The Beauty of the Unique- Special Editions, Sprayed Edges and the Phenomenon of Participation

When we are collecting books, we are collecting happiness”-Vincent Starrett

A few years ago, a friend told me that if a person owns 1000 or more books, they can consider it a library. Obviously, my new goal was to reach this number and have my own little library at home. Buying books is definitely a separate hobby from reading books and I soon noticed that I was a bit obsessed with both- my friends call me a bookworm but at heart, I am more of a book dragon, someone who hoards books. For me, Starrett’s quote hits deep because my collection does bring me happiness, both while reading and just by looking at my shelves. But I realised rather quickly that it was not just about buying new books but also about connecting with the books I had already read. This meant that if I truly love a book I desperately need several copies. This was when I discovered special and collector’s editions– books with sprayed edges, maps, hardcovers, paperbacks with different covers, character art on the pages, etc. Many books have not only one version depending on the publisher’s decision, book subscription boxes or because different countries decide to release different versions. Personally, I own about 7 different copies of Pride and Prejudice and aim to collect every version of the Letters of Enchantment Duology. It is definitely a commitment but since the books had such a great impact on me I feel like each version carries a different piece of myself. 

Many small businesses have started to paint the edges of books themselves. This offers a truly unique copy of the book. This could be something fun to do in the classroom as well- students come up with ideas and design their own special editions or sprayed edges based on their reading experience (on paper rather than actual copies). Here, it would be interesting to discover different interpretations or impressions the book left and it could then be used as a great starting point for discussions.

Here are some of my favourite special editions:

There are bits and pieces of yourself scattered in every book you read“- Unknown

Special Editions are not the only way to create unique books or extend the fictional work. Harry Potter, Star Trek and Star Wars, Wednesday, Emma, Maneskin and Song Mingi. But what connection do books, tv shows, movies, bands and Korean Idols have? All these different media carry a great fanbase, communities that try to creatively and actively participate in their fandom’s world. The first time this phenomenon gained a lot of attention was with the Star Trek Franchise, fans from everywhere started writing fanfiction, and creating fan art or merch and through this, they kept the fandom alive even when the official story was already over. This participatory culture found its origins in the development of the technological and online sphere. Today participating in a certain fandom is rather easy due to the countless social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok or even ArchiveOfOurOwn. But how exactly do fans contribute to their fandoms and what impact does it have? As already mentioned people can create their own fanart by drawing or painting the characters or specific scenes. Here, it is interesting to see the different perceptions of the characters as everyone has a unique reading experience so the given attributes for each character can be perceived completely differently every time. This does not mean that some people did not read carefully enough or are wrong but just that they imagined the character this way. Sometimes artists even purposefully change a character’s features to either look like other characters living this specific scene or to project themselves into it.  This makes the characters appear in real life and not only on a book’s page, they do truly become alive. Another way to expand the duration or length of a story is by writing or reading fanfiction. Here, writers can rewrite scenes or create new ones modelled after canon facts or the big what-ifs. The newly created narratives are not entirely connected to the original work but fans take inspiration from them to write something new. Fanfiction can be seen as interesting and refreshing as it highlights the story world and its characters and gives them a certain kind of movement instead of remaining static texts- it offers new dimensions. Here, people can interact with the original texts which makes the whole ordeal appear more vivid and real. 

Participatory or fan culture can also be an interesting topic for classroom discussions. It has become such a vital part of digital life that everyone has come across it in some way. Here students can brainstorm and collect forms of fanart they have encountered before. It is surprising to see how much it is present in our daily lives. Other fun and interactive exercises would be acting out scenes or writing tasks. In year 6 we read Wilhelm Tell and our class did not understand the story so no one participated in class. To change this our teacher sorted us into groups and assigned one scene for each group to prepare. Because we only had to focus on one scene we had more time to actually understand what was written in it and by learning the text by heart, acting it out and even preparing props we started to think about it on a deeper level. Everyone uniquely prepared their scene, some groups just acted out the text, and others rewrote it so it would be easier to understand. In the end, everyone saw a visualised version of the complete book and class discussions became easy as we were part of the preparation process and had the ambition to learn and understand the German classic.  Another task my English teacher in Years 11 and 12 continuously gave us was writing about the books and texts we had to read. The Importance of Being Earnest? “Please choose one of the following characters and write a letter from their perspective. What would they write about? Who would they address the letter to? What emotions would they show and what tone do you have to use?” Walkabout? “Imagine being one of the siblings and writing about your thoughts and emotions” Ready Player One? “Rewrite the ending. What would you like to add to it or cut out?” Shakespeare’s Sonnets? “Rewrite your chosen poem using a language register you would use among your peers.”

And there are many more opportunities to create an interactive learning environment when talking about fan and participatory culture which might help motivate students.

Are you a bookworm or a book dragon? Maybe both? Do you collect several editions of a book? What is your favourite special edition? Have you ever created fanart? What do you think about participatory culture?

Lisa A.


Marie Helene “Marlen” Haushofer wurde 11. April im Jahre 1920 in Frauenstein geboren. Die Schriftstellerin aus Österreich publizierte nach dem Krieg zunächst kleinere Erzählungen in österreichischen Zeitschriften und Zeitungen. Schließlich veröffentlichte sie auch Romane und Novellen, unter anderem Die WandDas fünfte Jahr und Himmel, der nirgendwo endet. In vielen ihrer Erzählungen geht es um die Gedanken und Gefühle von starken Frauen, die ihren Weg in einer männerdominierten Welt suchen. Insbesondere wird thematisiert, wie der Alltag von Frauen in einer patriarchal geprägten Gesellschaft häufig verhindert, dass diese Frauen sich selbst verwirklichen können. 

So wurden Haushofers Werke bald bedeutend für die Frauenrechtsbewegung und Frauenliteraturforschung. Anfangs abfällig als “Frauenliteratur” abgetan, zählt Haushofer heute zu den wichtigsten deutschsprachigen Autorinnen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Ihre Geschichten wurden vielfach für Film, Hörspiel und Theater adaptiert und mit zahlreichen Literaturpreisen ausgezeichnet.

Marlen Haushofer starb am 21. März 1970. Heute bieten ihre Werke sich an, um in die Perspektive von Frauen in der Literatur abzutauchen und Mädchen und Frauen Mut zu machen, ihr Leben selbst in die Hand zu nehmen.


Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.”- Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass

In the summer of 2021, I stumbled across my first TikTok from BookTok showing all of the creator’s 5-star ratings of the year. Among them were A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, Throne of Glass and Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood. Half of the video talked about books by Sarah J Maas which intrigued me. While looking at several videos of what her fans call the Maasverse, a video with book quotes finally convinced me to read her Romantasy series ACOTAR, thinking it would be my only project. Back then, I did not know that it would become my favourite book series and that I’d take on a 16+ book commitment. One video introduced a simple name that would change my reading attitude. 

Today, in honour of the 38th birthday of the American writer Sarah Janet Maas, I would like to introduce her most famous book series.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

ACOTAR is an ongoing book series with 4 novels and one novella. The story follows the 19-year-old Feyre Archeron, a huntress and the only provider of her father and two older sisters Nesta and Elain, who live in poverty in the woods close to the magic wall separating the human from the fae world. In her desperation to find food, Feyre goes out to the woods to hunt a deer when she comes across a wolf which she suspects to be a faerie, a species she as well as her family and the other people of the village, hate. When the creature attacks the deer she is about to shoot, Feyre decides to use her ash arrow on the big wolf. A day later, her suspicions about the wolf being a faerie come true when a golden beast tears down her family’s door demanding his payment for the faerie’s death. Feyre is given a choice: die now or come to Prythian, the fae land, and live there with him, her family being spared from further punishments. With this, the youngest Archeron daughter’s adventure through the courts of Prythian and her eventual love story begins. 

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass is an 8-book finished series following Celaena Sardothien, a professional assassin who got arrested and put into a slave camp for murder after a failed task. After an early release from the prison, she finds herself summoned to the king’s castle to compete for her freedom. If she bests 23 other assassins she wins her freedom back and becomes the king’s personal assassin, if she fails she will be sent back to the camp and be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

If you decide to read Throne of Glass, I recommend looking up the different orders to read in. Another important note, one that makes the series rather special is the possibility of a tandem read of Empire of Storms and Tower of Dawn. It is an optional way to read both books but I thought it to be a great reading experience.

Crescent City

Bryce Quinlan, a young half-fae half-human woman from Crescent City is what people describe to be the typical party girl, going out, drinking and taking magical drugs while also maintaining her job. Her life takes a drastic turn when one night she returns to her apartment to find her best friend and her pack of wolves dead, killed by a dangerous demon. Two years later Bryce is appointed to help Hunt Athalar, an enslaved fallen angel, to investigate her friend’s murder as a series of similar killings have occurred throughout the city. Quinlan uses this chance to avenge her friends and together with Hunt save the city. 

For many people on BookTok starting one of Maas’ book series is a commitment to the whole Maasverse. Her precise world-building led to many fan theories of connected universes. Her most recent book Crescent City: House of Flame and Shadow confirmed those theories by offering a crossover with characters from later ACOTAR novels. So only reading one series, Crescent City, for example, might not be enough to understand the story’s complexity. With this, it becomes a commitment. 

Today, reading Sarah J. Maas has become a bit easier as her publishing dates have decreased with her building a family life, however, until 2018 she published one to two books every year, so keeping up was not an uneasy task.

(Note the age rating for each novel- young adult to adult Romantasy!)

My Favourite Quotes:

  • “Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy” (ACOTAR, p.172)
  • “To the stars who listen and the dreams that are answered” (ACOMAF, p. 249)
  • “Only you decide what breaks you” (ACOMAF, p.)
  • “Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all” (ACOTAR, p. 414)
  • “Don’t let the hard days win” (ACOMAF, p.178)
  • “You could rattle the stars. You could do anything if only you dared. And deep down, you know it too. That’s what scares you most” (ToG, p. 399)
  • “We all bear scars,… Mine just happen to be more visible than most” (ToG, p. 305)
  • “Names are not important. It’s what lies inside of you that matters” (ToG, p. 277)
  • “The world [..] will be saved and remade by dreamers” (EoS, p. 248)
  • “Through love, all is possible” (CC1)
  • “Then let the world know that my first act of freedom was to help my friends” (CC1, p. 701)
  • “My friends are with me and I am not afraid” (CC1, p. 703)
  • “Light it up” (CC1, p. 765)
  • “This world could be so much more. This world could be free. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want that” (CC2, p. 193)
  • “A world where people loved and valued books and learning so much that they were willing to die for them. Can you imagine what such a civilisation was like?” (CC3, p. 564)

ACOTAR- A Court of Thorns and Roses

ACOMAF- A Court of Mist and Fury

ToG- Throne of Glass

EoS- Empire of Storms

CC1- Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood

CC2- Crescent City: House of Sky and Breath

CC3- Crescent City: House of Flame and Shadow

Lisa A.


“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”– Jane Austen, Emma

Valentine’s Day, a day filled with love, appreciation and the celebration of romance. Typically it is associated with gifts of red roses, chocolates and hearts in all colours and shapes. While these traditions are fun and romantic, I love to cycle back to literature on this special day. 

Growing up I was never really fond of having any trace of romance in my books and I would immediately put them down if they did. This only changed when I discovered the works of Jane Austen which would deeply influence my future perception of literature. If I remember correctly I was just interested in reading again when entering year 10 because of my English teacher who helped me improve my English skills at the time and she recommended Pride and Prejudice. At the time it was an extremely scary project to pick up a Jane Austen Classic and understand anything but I am glad that I fought and pushed myself through it and incredibly grateful to my teacher for believing in me. Finishing the novel changed the way I approached literature altogether, it was no longer a task that had to be done but I started to read because I wanted to, because I wanted to dive into those fictional worlds, simply because the love Jane Austen described in that one book deeply enchanted me. 

Pride and Prejudice

The story revolves around the Bennet family consisting of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their daughters Jane and Elizabeth, our protagonist who is also called Lizzie, Mary, Lidia and their youngest Kitty. With the arrival of a new neighbour, the rich young gentleman Mr Bingley, a party is thrown in his honour where the reader first meets him and his best friend Mr Darcy. Darcy’s pride is noticeable from the very first moment which unfortunately causes him to insult Lizzie and strangle their relationship as it and several other events only fuel her prejudice and hate. After a rejected declaration of love from Mr Darcy he writes Lizzie a letter explaining himself which changes her view completely and she eventually accepts his proposal after his second confession. 

Lizzie Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters and her father’s favourite child. She portrays a typical Austen female lead, a witty and smart young woman who is independent and not afraid to speak her mind, who desires to marry for love rather than social status and convenience, which was not the standard of the time. Throughout the whole book, it becomes clear that she portrays the “prejudice” part of the title as she judges people from the beginning based on her perspective, whereas Fitzwilliam Darcy on the other hand portrays pride, which he calls his greatest weakness. This pide changes the way he is perceived throughout the whole novel, not only by the characters, especially Lizzie, but also by the readers.  

The novel’s themes make its love story rather bewitching¹ by showing that marrying for love is possible even in a time where marriage was all about social status, it showed that love could defy everything and that if people were meant to be, they would find their way to each other. 

Talking about the great love story of Pride and Prejudice…

Having difficulties reading Jane Austen’s works, or other works from authors of the time, seems to be what TikTok would call a canon event. However, to still bring it closer to younger generations who might be intimidated or overwhelmed by the book’s length or language, especially as an L2 learner, YouTube offers the perfect solution. In 2012 the first episode of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, a web series in the form of vlogs, aired. The series shows a modern, digital take on the classic from 1813, translating it into modern language and also modern problems. It is an easy way to understand the storyline and the characters before or after reading the novel itself. I watched it during the lockdown in 2020, purely for amusement but I soon realised that even though I had read Pride and Prejudice several times at that point, the YouTube format always opened up new perspectives and discussions about the literary work. 

[link: www.youtube.com/@LizzieBennet]

But do the romance books of our time have the same effect Austen’s work had? This is a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. Personally, I prefer reading her love stories over popular romance books from our time. Many books are rather similar in their plot and love story, whereas Austen created something revolutionary at the time, something new defying the social norm. In my eyes, Romantasy novels come closer to such classics than romance novels because of the complexity that accompanies them. But this is just my take as I read more fantasy novels than romance. 

What do you prefer- Austen’s Classics or contemporary Romance Novels?

What is your favourite love story? What book do you think about or would you recommend when asked for love stories for Valentine’s Day?

Further Recommendations for the romantic feeling:

  • Emma (1815)
  • Emma (dir. Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
  • Persuasion (1817)
  • Persuasion (dir. Cracknell, 2022)
  • Pride and Prejudice (dir. Wright, 2005)
  • Sense and Sensibility  (1811)
  • Sense and Sensibility (dir. Lee, 1996)
  • Mansfield Park (dir. Rozema, 2000)
  • Becoming Jane (dir. Jarrold, 2007)
  • Divine Rivals (2023)
  • Red, White & Royal Blue (2019)
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015)
  • Fake Dates and Mooncakes (2023)

¹ “You have bewitched me body and soul. And I love… I love… I love you.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lisa A.


On January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Growing up in poverty and already having to grieve his parents at the young age of 12, his childhood did not seem to be an easy one. Regardless of this series of unfortunate events Tolkien successfully graduated from Oxford University and secured his employment as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army. 

However, it is not just his biography that makes his persona so important but his literary works that are still immensely popular today. 

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

  • Lord of the Rings is a book series most people have probably heard about, if not even read it themselves, or watched the movies. Its trailblazer The Hobbit was originally a children’s book published in 1937, however, the story world grew enormously and a high fantasy world emerged. 

Leaf by Niggle

  • This is one of Tolkien’s short stories that is not as well known as the Lord of the Rings franchise. The character Niggle is an artist, however, the part of society he resides in does not appreciate art in any way. Because of this, he only paints for his own pleasure, and he took on the big project of painting a great tree. The work starts with a single leaf and grows around it. Because of his good character, he takes time off his work to help his neighbour, unfortunately, while doing so, he falls ill. Due to this, he is sent on a journey as a gardener to a forest. He discovers that this forest is the one he had painted all along and the tree he sees in real life is the perfected version of his flawed painting. 

Further Recommendations

  • The Silmarillion (1977)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1936)
  • The Rings of Power (dir. J.A. Bayona, 2022)

Lisa A.