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For the Love of Jane

I first got acquainted with Jane Austen when I was in grade ten. It changed my life. Obviously. It was also the start of a delightful little obsession. An addiction you might even say. And then I kind of got over that. I really thought I was cured. Turns out I was just in remission, ’cause the sickness is back. Will it ever be gone for good? I sure hope not.

A modern imagination of Jane. Probably more accurate (and pretty) than the other “fake” pics floating around. If you’re as ardent (crazy) a fan as me, you know what I mean. If not, google it. There is more out in Jane’s corner of the web than you would ever care to know. Photo credit: pemberley.com

With the start of the summer (during which I planned on reading lots of new books) I find myself going back to Jane. Maybe it’s because with high school ending and The Rest of My Life starting (as if), it’s nice to have something consistent and familiar to go back to. To borrow a metaphor (actually a simile, but whatever) used a lot with regards to rereading, going back to Jane is like being re-acquainted with a dear old friend. Except, while the old familiarity, shared memories and old jokes are still around, when you meet up with someone from your past, you can’t expect that they’ll be exactly the same as they were when you were close. Which is okay, because you’ve also changed. While Jane’s words have remained the same since the last time I read them (and for the past two hundred years) I’ve certainly changed, so my reading and understanding of those words has too. We (the book and I — just in case I lost anyone there) have a different relationship now. It can’t be the same as it was before, but you know what? That’s okay.

Photo credit: goodreads.com

My very first impression of Jane Austen was (appropriately) based on Pride and Prejudice. For the first several pages, that impression was not a wholly positive one. A teacher (The English Teacher) recommended I read it and I was really excited to do so. Then I did and I thought that teacher was insane for suggesting it. It was just so prim and proper and old-fashioned-y. Although, I do have to admit that I didn’t really understand it at first. That’s probably an understatement. I thought Lady Catherine De Bourgh was Mr. Collins’ wife. That was not fabricated for your amusement, I could not make such ignorance up. And in my defence, how was I supposed to know WTF a “patroness” was? Why else he would need some woman’s permission to come visit his relatives, unless they were married? It’s a good thing I switched to The Annotated Pride and Prejudice before he started courting and proposing to half the girls in Hertfordshire, all because Lady C wants him ‘settled’. Then it would have gotten really confusing. And weird. And Mr. Collins is weird enough without my misunderstanding his relationship status with Lady C.

Once I actually understood P&P (or at the very least understood what was going on in it) I fell ardently in love with it for the same reasons I had initially disliked and misunderstood it. The primness. The propriety. The old-fashioned-y-ness. It also may have had something to do with Colin Firth in a wet shirt, but you know, whatever. Anyway, as the cliche goes, high school kind of sucks, and Jane was my escape. I could float away into the world she created with her well-chosen, beautiful worlds and forget about everything else. I’d live in ravishing country estates with my new best friends Lizzy, Emma, Catherine and Marianne; I would swoon over Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney, doodling their names all over my Science notebook, in my best, most Jane Austen-y cursive. I was more “well-adjusted” by the time I got to grade eleven and twelve, finally finding my place with a steady group of friends, but until then, I had Jane. She helped me so much during that awkward year and to her and her heroines (and we can’t forget those heros) I will always be grateful.

There is NO screenshot that can possibly do justice to this moment. Also, posting pictures such as this one is half the reason I started this blog. I’m being serious.

I read P&P literally about three or four consecutive times upon first meeting it (in addition to at least as many viewings of the five and half hour movie), so since then I’ve tried (at times in vain) to stay away from it. That’s because Jane’s words have become so engrained in my mind that they’ve begun to (dare I say) lose their power to excite and instil new ideas. I thought it would be best to wait for a little to reread it, so I can take new and more profound meaning from those beautiful words and see them with fresh eyes rather than just looking at them on a page and doing little more than skimming due to my over-familiarity. Actually, keeping with the friend metaphor, it’s much like the way we can’t (and often just don’t) always judge and assess our close friends  objectively (or always notice all their merits) because we’re so used to them and all their idiosyncrasies. I’ve also been keeping carefully away from Emma because I really adore that one and wouldn’t want this to happen with that.

Now I’m re-assessing Jane with my reread of Northanger Abbey and it’s a very interesting experience. For some reason, I thought that despite my love for Catherine and Henry Tilney, I never really read this book that much, so it was immune to this phenomenon. It became my go-to for when I needed a jolt of Jane’s humour. Or was just between books and needed something to fall back on. But it now occurs to me that I’ve read the book at least three, (but potentially closer to five) times, in addition to watching the movie just as much, in the past two years since I first read it. So it’s more familiar than I thought. Kind of like a friend you like, but only hang out with a lot because you have a bunch of mutual friends, and then you’re suddenly struck by how close the two of you have gotten. It’s sort of like that. Let’s say. (It’s really not like that. I love Northanger Abbey and always have. It would have been a more appropriate simile if I had been talking about Mansfield Park — we’re only friends because it happens to be written by Jane — but that would never happen. Neither Fanny or Edmund are people who I can relate to, be entertained by, aspire to be like or swoon over.)

But despite my newfound familiarity with Northanger Abbey, and every single exchange between Catherine and Henry, I’ve changed and learned and grown since last reading it (or any novel by Jane). So there’s this weird disparity. On the one side, I feel overly familiar with the plot and dialogues and phrasing but at the same time I am continually shocked by how much I seem to have missed or misinterpreted the first few times I read it. Despite all my ardent love and admiration (as well as how many times I have read and reread each of Jane’s novels) I’m beginning to realize that I didn’t understand her works as thoroughly as I thought I originally did. Yes, Jane’s novels are set in fancy country estates, where her characters’ interactions are ruled by a very official laws of etiquette, but it turns out that this by no means implies that her novels are prim, proper or flowery. It turns out (and I say this as the biggest complement I can think to bestow) that Jane Austen was an ironic, sarcastic, satirical bitch. There are lines in Northanger that I cannot believe are written before my eyes and I wonder how they could possibly escaped me the first several times I read the book.

A lot of the new insight I’m seeing comes from my deeper understanding of and appreciation for satire and irony. I’ve (almost) always understood that you can’t take everything Jane says or all of her character’s words and actions at face value. I seem to be one of the few people who truly understands that when Jane coined the phrase “a truth universally acknowledged”, she intended for the phrase to imply that the clause following it isn’t really a cold, hard fact, people just think it’s the truth. For example, it is a truth universally acknowledged that universally acknowledged truths are true — i.e., a lot of people think that universally acknowledged truths are true, but they’re not. But, I don’t think I really understood the extent to which you really can’t trust a single word that flowed from Jane’s pen. I have made some pretty major life decisions based on lines in Northanger Abbey only to realize later that the line I was basing my life around was meant ironically. (I can’t share what those “major life decisions” are or what lines they are based on, because these decisions will seem fairly minor to you. Also, my misinterpretations and consequent decisions make me feel — and would make me look — like quite a silly, ignorant, little teenager.)

But the really interesting thing that I’ve been wondering lately is about the nature of this growth and deeper understanding. I can obviously understand Jane’s works differently now that I’ve grown and internalized the idea of irony a little more. The question is, was that learning and growth independent of Jane and her works, or was it Jane who taught me about irony and satire, and now I’m finally able to (consciously) apply it back to the works that taught it to me in the first place? It’s kind of a circular argument and it’s probably a bit of both.

Have you been rereading much lately? Are you gaining new insight or is it more of just a trip down memory lane? What’s on your summer reading list?

Fictitious Crushes

Come on, I know you all have at least one. I admit, within the safe, anonymity of the internet (yes, irony intended… the internet’s a scary place) to having several. First there was Mr. Darcy. Of course. Really, I think having (at the very least) a slight crush on Mr. Darcy has become a cliché by this point in time. Same goes for P&P being your favourite Austen, and Elizabeth Bennet your favourite heroine. It gets old. It’s been done to death and it’s not very original. (Which is not to say, that these three points aren’t true of me, it’s just I feel silly admitting a sentiment shared by so many.)

You know what’s unique? Those people who ardently admire and love Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price. Unfortunately (or not) I’m just not one of them. Personally, I’m a huge admirer of Henry Tilney and Mr. Knightley. That’s unique enough for me. Really, I don’t understand why more people aren’t in love with them. They don’t neglect the girls they love for someone else. They aren’t arrogant and snobby. They’re nice, good guys. I mean, Mr Knightly rode through the rain for Emma! How many guys would ride, 16 miles from London, through the rain for you? And Mr. Tilney understands a good muslin. I’m with Mrs. Allen on this one, if he understands a good muslin, he’s definitely a keeper.

And, going back to Pride and Prejudice for a moment, I think we need to discuss a certain Mr. Darcy some more. No, not in a drooling, must-re-watch-five-hour-movie-AGAIN type manner, this is a far more serious discussion. I have something else to admit. A far less common confession. I’m really not all that in love with Mr. Darcy. I know, it’s a shocking, obscene thing to say. I’m sorry, but it’s true. But the thing is, what I love about Darcy is how perfect he is for Elizabeth, not how awesome he is as a person. Well, okay, I take that back, he’s an awesome person, and his capacity to change is immensely admirable, as is “his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year” (chapter 3). But I just don’t think he and I would get along very well. Like, for example, if this wasn’t real life and I were to meet Mr. and Mrs. (i.e. Elizabeth) Darcy, sure they would be “civil” enough to my face (Lizzy did train him well), but as soon as they got home to Pemberley, they’d entertain themselves for hours laughing at my hyperbole and excitability and over all ridiculousness. I think I’d get along far better with Mr. Bingley, although, he’s so sweet and naïve that he may just get on my nerves.

Of course, there’s also Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables books. He’s just so… ahhh. Like Tilney and Knightley, he’s such a great guy. And, I mean, he basically worships the ground Anne walks on and keeps up this immense love for all eight books, never waning for a moment. And finally seeing the adorable movie just escalated this “admiration”. Have you seen that movie? Have you heard the way he says “sorry” to Anne after he calls her carrots (which was totally just because he likes her and wants her attention)? It is just too, too cute. (Although, do we Canadians really say sorry like that? Is that how we talk? I’ve never noticed…)

I wish I could have found a clip from the movie, either “carrots” or “sorry” — too cute… It’s the 1985 movie, for anyone who’s interested
Photo credit: the-inn-at-lambton.cultureforum.net

Furthermore, he’s such a good sensible foil to temper Anne’s romanticism and airiness, which makes him the perfect match for me too! (Because obviously Anne and I are pretty much the same person. I wonder how L.M.M. wrote a book about me almost a hundred years before I was even born? Of course, I find that I can relate to her most in the first book, when she’s somewhere around 12 or 13. After that, she gets way more mature than I am…I say this as an eighteen year old…) Regardless, Gilbert is welcome to call me “carrots” any day of the week (you know, regardless of the fact that I’m a brunette, not a red-head).

There are, there have been and there will be many more, that’s just scratching the tip of the iceberg (is that a mixed metaphor? A mixed cliché?), but those are the most prevalent ones that come to mind.

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, who else has fictional crushes they want to admit to? (Warning: If you say Mr. Darcy, I can and will judge you for being unoriginal and cliched. If you don’t say Mr. Darcy, I can and will judge you for being an unfeeling, incomplete human being.) To all the lady lovers out their, who are your favourite fictional females?

A Competant Number of Nursery Maids

Tomorrow afternoon my aunt, uncle and their brood of five will be descending upon our house to stay over for the weekend. Please don’t get me wrong, I adore this family. My aunt is wonderful, my uncle is… um… entertaining (in a good way of course) and the little ones are adorable and lots of fun. It’s just that all those kids can be… um… a handful. And Saturdays are my day off. A day of rest. My mother, my sister and I like to sleep in. And, I don’t know what time they wake up (because I’m usually still asleep), but I’ve been known to sleep in until three or four in the afternoon. (As of now, my record is 19 hours, from around midnight until 7:00pm, this is a point of pride for me.) Once I do wake up, I spend the rest of the day reading, and with three grade 12 English courses this year, I have lots to read.

Photo credit: Zazzle.com

So clearly having small children (between the ages of approx. six months and 10 years) sleeping over will likely cut into my sleeping and reading time. These darling, blue-eyed, brown-haired children in particular are likely to be especially disruptive to our household routine. The moment they step through the front door, the usual “calm” of my household (or at least loudness and chaos that I’m used to) is gone. The entire atmosphere changes to accommodate their noise and energy and needs. They briefly say hello, and if you’re lucky you can have a brief, sticky hug or kiss (if your super-lucky, you’re greeted with excitement and open arms), before they begin marking their territory. They run off to watch the TV their parents deprive them of at home or to play on whatever gaming system it is that my brother has in the basement or to the kitchen asking for food. The latter tends to apply to all of them at some point, no matter how brief their visit; I guess the juice always tastes sweeter on the other side.

Photo credit: cartoonstock.com

Whenever this upheaval of my home occurs, or is even impending (as it is now) I always think of a quotation from Emma (which is obviously by Jane Austen. If that wasn’t obvious to you, I kindly ask you to leave my blog. Right now. I don’t want your kind (i.e. those who aren’t so much as vaguely familiar with the Austen canon, also known as “The Bible” in some circles) roaming around here.)

For those of you who are still with me, when this family comes over it reminds me of the time in Emma when her sister comes to visit for the holidays.

“Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, their five children, and a competent number of nursery-maids, all reach[ed] Hartfield in safety”

When I think of this, I wish my aunt and uncle had “a competent number of nursery-maids” to bring with them. I wonder how many “a competent number” is anyways. How many people, beyond their parents, does it take to watch five kids? I would say about three or four would be nice. However, unlike in the wonderful world of Jane’s novels, where this competent number is comprised of nursery maids, our competent number is comprised of me, my siblings, my parents, and/or my grandmother. Whoever’s around, really. Whenever my cousins drop in, my house tends to turn into a drop-in babysitting service. But what are we supposed to do? Ignore the yummy babies they bring over? Not get them the snacks they so sweetly ask for? Just not respond to their every beck and whine?

Furthermore, when they stay the night (and presumable also when they sleep at home) these kids tend to wake up at the crack of dawn. And in the past when they’ve stayed over, their parents leave them for us to wake up with, so that they can sleep. Well not this time! My mommy informed them that they’re welcome to stay over, but they can’t let their kids wake us up.

Here’s my problem: it’s their eyes, their big, dark blue eyes. And their cheeks, their yummy, shmushy cheeks. And their red, pouty lips and soft, brown hair. And the fact that they just grow up so freaking fast! So they’re going to be here on my day of sleeping and their parents have been told that they mustn’t wake us up, and yet — oh irony! — I’m probably going to wake up early(ish) anyways, and help out.

You know how there’s a theory that kids (and especially babies) are cute so that their sleep-deprived parents don’t hurl them out the window when they’re up crying half night? I think it’s also to help said sleep-deprived parents get babysitters. Of course, it’s only fun until someone starts crying, at that point I’m happy to direct them to the people who brought them into this world.

Do you have any funny babysitting or parenting experiences? I’d love to hear (or, you know, read) about them in the comments.

Literary-esque stuff I want for my birthday

(I’m trying to go for subtle hinting here, is it working? Click the pictures to go to the sites on which each item is sold)

Mr. Knightley is pretty much my favourite Austen hero

“Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.”

“…and it is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.” Oh, that Henry!

I'll have a Darcy... MugI'll have a Darcy... Mug

Jane Austen Retro iPhone 4 Clear Case

This is the reason I’m switching to an iPhone

my other ride is a Barouche sticker

Insert witty Jane quote here

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Sure Mr. Darcy… The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks?

Story. Of. My. Life. My need-to-calm-down-and-stop-hyperventilating-over-nothing novels are NA and MP (I hated MP btw, and have been re-reading my way through it intermittently for the past year and a half)

I’m legit going to visit Pemberley (i.e. Lyme Park) this summer! Jealous much?

writers block oval sticker

I hate when that happens

will power William Shakespeare t-shirt

‘Cause, like, WILLiam Shakespeare…

road less traveled bumper sticker

So, pretty much anything from this shop on Etsy would be AWESOME.

Literary Baby Names

I’m the kind of person to whom a rose by any other name would NOT smell just a sweet. Like Anne Shirley, “I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” (Although, in all honesty, while thistles are the ugliest flowers I’ve ever seen, I really like the word thistle and before I had seen what a thistle was, I thought thistles were very picturesque weeds…)

Gwyneth Paltrow with daughter Apple Martin

So names are evidently very important to me. They’re your first impression, your identity; a girl named Cece must be very different than a girl named Caroline (right?). So, as a writer (kind of), I spend a lot of time (perhaps too much) picking names for my characters. I’m also the kind of girl who started planning out my entire life at 12 and had started naming my (as of yet, fatherless) children when I was six. I’m a little conflicted though. On the one elbow, I think it would be very cool, and unique and all, to have a daughter named Celery, or, you know, Apple. But, on the other, I think people who inflict such names on their children are not only ridiculous, but also cruel.

That’s why naming characters is so much better than naming babies. Because, firstly, characters aren’t babies anymore when they’re born, they can be as old as you want, and you already know they’re whole personality and can name them aptly based on that knowledge. Although, when it comes to real life babies, some people (myself included) believe that what you name a kid affects their personality and they fit into the name, rather than the name innately suiting them. So, there’s that argument for baby names over character names, because by that logic, character namers have to work backwards, which can, sometimes, be harder. A second reason character naming rocks, is that, unlike when you name a baby, you don’t run the risk of doing irreparable damage that even years of therapy won’t fix (unless that’s the effect you’re going for, and in which case, you won’t feel quite so bad when it happens, nor will you be the one who has to pay said therapist’s exorbitant fees). Lastly, you tend to work on whatever it is you’re writing for a while, and you can change you character’s names as much as you want, until you find just the right one. In the real world, changing your baby’s name isn’t all that easy (so I’m told … as of yet I don’t actually have any offspring to speak of). Presumably, once your baby’s registered into the system, you can’t just decide that, “maybe Gardenia is a stupid name, perhaps we should have gone with Tulip”.

But then there’s literary names. In my humble opinion, it’s a little awkward to give your characters a name that’s famous from another book; then the reader is probably aware of the other character’s personality and will remind them of that character when they should be falling in love (or hate) with your character. I think it would only work if you’re purposely alluding to that other character for some reason or another, or if it’s a popular name that you happened to read in a book, but the character you’re ripping it from isn’t famous or anything.

So, I was recently thinking about what I would name my brood of unborn children, you know, if I wasn’t restricted by this thing called reality, or weighted down by my future husband’s opinion or concerned with inflicting emotional damage on said children.

Picture this little girl, times five

I think it would be really adorable if I had quintuplets (that would be five babies born all at once … we’re suspending disbelief here, okay?) and I named them Elizabeth (because Elizabeth isn’t my real name, just a pseudonym, not being  egotistic or anything), Jane, Emma, Catherine, and Marianne. And they’d be adorable little blondes, and I could dress them in adorable little dresses. And they could have a big sister named Meg (like in Little Women) and she could be my one brunette, who looks like me. I can just see it now, they would introduce themselves and follow-up with, “yes, we are, in fact, all named after fictional heroines, and yes, our mother is, in fact, a cruel, cruel psychopath.”

So, what would you name your kids, if you weren’t bound by reality?

Favourite Books

Here’s a list of my favourite books so far, including when I read them and what led me to do so.  (This list starts in grade 10, because that’s when I discovered “real” books — I was a very literarily deprived child and my favourite books before then were along the lines of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and The Clique series *shudder*, but that was before I was enlightened by a certain amazing English teacher, whose class I’m no longer in this year 😦 )

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — although, the author should really be obvious and if it isn’t, I suggest you get off this blog and go read it, because if you haven’t read this book, you don’t deserve to read my blog. I read this in Grade 10; it was my first love, and by that I mean the first book with which I was in love, not the first love story I ever read. And then there was also my one-sided love affair with Mr. Darcy (*cough* Colin Firth *cough*). This was the first of many recommendations from the aforementioned English teacher. Click here  to hear (er, read) more.

Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Mansfield Park  and Persuasion I read these in quick succession of each other (in that order), shortly after reading P&P (i.e. the end of grade 10 until the beginning of grade 11). I started S&S after the same English teacher (not-so-subtly) hinted that it was time to move on from P&P. She also suggested Emma; the remaining three, I found all by myself. Mansfield Park and Persuasion were my least favourite, and Emma and Northanger Abbey both come in a close second to P&P. I may write posts elaborating on each at some point in the future.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was during the beginning grade 11. I remember not loving it and it being very different from what I would normally like, but I was unable to put it down. The recent movie adaptation did no justice to it, but made me realize how brilliant the book is (by comparison to the very un-brilliant movie) so I really want to re-read it when I get a chance. Can you guess who recommended it?

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, which, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but is pretty big here (in Canada) and everyone (who is a girl…) reads this book when they’re younger. Unless you’re me, in which case you’ll manage to make it until you’re sixteen before reading this book and the subsequent 7 in the series. I don’t know how I lived so long without Anne Shirley —  she and I are like the same person. I will definitely be expanding further about this series and the movie adaptation which was also incredibly amazing (seriously, it made me fall even more in love with Gilbert Blythe than I already was). Again, best teacher in the world told me that would would be my favourite book in the world — she was right.

After that was the Emily of New Moon trilogy, also by L.M.M. and which maybe shouldn’t be on my list of favourites, but is here anyways because it influenced me and my writing (Emily’s a writer). This was a follow-up recommendation, from the same teacher. (Are you starting to see a trend?) The final book in this series once kept me up half the night, worrying about Emily and her various suitors —  I think I get a little too involved in the books I read…

I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne just before and during final exams. It was also recommended by my teacher — whose class I was actually in at the time. This was such an amazing, thought-provoking book and I just wanted to discuss and dissect it, because the ideas it presented were so intriguing and presented so beautifully. I was one of those psychopaths who actually wished I could learn about it in school and so we could have class discussions and worksheets and write essays about it. I was able to do the latter point this year, as I was able to choose it for my independent study novel. It was not quite as wonderful as I thought it would be (perhaps because I couldn’t focus on its brilliance and what intrigued me about it, but had to compare it to a movie in a slightly contrived manner — although, based on my grade, my teacher seemed to think it was a good essay).

Then this past summer I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, which, shockingly, was not recommended by this teacher! This was an amazing, fun and easy read and I read it in my brand new hammock, under the gorgeous sun, which, of course, added tenfold to my  enjoyment. (And yes, it does get hot here in the summer and no, our houses don’t melt, because they’re made out of bricks, not ice). Less well-known, are two sequels called Little Men and Jo’s Boys which were both really cute (although they seemed to target a younger, more male audience, which didn’t detract from them, but I thought it was a little weird…) For more on my discovery of this excellent novel click here and here.

Which brings me to this year. I recently finished reading Regeneration by Pat Barker for my Studies in Lit class and it is one of the best books ever. It takes place in a mental hospital, during the first World War and it is far more “ugly” (if you know what I mean) and Postmodern than what I normally like, but my former English teacher (you know, the one I’ve mentioned about a thousand times in this post) told me I’d like it and (prepare yourselves) she was right. It was just really, really fascinating and I suggest you read it, because it kind of changed my life (okay, that may be a slight hyperbole, it isn’t Jane Austen or anything, but still).

Currently, I’m working my way through Adam Bede by George Eliot. It is amazing and I have no idea why it isn’t more popular (perhaps it’s been overshadowed by Middlemarch, which, the same English teacher (who, of course, told me to read this) claims isn’t even all that great! So, an appeal to the internet, I think you should all go read this book and realize how great it is, then tell all your friends and give it the popularity it deserves, because seriously, IT IS BRILLIANT. You know, in a occasionally-makes-me-want-to-throw-it-on-floor-because-the-characters-are-being-so-real-and-therefore-annoying kind of way.

Well, that was fun. Check back for elaborated posts on each of these books, coming soon to a computer near you. So, what are some of your favourite books?

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