The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling


When an English archaeologist named George Smith was 31 years old, he became enchanted with an ancient tablet in the British Museum. Years earlier, in 1845, when Smith was only a five-year-old boy, Austen Henry Layard, Henry Rawlinson, and Hormuzd Rassam began excavations across what is now Syria and Iraq. In the subsequent years they discovered thousands of stone fragments, which they later discovered made up 12 ancient tablets. But even after the tablet fragments had been pieced together, little had been translated. The 3,000-year-old tablets remained nearly as mysterious as when they had been buried in the ruins of Mesopotamian palaces.

An alphabet, not a language, cuneiform is incredibly difficult to translate, especially when it is on tablets that have been hidden in Middle Eastern sands for three millennia. The script is shaped triangularly (cuneus means “wedge” in Latin) and the alphabet consists of more than 100 letters. It is used to write in Sumerian, Akkadian, Urartian, or Hittite, depending on where, when, and by whom it was written. It is also an alphabet void of vowels, punctuation, and spaces between words.

Even so, Smith decided he would be the man to crack the code. Propelled by his interests in Assyriology and biblical archaeology, Smith, who was employed as a classifier by the British Museum, taught himself Sumerian and literary Akkadian.

In 1872, after the tablets had been sitting in the British Museum’s storage for nearly two decades, Smith had a breakthrough: The complex symbols were describing a story. Upon translating the 11th tablet, now widely regarded as the most important part of the story, Smith told a coworker, “I am the first person to read that after 2000 years of oblivion.” The U.K. Prime Minister at the time, William Gladstone, even showed up to a lecture Smith later gave on the tablets, whereupon an audience member commented, “This must be the only occasion on which the British Prime Minister in office has attended a lecture on Babylonian literature.”

Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives, a form of existential problem-solving.

The story on the 11th tablet that Smith had cracked was in fact the oldest story in the world: The Epic of GilgameshGilgamesh has all the trappings of a modern story: a protagonist who goes on an arduous journey, a romance with a seductive woman, a redemptive arc, and a full cast of supporting characters.

Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, sharing them orally even before the invention of writing. In one way or another, much of people’s lives are spent telling stories – often about other people. In her paper “Gossip in Evolutionary Perspective,” evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar found stories’ direct relevance to humans: Social topics, especially gossip, account for 65 percent of all human conversations in public places.

Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives – a form of existential problem-solving. In a 1944 study conducted by Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel at Smith College, 34 college students were shown a short film in which two triangles and a circle moved across the screen and a rectangle remained stationary on one side of the screen. When asked what they saw, 33 of the 34 students anthropomorphized the shapes and created a narrative: The circle was “worried,” the “little triangle” was an “innocent young thing,” the big triangle was “blinded by rage and frustration.” Only one student recorded that all he saw were geometric shapes on a screen.

Stories can also inform people’s emotional lives. Storytelling, especially in novels, allows people to peek into someone’s conscience to see how other people think. This can affirm our own beliefs and perceptions, but more often, it challenges them. Psychology researcher Dan Johnson recently published a study in Basic and Applied Social Psychology that found reading fiction significantly increased empathy towards others, especially people the readers initially perceived as “outsiders” (e.g. foreigners, people of a different race, skin color, or religion).

Interestingly, the more absorbed in the story the readers were, the more empathetic they behaved in real life. Johnson tested this by “accidentally” dropping a handful of pens when participants did not think they were being assessed. Those who had previously reported being “highly absorbed” in the story were about twice as likely to help pick up the pens.

A recent study in Science magazine adds more support to the idea that stories can help people understand others, determining that literary fiction “uniquely engages the psychological processes needed to gain access to characters’ subjective experiences.” That’s to say, if you read novels, you can probably read emotions.

But why start telling stories in the first place? Their usefulness in understanding others is one reason, but another theory is that storytelling could be an evolutionary mechanism that helped keep our ancestors alive.

Storytelling could be an evolutionary mechanism that helped keep our ancestors alive.

The theory is that if I tell you a story about how to survive, you’ll be more likely to actually survive than if I just give you facts. For instance, if I were to say, “There’s an animal near that tree, so don’t go over there,” it would not be as effective as if I were to tell you, “My cousin was eaten by a malicious, scary creature that lurks around that tree, so don’t go over there.” A narrative works off of both data and emotions, which is significantly more effective in engaging a listener than data alone. In fact, Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that people remember information when it is weaved into narratives “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

The value humans place on narrative is made clear in the high esteem given to storytellers. Authors, actors, directors – people who spin narratives for a living are some of the most famous people in the world. Stories are a form of escapism, one that can sometimes make us better people while entertaining, but there seems to be something more at play.

Perhaps the real reason that we tell stories again and again – and endlessly praise our greatest storytellers – is because humans want to be a part of a shared history. What Smith discovered on that 11th tablet is the story of a great flood. On the 11th tablet – or the “deluge tablet” – of Gilgamesh, a character named Uta-napishtim is told by the Sumerian god Enki to abandon his worldly possessions and build a boat. He is told to bring his wife, his family, the craftsmen in his village, baby animals, and foodstuffs. It is almost the same story as Noah’s Ark, as told in both the Book of Genesis and in the Quran’s Suran 71.

Humans have been telling the same stories for millennia. Author Christopher Booker claims there are only seven basic plots, which are repeated over and over in film, in television, and in novels with just slight tweaks. There is the “overcoming the monster” plot (BeowulfWar of the Worlds); “rags to riches” (Cinderella, Jane Eyre); “the quest” (Illiad, The Lord of the Rings); “voyage and return” (OdysseyAlice in Wonderland); “rebirth” (Sleeping Beauty, A Christmas Carol); “comedy” (ends in marriage); and “tragedy” (ends in death).

Helpful as stories can be for understanding the real world, they aren’t themselves real. Is there such a thing as too much fiction? In Don Quixote, Cervantes writes of main character Alonso Quixano, “He read all night from sundown to dawn, and all day from sunup to dusk, until with virtually no sleep and so much reading he dried out his brain and lost his sanity …”

The next morning, however, Alonso Quixano decided to turn himself into a knight. He changed himself into Don Quixote, deciding he would pave his own journey. Then he went off, “seeking adventures and doing everything that, according to his books, earlier knights had done.”



14 Love Lessons From Jane Austen (who kind of knew what she was talking about)

Jane Austen Article

Even now, centuries after her works were published, Jane Austen’s wisdom remains very much alive, gracing the pages of calendars, postcards, posters, canvas bags… oh, I don’t have to tell you, because you own it all. And some of the best advice Austen ever gave? In the department of love. It makes sense, though, right? Relationships are at the core of Jane Austen’s works, after all: relationships between siblings, fathers and daughters, and friendships. Perhaps the most interesting and memorable relationships in her novels, though, are the romances. There’s simply no author who writes about love quite like Austen does.

Austen’s own love life has always been a bit of an enigma – she never made it to the altar herself, which can often seem at odds with her books. In fact, the writer’s romantic life is a source of fascination, of boundless speculation: numerous works have tried to assign her a romantic history, including the charming movie 2007 Becoming Jane.

Regardless of Austen’s own backstory, we see ourselves in her pages – and her words tell us that she understood deeply the thrills and challenges of falling in love. What is so powerful about the romantic relationships in Austen’s novels is that love is a form of growth and self-knowledge – the experience of falling in love frames her characters’ coming-of-age stories, or prompts their later-in-life reinventions. That’s why the love stories of Darcy and Elizabeth, or Knightley and Emma, continue to feel both so powerful and so relevant. By now, most of Austen’s best romantic couples are household names, and her plot lines have inspired echo after echo of modernized retellings, from Bridget Jones’s Diary to Clueless to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (PSA: those of you who haven’t yet watched the webseries and its cousin, Emma Approved, do it now. Everything else can wait.)

Even if your copy of Pride and Prejudice is, by now, frayed and over-underlined, it never hurts to revisit Austen’s works – and re-experience the humbling, empowering love stories that drive each of her books. Here are 14 Love Lessons From Jane Austen:

1. Try not to judge at first sight

I’m going to open with the obvious. As any self-respecting Austen fan would know, Pride and Prejudice was initially titled First Impressions, and this is a central theme in the book. We all know how it goes: when Darcy and Elizabeth first meet, they judge one another pretty harshly, but as the novel unfolds, they both come to realise that there’s a lot more to the other — and to themselves — than what first meets the eye. The plot of Pride and Prejudice is, by now, a romantic comedy trope: two people who hate each other realise that they have more in common than they thought and perhaps without really meaning to, fall in head-over-heels in love. Pride and Prejudice follows the internal growth of each of these iconic characters — for Darcy and Elizabeth, the experience of falling in love is humbling and requires a great deal of soul-searching.

2. The right kind of love is the love that makes you want to become a better person

True love does not come easily to Darcy and Elizabeth. Both of them must, in their own way, rise to the challenge. Yes, the book ends in their marriage, but their marriage is only possible because they’ve both grown enough to admire and respect one another, flaws and all.

3. Don’t let a third party meddle in your relationship

Jane and Bingley, I’m looking at you. Even accounting for 19th century social conventions, these two are incredibly gun-shy, and both of them let their flaws get the best of them. Jane allows her shyness and reserve to be interpreted as lack of interest, and Bingley yields to his own insecurities, letting himself be convinced that she doesn’t care for him. (Caroline Bingley: 1, Jane: 0.) Maybe if they had communicated better, this almost-catastrophic misunderstanding could have been avoided — but then again, that would totally ruin the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

4. Don’t marry for money (but having money doesn’t hurt!)

I’ve always loved the passage in Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth teases Jane about when she first realised she had feelings for Darcy. “It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began,” she says “But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” (Sigh. I can almost see the twinkle in her eye.) While Elizabeth is clearly joking, there is some truth to her flippant response. Seeing the place where someone grew up and meeting people who knew them when they were children can speak volumes about their character — and there’s a special kind of affection that comes from learning about how someone’s past has made them who they are.

5. Love isn’t like it is in the movies

Or the novels of the 18th century. Back when Austen was writing Northanger Abbey, novels were seen much the same way we see bad TV (or actually, probably worse). Intellectuals (specifically male intellectuals), worried about what reading novels might do to women’s oh-so-fanciful minds. Austen both rejects and embraces this sentiment in Northanger Abbey, setting out to prove that just because gothic novels like Anne Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho are sensationalist and implausible (but still fun!), doesn’t mean that novels can’t represent and examine reality. In fact, as Austen sets out to prove, true emotion can be as painful and scary as getting kidnapped by a crazy, obsessed suitor. The same is true of love. While Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland’s story is hardly sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic (though it is pretty sweet), it’s based on mutual understanding and shared experiences.

6. Do not trust words over actions

This is a lesson for Catherine as much as it is for her brother James. Both of them are taken by the charming, airy Isabella Thorpe — and it takes them a little too long to realise that she’s only in it for the money. (Boy, does Isabella miss the mark.) Don’t make excuses for people’s actions — more often than not, people’s actions tell you a lot more about their true intentions than their eloquently expressed, oh-so-profound emotions. (And yes, that is Carey Mulligan and Felicity Jones.)

7. Be patient and steadfast

You’ve got to give Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price props for all her patience. She stood by Edmund Bertram through his awkward, misguided crush on Mary Crawford (a fascinating character in her own right.) Yes, some might argue that Fanny is a bit too passive, too willing to wait on the sidelines for her cousin (yes, I know) to notice her. Still, there’s something to be said for the way Fanny allows Edmund make his own mistakes and come to the conclusion that she’s the best person for him on his own. (Right?) To be honest, I’ve always admired Fanny. Like many of Austen’s other heroines, she is strong-minded and stands by her convictions — and these are traits any of us can raise a glass to.

8. It’s OK to be impulsive, but keep a good head on your shoulders

Emotions are as powerful as they are important. But as Marianne Dashwood learns in Sense and Sensibility, when people show us who they really are, we need to pay attention, and not allow ourselves to be completely taken over by emotion.

9. Don’t be so scared to say what you feel

It is a truth universally acknowledged that rejection stings. A lot. But Sense and Sensibility’s Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars would have gotten a lot further if they’d just admitted their feelings to each other — hell, even to themselves. I know, I know, it would have violated social conventions and all that (and Elinor is nothing if not a stickler for proper manners), but come on, they would have saved themselves so much unnecessary suffering.

10. Keep an open mind

Marianne is broken-hearted when Willoughby shows his true colors, but she eventually manages to open her heart to Colonel Brandon — who ends up being exactly the kind of husband that she needs. Still, it takes more than Elinor’s levelheaded prodding to get her to give Colonel Brandon a chance. Keep your eyes open — you never know who you might be overlooking.

11. It’s never too late for a second chance at love

Second chances are, in fact, at the core of Persuasion. When Captain Wentworth reappears in Anne Elliot’s life after eight years apart, she is floored. She and Wentworth have a history: a short-lived romance in their early twenties that came to an abrupt and painful ending. Despite being completely in love with him, 19-year-old Anne rejected his marriage proposal based on her trusted friend Lady Russell’s advice, because Wentworth could not provide her with the life that she was used to — and also, due to fear of holding him back in his career. Though it takes these two some time to make their way back to each other, Anne and Wentworth eventually discover that their feelings have not changed through the years — in fact, getting to know each other again as adults only deepens their love and understanding. Wentworth eventually swallows his pride to ask the woman he loves, once again, if she will spend the rest of her life with him — writing the famously impassioned line: “I am half agony, half hope.”

12. Don’t give up on the person you love

Yes, Anne had said no to marrying him, but even Wentworth admits that he was a fool not to try to find her after he’d established himself professionally in the navy and was able to marry. While he did eventually find his way back to her, he could have saved them both a lot of heartache if he’d held fast to his conviction that they belonged together. Life (or, OK, Austen’s pen) gave Anne and Wentworth a second chance at love, but they very well could have done this for themselves.

13. Sometimes the right person has been in front of you all along

Sometimes you fall in love with your best friend. Emma is a wonderful, powerfully-written character study, among other things. Despite thinking herself above love and marriage, Emma Woodhouse eventually comes to understand that there is and always has been only one man for her. As she tries her hand at matchmaking, convinced that she knows what’s best for everyone, Emma realises that she’s a little more vulnerable and a little more (dare I say it) flawed than she’s ever allowed herself to believe. Her good friend Mr. Knightley, however, has always seen her for who she is — and loves her all the more for it.

14. Often the best kind of love isn’t flashy but steady, loyal, and uncompromising

Mr. Knightley does not subscribe to Frank Churchill’s pomp and circumstance, but he is an intelligent, fair-minded man who is capable of loving passionately — even if his always-calm demeanor suggests otherwise. “If I loved you less, I could talk about it more,” is one of my absolute favourite Austen lines. Austen really gets at just how deeply Mr. Knightley feels for Emma — and how, though he may not be one for big romantic gestures, he truly understands and respects her (sounds boring, I know, but it’s rarer than you might think.) In fact, because of this, Mr. Knightley may just be the all-time best Austen hero.



Print sales might be rallying, but don’t get complacent | Bookseller


A very interesting article by Sam Missingham on the future of publishing:

First off, I feel the need to emphatically state that nobody wants a strong, vibrant book business more than me. I am a self-declared cheerleader for this industry. But it seems the right time to put my pom poms aside for a while to make a more cautionary point.

In many ways, the worst thing to happen to book publishing has been the persistent strength of print books and the drop in sales of ebooks. Namely, the stalling of the digital transformation of the industry.

Yeah, I did say that. Let me explain.

Some might say that book publishing has weathered the transformation very well and is in a strong position. The numbers would tend to agree with that. Print sales up a notch, new bookshops opening, children’s book sales going from strength to strength. Time to put the kettle on then, sit back and put our feet up, yes?

Well, I tend to agree with Andrew Keen, the Internet critic and author who spoke at FutureBook in December. To paraphrase, he said publishing had come through the digital transformation mostly unscathed. However, he went on to say that this was down to good luck and not by any strategic play.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Five years ago publishers had no idea that ebooks would stall or that bookshops would bounce back. Let’s not forget the many predictions that print was dead – not to mention bookshops – and that we were heading for digital obliteration. I had many a conversation with industry folk who said they thought Waterstones would last only a couple more years.

During the early stages of the transformation, publishers threw money at a variety of digital initiatives: apps, ecommerce platforms, their own community websites… even buying the odd start-up. But big publishers spent big and lost big. I could easily list 10 initiatives that were launched with much fanfare, to be left unloved for 18 months and closed with a whimper. The intent may have been there, but the commitment certainly wasn’t. And further, their structures, people and processes did not allow for successful innovation at any scale.

But what does this matter if print sales are up and ebook sales are down? We’re fine, right?

Well yes, if we anticipate no further transformation happening. Or put another way, if we hope nobody else enters the industry looking to disrupt it; if no companies come along with new business models for books; if readers do not change how or what they buy; if no new technology emerges to offer readers a different experience, and if – a big if – Amazon, Google et al don’t come up with yet more game-changing ideas. That’s a future dependent on a lot of unlikely ifs.

Instead, I would argue that this is exactly the time we should be building our own future, aggressively. Creating platforms that give us more ownership of the publishing & bookselling ecosystems. Building businesses which create new revenue streams.

The good news is that there are plenty of innovative models to draw inspiration from if we’re commited to forging ahead.

Wattpad – an online community for writers to post chapters of books, fan fic, poetry and reach engaged readers for feedback – launched in 2006 and now has 45 million users and 300 million stories uploaded.

Lost My Name – the platform for personalised picture books for kids – launched in 2012, has sold more than 2.6 million picture books, and has just signed a deal with Roald Dahl estate. – a book subscroption service – says it has over 500,000 subscribers paying $8.99/month for ebooks, audiobooks, and now news.

BookBub – a simple daily email selling cheap ebooks – launched in 2012, has 5 million+ registered readers in US and 2 million in the UK, and recently launched in India. And

NetGalley – a blogger and influencer network offering publishers a seamless book review process pre-publication – has grown since 2012 to reach 360,000 members worldwide.

What were you doing when Wattpad launched 11 years ago?

There are many other companies I could have chosen, but these five all offer value and service at different stages of the publishing ecosystem. And all of the founders came from outside of the industry.

There’s plenty to learn, too, from companies that have diversified away from their core businesses to build new revenue streams. Conde Nast, the magazine publisher behind Vogue, now runs its own fashion & design collegeoffering degrees and courses, and has also recently launched a fashion ecommerce site. Sawday’s has transitioned from a travel guide publisher to a luxury travel company (that sells books). Marie Claire, the magazine published by Time Inc, now has its own cosmetics ecommerce platform and a physical shop in London. And Johnson’s Baby products launched a website called BabyCenter in the US nearly 20 years ago offering advice through pregnancy. This has grown to become a comprehensive resource for parents and now has 45 million global monthly unique visitors and generates huge amounts of advertising revenue. Of course, the site also provides Johnson’s with real-time audience behaviour data and a huge email database to sell to as well.

It’s interesting to note that all of the consumer-facing businesses above launched with new names and did not rely on their existing brands – we don’t have Johnson’s For Babies or the Marie Claire beauty shop. They displayed the confidence to build new brands even when they already have exceptional traction and recognition with the old ones – a bold step that was central to their success.

So, are book publishers in a position to diversify in such a way? I simply refuse to believe that they can’t do so, while also maintaining their core proposition: to publish sensational books and nurture authors’ careers. And I genuinely believe we must, if we want to survive long-term. We need to get ahead of the next phase of disruption by disrupting ourselves and innovating with vision and commitment. This is not the time to sit back and hope the status quo will last. We might not weather the next wave with such good fortune.


9 Things All Historical Fiction Fans Know To Be True

Historical Fiction


Historical fiction novels range from love stories to family sagas to coming of age novels. They include Sir Walter Scott’s Warerly, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf HallThey have drama, mystery, intrigue, love, horror, violence, romance — essentially, they have it all. A great historical fiction book will transport you back to another time and place where you are surrounded by the customs and traditions of a world long gone. And the best part about historical fiction novels is the mix of the true and authentic with the fabricated and the fictional.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I don’t need to be telling you any of this. You’ve shared your morning coffee alongside the Boleyn sisters, and your evenings on the battlefields of Normandy. You know how the class system worked in 17th century Britain, and you have lost so many of your favourite characters to war, you’re in a constant state of mourning. But if you’re a historical fiction fan, you must also know:

1. It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

The beautiful thing about a lot of historical fiction is that you go into it already knowing something about the ending, whether it’s the outcome of the onset war, or the fate of a particular historical figure. Although it might seem like a reason not to like this particular genre, historical fiction readers know this is actually one of the greatest things about it. Because you know the ending, you can focus on the story itself, its characters, the relationships in the book, the dialogue, and the beauty of the writing without being preoccupied with the outcome. That makes the ride so good. And, despite what you may think….

2. Suspense and Mystery Still Exist, Even If You Know How the Story Ends

Historical fiction-haters will try and tell you it’s boring to know how a story ends, but we fanatics know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because a novel is about a period you think you know, or people you have studied in the past, doesn’t mean there is no room for mystery and intrigue in its telling. Everyone knows about the death and destruction that came as a result of Sherman’s March to the Sea, but E. L. Doctorow’s The March leads readers down a mysterious path of “who lives and who dies?” scenarios by giving us fictional characters in a historical setting. There is plenty of mystery, even in what is already known.

3. Love Is Timeless

Some people are turned off from historical fiction because the setting is something very unlike the setting in which we currently live, but the truth is there are some basic human conflicts that ring true no matter what time or place they are set in. Searching for true love, fighting an oppressor, exacting revenge, protecting your family — no matter who you are or what time period you’re from, these are all conflicts you can empathise with. Historical fiction-lovers understand that things like love transcend time and place.

4. Life Was So Much More Dramatic Before Mobile Phones

Celebrity Twitter feuds aside, life was a lot more dramatic before a simple phone call could resolve an issue. When you can’t text your fiancé to find out if it was indeed him kissing the handmaid in the stable, but instead you have to wait until the next grand ball to confront him over a formal dance, drama is sure to ensue. Besides, confrontation is so much juicier when it’s done in person.

5. Women Have Always, and Will Always, Kick Ass (No Matter What History Books Leave Out)

The problem with so many of the history books that you grew up learning from is that they are filled with all of the same characters: white, privileged men fighting for their own best interests. Yes, you learned about women’s suffrage and the Daughters of the Revolution, but why is it that women have been written out of many history books? Historical fiction gives a voice to the women of the past, and provides a space to tell the stories that the history books have been missing. Any historical fiction-reader will tell you that girls have always run the world. Boom.

6. There’s Nothing Like a Lengthy Letter and a Long Walk to Clear Your Head

Forget going to piloxing to relieve your stress — the characters in historical fiction have it right. Whether you are about to be sent off to war or your one true love has been promised to another, a long stroll through the countryside or a handwritten letter to your childhood friend is enough to find peace in clarity — at least it would be if you were in a historical fiction novel. Chances are, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’d choose to stretch your legs in the park over pounding the punching bag at the gym any day.

7. The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Sure, the idea of aliens taking over the planet is pretty strange, but so is beheading two of your wives so you can marry someone else… and that actually happened. Although historical fiction does contain elements of fiction, often the kernels of truth are what’s most bizarre, and those kinds of strange but true facts stick with you. Avid readers of the genre know this better than anyone else. That’s why we’re so good at Jeopardy.

8. It’s Fun to Time Travel

Halloween only comes once a year, and unless you are in college, your costume party days are limited… and so are your days of pretending to be someone and somewhere else. But historical fiction fans know that if you want to put on a mask and go to a ball, you can always pick up a book. They know if you want to fight alongside the allies in WWII, you can pick up a book. They know if you want to sling guns with the cowboys in the wild west… well, you get the picture.

9. Everyone Has a Secret

It doesn’t matter if you are one of the founding fathers or a farm hand, a French monarch or a lady of the court — chances are, you have a secret. From the Dark Ages to the Civil War, people have been lying about who they are, hiding their pasts, and keeping the truth from one another forever. Though honesty is supposed to be the best policy, it doesn’t make for the best story, so note to authors: keep the secrets coming.



World Record For Fan With Biggest Harry Potter Collection

Harry Potter Fan

If you thought you were the world’s biggest Harry Potter fan, prepare to be disappointed. A lawyer in Mexico City has apparently shattered the Guinness World Record for largest collection of Harry Potter memorabilia. So far, he has 3,092 items in his collection, which far surpasses the previous record of only 807. Now that is one dedicated fan!

Menahem Asher Silva Vargas first started collecting Harry Potter products in 2001. In a video interview with The Telegraph, he explained that he didn’t originally think of himself as a collector; he’d just see a Harry Potter item that he liked and buy it. But as the Potter fan base in Mexico expanded (and as Potter-mania took over the world) there were more and more Potter-themed products available, and his collection just kept growing. Once it started taking up more than one room, he says, he decided to get organised and start keeping an inventory.

Now, on the one hand I know that buying things is not really a good way to measure how much of a fan someone is — after all, if Bill Gates really wanted this particular world record I’m sure he could buy up 4,000 pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia without batting an eyelash or ever reading the books — but it’s also clear that Silva Vargas really genuinely loves Harry Potter. And as a bit of a Harry Potter nerd myself, I raise a butter beer toast in salute.

In total, Silva Vargas’s collection takes up two rooms and includes everything from board games to Harry Potter attire to replica wands. But his favourite item in the huge collection is a circular wall ornament with a photo of Harry in the Chamber of Secrets that was a gift from his mother. Aww.

He says that he hopes to create some sort of interactive site to allow Potter fans from all over the world to virtually explore his massive treasure trove of Harry Potter merchandise some day.