for Reading with These ‘Bookstagram’ Accounts

One of the bright spots in social media . . .


I’ve always been a reader. But I’ve only recently discovered Bookstagrammers.

Instagram is a popular platform for people who love books, and there’s an entire community on the social media site of people simply sharing books that they’re loving. But these aren’t simple snapshots of covers. These are artfully designed portraits of true works of art—books. Whereas I used to depend on magazines to give me book recommendations, I can now turn to Instagram whenever the mood strikes and come up with a library list in a flash.

Reading isn’t just a leisure activity. It’s something that helps us grow as people, understand the world around us, and connect with others. When you think of it that way, it becomes even more important to make sure what you’re reading is worth your time. In fact, publishers now prioritize Bookstagram as a way to promote books and get the word out about their authors.

Here are four Bookstagrammers any bookworm should be following. Check out these gorgeous feeds and have a pen and paper ready—your to-read list is about to get a whole lot longer.

01. @acciobooksandsunshine

Clean and cozy, this feed is run by librarian Erica Esther, who has a passion for Harry Potter. But even if you’re not into masterfully styled photos of the Marauder’s Map and the illustrated works of Rowling, Erica also shares numerous recommendations that range from classic to current bestsellers. Her photos aren’t cluttered; their beauty is in their simplicity.

02. @nayareadsandsmile

Love YA, even though you graduated high school years ago? Naya won’t judge—in fact, she constantly shares her favorite YA reads on her brightly-lit feed. Her adorable little sister is often her companion in photos, and just like her name suggests, she doesn’t just read, she happily poses alongside her books. If you’ve been wanting to dip your toe into nostalgic waters and travel back to high school for a bit, this feed is a must. Naya is also a popular Booktuber, so if you like her personality on the ’gram, consider heading over to YouTube to check out her content there.

03. @bookmusings

Michelle shares beautiful shots of books alongside flowers, tea, and her supremely comfy looking living room. One of the best parts of her feed is her love of classic books that have modern covers. She’s frequently displaying books you read in high school in a way that will make you want to re-read them immediately. It’s pretty, inspiring, and will have you racing to the bookstore to find that exact copy of Pride and Prejudice.

04. @book_girl_magic

Looking to diversify your reading list? Renée is a lifestyle blogger with a passion for helping marginalized authors get more visibility. Her feed shares all kinds of books but particularly likes to highlight books by and featuring people of diverse backgrounds. If you feel like your bedside table features predominantly one kind of author, Renée’s feed may help you break out of your mold. 

Hit by Novel Overwhelm? Check Out These Standout Short Stories

Move at your own pace.


As we get deeper into summer, I always find my desire to read increases, but in the heat of the day, my stamina for more sustained reading often decreases. During these lazy summer days, I turn to short stories. A well-crafted short story can pack the emotional heft of a thousand-page novel, but with the satisfying ability to be consumed before the ice fully melts in my lemonade.

Here are a few standout stories you’re sure to enjoy, along with the classic collections they can be found in. When you’re done with one story, you can move to another at your own pace.

“The Daemon Lover”

Found in The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Most people know Shirley Jackson’s most famous story, “The Lottery,” from a high school literature class, but Jackson’s knack for unsettling readers with a world that feels familiar but just different enough to be frightening continues into her other short stories and her novels. In “The Daemon Lover,” a young woman is waiting for her fiancé to meet her on their wedding morning to go and be wed. When he’s late to meet them, she goes off to find him herself but soon encounters obstacles that force her to question whether he is who he seems.

“Everything That Rises Must Converge”

Found in The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

“Everything That Rises Must Converge” is the title story of one of Flannery O’Connor’s collections, so it’s not an overlooked favorite at all. But this classic continues to be striking and relevant, for better or worse. A young man has returned to his Southern hometown after graduating from university to live with his mother. The two come into conflict over their differing beliefs about the world, including the son’s self-important intellectualism and his mother’s racism toward African Americans in their town. The conflict comes to a head as mother and son venture on a bus ride across town together.

“Reeling for the Empire”

Found in Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

This collection is classified in the horror genre, but think less Stephen King and more gothic with a touch of magical realism. The standout story, in my opinion, is “Reeling for the Empire,” which is set in a small silk factory in Meiji-era Japan (during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). Young women have been sold into labor in the quickly industrializing nation, but their own bodies are put to work in a new and surprising way for the production of the much-demanded fabric. Though set two-hundred years ago and in a slightly tilted world, the story asks relevant questions about work, dignity, and agency.

“A Temporary Matter”

From Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri’s award-winning collection opens with a heartbreaking story. A young married couple has been drifting apart following a personal tragedy, but a four-night blackout sets the stage for the hope that they may be able to rekindle what they have lost in their relationship. The story unfolds tenderly, and Lahiri’s writing treats the characters with the love and care that they struggle to show each other.

100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

Edited by Lorrie Moore

If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to one author or genre or publishing year, try a collection of the best. In this edition, many of the stories selected by Lorrie Moore, herself a talented writer of short stories, are wonderful introductions to authors worth reading more of, such as James Baldwin, Mary Gaitskill, William Faulkner, Lauren Groff, Jamaica Kincaid, and Alice Munro.

Whatever you choose to start with, you can be sure these short stories will be a digestible yet filling summer bite for your literary appetite.