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As usual, this is a question that demands multiple answers, because it's me we're talking about, and I rarely read one good book per year. But this past year, I've done a lot of re-reading (both in school and out), so my new books intake has severely dropped. Thankfully, that's what next year is for...?
I feel that in order to appropriately answer this question, I have to give three answers. Maybe four. So stick with me.
When I first saw this question, the answer that immediately sprang to mind was Possession by A. S. Byatt
, in which two modern academics discover the lost letters of two (fictional) Victorian poets, and follow the literary clues therein on a detective hunt through Great Britain and parts of France. Oh, and did I mention that they may or may not have something like a love story of their own throughout? I purchased Possession
from a small used-and-new independent bookstore down the street from the hotel my grandmother stayed at in London this spring (right by the British Museum, where one of the characters actually works). I began reading it on the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and finished it in a small hotel room overlooking a tiny street between the Louvre and the Opera Garnier; I read with the kind of energy that a book hadn't evoked from me in far too long. Possession
felt a little bit like the story of my life-as-it-could-be told back to me as a fiction: a collection of various texts (the novel includes third-person omniscient narration, snippets of poetry and academic prose, the discovered love letters, and various other ephemera) meandering over a wider ground than entirely necessary (it's been compared to a Victorian novel), questioning and testing but ultimately affirming the relationship between literature and love.
The other important books of this year (for very different reasons!) are ones I've talked about elsewhere: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
and A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane
The rest of the texts I'm going to mention are very, very literary. But they're also very important. I think that Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion
all belong on this list because the time I've spent with them, starting this summer with my SURF research, has really launched me into the thesis of a lifetime. Although Northanger Abbey
is the only one out of these that I actually read for the first time this year, I've become increasingly close with the others, to the point where I have a bordering-on-brilliant fifteen-page Pride and Prejudice
paper ready to be sent out to various graduate schools as we speak. My experience as a reader of Austen has changed so much since I was a freshman in high school disdainful of Emma
, and I couldn't be happier about it. More and more, I feel like I've chosen (or been chosen by) the topic and the time period that are just right for me.