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I have just had the pleasure of reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and in that way discovered the writing of Shirley Jackson, all of which has been absolutely delightful. Currently barrelling through Haunting of Hill House, and realising with woe that the husband's collection of books seems to have lost the vast majority of its Jackson. Castle I read as a rather good study of witches as independent women who happen to know a few things others do not, like how to tell apart poisonous plants from the edible ones, without ever actually stating outright that it is what it is, or involving the supernatural (beyond the protagonist's imagination). I was fond of Merricat, decided she was quite easy to sympathise with, and how can I not like a protagonist with a fascination with poisons, talking to animals and a sheer dislike for most of humanity, anyway? I found the ending quite awful for the people involved, rather wished the whole town died of mushrooms, in fact. But one can hope.

It was quite nice to have gotten some reading done. I don't read nearly enough, having lacked the concentration for many years. It is one of the little joys of living with scanner_darkly, in that I am no longer quite so stressed out I can't pick up a book and read. I'm sure I've said this before, but most of the books I read when I was younger depended heavily on what books I could get. English-language books are still very expensive in my native country. Even barring the high prices due to the currency exchange and mark-ups for import, the choice of books is also usually limited by manages to be brought in at all. A couple of relatively recent trends have made books much more accessible, such as the prevalence of both rental bookstores and second hand book shops, but as with such stores, again, it is a lot about what you can find. When I was a child, I had the good fortune to have been in schools with good libraries. The mix of books I found was eccentric enough. School libraries, by virtue of relying on donations, are often offered some old gems as well as say, boxes of Robert E. Howard with scandalous cover art hidden under the librarian's desk. Thus, I was able to read virtually all the Enid Blyton books, Wombles, Little House, Little Women and What Katy Did ones, as well as Stranger in a Strange Land, The Painted Bird and Helter Skelter, but have very little exposure to many of the books my friends consider fairly normal for pop cultural purposes. I am only now catching up. It has led me to listen in awe to conversations the people I know have with other people on books they've read though, since inevitably, I would have read very little of it.

Also, and apropos to nothing, finishing Feminism in Islam has somewhat strained my brain for scholarly works, at least for a month or so. It is an educational book, and the quality of the writing can get a little hodge podge. I'm glad I finished it. I just find that when faced with even a slightly serious piece of informative non-fiction afterwards, my eyes glaze over. Else, I would be quite excited to read Wanted: Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family, an up to date collection of essays on the status of women's rights in Muslim countries which just came out care of Musawah, a grouping of women's issues NGOs from Muslim nations worldwide. Incidentally, if you're interested in reading the essays, they're available online for free, with an option to order printed copies.

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