2020 Reading Challenge

In 2019 I undertook a challenge to read 40 works of fiction over the course of the year, the actual number I got to was in the low 80’s. So this year I decided to do something very ambitious and read 104 works of fiction, yes that’s right 2 works of fiction for every week of the year. This is on top of a great deal of non fiction and all the paperwork and reports that I have to wade through every week too. So here is the list I’m going to be working from for the rest of the year.

Coraline- Neil Gaiman

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The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman

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Alloy of Law- Brandon Sanderson

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Shadow of Self- Brandon Sanderson

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The Bands of Mourning- Brandon Sanderson

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The Crystal Shard- R.A. Salvatore

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Streams of Silver- R.A. Salvatore

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The Halflings Gem- R.A. Salvatore 

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Shadow of A Dark Queen- Raymond E Feist

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Rise of A Merchant Prince- Raymond E Feist

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Rage of A Demon King-Raymond E Feist

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Shards of A Broken Crown- Raymond E Feist

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Tarkin- James Luceno

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Thrawn- Timothy Zahn

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The Priestess of the White- Trudi Canavan

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Last of the Wilds- Trudi Canavan

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Voice of the Gods- Trudi Canavan

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Otherland Volume 1- Tad Williams

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Otherland Volume 2- Tad Williams

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Otherland Volume 3- Tad Williams

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Otherland Volume 4- Tad Williams

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Starship Titanic- Douglas Adams

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The Salmon of Doubt- Douglas Adams

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The Long Earth- Terry Pratchett

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The Long War – Terry Pratchett

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The Long Mars- Terry Pratchett

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The Long Utopia – Terry Pratchett

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The Long Cosmos – Terry Pratchett

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Thief’s Magic- Trudi Canavan

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Angel of Storms- Trudi Canavan

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The Successor’s Promise- Trudi Canavan

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Dune- Frank Herbert

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Earthsea- Ursula La Guin 

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Doctor Who: At Childhoods End- Sophie Aldred

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Dwarves 1: Markus Heitz 

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Dwarves 2: Markus Heitz

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Dwarves 3: Markus Heitz

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Dwarves 4: Markus Heitz

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Dwarves 5: Markus Heitz

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War of the Worlds- H.G Wells

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The Island of Doctor Moreau- H.G Wells

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Around The World In 80 Days- Jules Verne

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20,000 Leagues Under The Sea- Jules Verne 

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The Inimitable Jeeves- P.G Wodehouse 

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Carry On Jeeves – P.G Wodehouse

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Very Good Jeeves – P.G Wodehouse

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Ankh Morpork Archives- Terry Pratchett

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The Carpet People- Terry Pratchett

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Casion Royale- Ian Fleming

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Dracula -Bram Stoker

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Frankenstein- Mary Shelly

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson 

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The Phoenix on the Sword- Robert E Howard

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Paradise Lost- John Milton

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Lair of the White Worm- Bram Stoker 

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The Call of Cthulhu- H.P Lovecraft

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Baldur’s Gate-  Philip Athans

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Canticle- R.A Salvatore  

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In Sylvan Shadows- R.A Salvatore  

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Night Masks – R.A Salvatore  

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The Fallen Fortress – R.A Salvatore  

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The Chaos Curse – R.A Salvatore  

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Dodgers Guide To London – Terry Pratchett

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The World of Poo – Terry Pratchett

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War of the Spider Queen 1 – R.A Salvatore  

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War of the Spider Queen 2 – R.A Salvatore

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War of the Spider Queen 3 – R.A Salvatore

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War of the Spider Queen 4 – R.A Salvatore

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War of the Spider Queen 5 – R.A Salvatore

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War of the Spider Queen 6 – R.A Salvatore

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Omerta- Mario Puzo

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Odin’s Child- Tim Severin

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Sworn Brother- Tim Severin

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Kings Man- Tim Severin

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The Picture of Dorian Grey- Oscar Wilde

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Legend of Alfar Book 1- Markus Heitz 

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Legend of Alfar Book 2- Markus Heitz

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Legend of Alfar Book 3- Markus Heitz

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Legend of Alfar Book 4- Markus Heitz

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The Last Wish- Andrzej Sapkowski 

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Sword of Destiny – Andrzej Sapkowski 

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Blood of Elves- Andrzej Sapkowski 

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Time of Contempt- Andrzej Sapkowski 

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Baptism of Fire – Andrzej Sapkowski 

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The Tower of the Swallow – Andrzej Sapkowski 

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The Lady of the Lake – Andrzej Sapkowski 

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Faerie Tale- Raymond E Feist

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Doctor Who: The Missy Chronicles 

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Daughter of the Drow- Elaine Cunningham

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Tangled Webs-Elaine Cunningham

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Windwalker-  Elaine Cunningham

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Pool of Radiance- James Ward

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Pool of Darkness- James Ward, Anne Brown

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Pool of Twilight-James Ward, Anne Brown

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The Tell Tale Heart- Edgar Allan Poe

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Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice- Stephen Baxter 

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Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By- Dan Abnett

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Father Christmas’s Fake Beard- Terry Pratchett

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Kull- Exile of Atlantis- Robert E Howard

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Solomon Kane: Skulls in the Stars- Robert E Howard

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El Borak: Sword of the Hills Robert E Howard

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Smith of Wootton Major- J.R.R Tolkien 

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Young Zaphod Plays It Safe- Douglas Adams 

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A Study in Scarlet- Arthur Conan Doyle

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Wonder how many I’ll get through I know 2 a week doesn’t sound like all that much, but who knows what outside influences will be effecting my free time.

Book Review: Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years.

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I’d read most of the Adrian Mole books already, so I knew I would get around to this one at some point, so when I made the list of books I wanted to read before I was 30 this one seemed like an ideal candidate for the list, as I had enjoyed its predecessors, and it was actually a book that I wanted to read.

If you’ve never read any of The Adrian Mole Diaries, I suggest you do, as they’re all brilliant, and this final volume of the series is no different. This book follows the deterioration of Adrian’s marriage, career, health, and family life, all as Adrian creeps ever closer to middle age, and the dreaded 40.

Sue Townsend has managed to paint an all too real look at life through the eyes, thoughts and ascribances of her protagonist. Just the way that Adrian goes through life is so real, and so tragic in its mundaneness that is just British and also massively terrifying. At the age of 39 and a quarter, Adrian is saddled with 3 children from 3 different women, a series of crippling debts, the wife who both resents and pities him simultaneously and a strong willed 5 year old with some bizarre fixations, all whilst dealing with the hell that must be living next door to his parents, not to mention a good whack of prostate cancer just for good measure. We see how Adrian deals with all this with the help of his friends.

One of the things I love about this series is that Sue Townsend sets the books in the real world. For example, Adrian’s financier half brother Brett, works in the City at the time of the 2008 financial crash, and lines that might under other circumstances be throw away text, are really cringe worthy, a good example being that Brett convinced Adrian to cash out his insurance policy and invest it in an Icelandic bank.

This is one of the high points of the whole series and for me highlights a great sadness at the fact that no more Mole will be forthcoming, owing to the writes untimely passing. But this was such a fun read, even if it did start to worry me, that I’m seeing one or two similarities  between myself and the erstwhile Mr Mole.

Book Review: Stardust

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I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by Neil Gaiman lately like the Sandman series  and Mr Punch and I recently started watching American Gods and one of the books on my 30 before thirty was Stardust. I’d seen the film, but wasn’t sure if it bore any resemblance to the original novella.

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So I went over to amazon to pick myself up a copy and dug right in. It was an easy read, I probably finished it in about 4 hours. The story is a pretty basic one, boy of humble and mysterious origins goes on quest to win the love of a fair maid, along the way discovers who he really is and lives up to his destiny by fighting a wicked witch and a would be usurper before living happily ever after.

Gaiman’s writing is superb and the way he world builds in such simple terms is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett in the early days, he really does manage to sum up the essence of the old European fairy stories in very few pages while actually penning a tale that both fits in and shakes up the genre quite a bit, and has actually made this one of the easier reads of my 30 before 30 thus far.

Book Review: A Princess Of Mars

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A little while ago I came up with a list of books that I wanted to read before the time I become ancient (30) first on the list was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a prolific American writer most well know as the creator of Tarzan. A princess of Mars is the first novel to feature his second most well known creation John Carter of Mars.

The novel itself is fairly short and is a prime example of the general pulp science fiction that was popularised in early twentieth century America and without giving away the plot does stick rather closely to the formula for pulp, of man from Earth winds up on alien planet, fights and then joins with the natives, rescues a princess and then saves the day. As an early example of the sort of pulp (originally serialised in 1912) that was floating about the market place in those days you can forgive it for seeming a little done to death over 100 years later, because you realise it was one of the first to do it.

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The writing style feels a little disjointed as it is written in the form of memoir, so Edgar Rice Burroughs has written it in the manner of memoir penned by Captain John Carter, who has a tendency to go off on tangents mid explanation, which does spoil the narrative, however I feel this may have been a conscious choice by Burroughs, as it lends a certain verisimilitude to the work, and it shows that only a really great writer would be able to write from the point of view of an amateur, that is to say terrible, writer.

My only main criticism is that whilst the world of Barsoom is a rich and vibrant world the secondary characters ring a little flat, and whilst the protagonist and his circle are explored the villains of the piece such as Tal Hajus and Sarkoja are lacking in any real depth and seem to be there mainly as plot accelerators more than as real characters.

Overall it was an enjoyable distraction I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 and pick up some the other books that make up the Barsoom series to find out the fates of Deja Thoris and John Carter of Mars.

Look out for more reviews coming soon. 

30 Before Thirty (Comics & Graphic Novels)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the Comics and Graphic Novels that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

Grant Morrison’s 18 Days

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Camelot 3000

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Miracle Man: A Dream Of Flying

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All Star Superman 

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Preacher: Gone To Texas

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The Crow

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Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes

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Alan Moore’s: Saga of The Swamp Thing

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Marvel 1602

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Saga: Volume 1

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 The Order: Die Mensch Machine

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The Complete Scarlet Traces 

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Button Man

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Ronin 

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Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow 

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The Infinity Gauntlet 

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Amazing Spider-man: Kravens Last Hunt

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Promethea Book 1 

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus 

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Multiversity 

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Son Of Superman 

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Hellblazer: Original Sins 

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The Authority: Relentless 

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Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction 

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Doctor Who: Emperor Of The Daleks

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Death: The High Cost Of Living  

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JSA The Liberty Files 

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Alice In Sunderland 

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Daredevil Yellow

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The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

30 Before I’m Thirty (Films)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the films that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

How Green Was My Valley 

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Gentleman’s Agreement

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From Here to Eternity

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Gone With The Wind

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

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West Side Story

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Lawrence of Arabia

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

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Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

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Funny Girl

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Fiddler On The Roof

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All The Presidents Men

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Milk

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Kramer Vs Kramer

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Terms of Endearment 

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The Cider House Rules

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An Education

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The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Guardians of the Galaxy 2

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Moonrise Kingdom

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Saving Private Ryan

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Going In Style 

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Wall Street

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King Ralph

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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The Monuments Men

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Good Will Hunting

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Good Morning Vietnam 

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This Is Spinal Tap

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

More Quotes To Make You Look Smartified

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Here are some more quotes from literature, philosophy and politics that when dropped in everyday conversation will certainly make you seem smartified.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”-Mohandas K Gandhi

It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”-P.G. Wodehouse, The Man Upstairs

“Time ripens all things. No man is born wise. “ -Miguel De Cervantes- Don Quixote de La Mancha

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a man is to look at the people he has around him.”- Niccolo Machiavelli- The Prince 

“The more one is absorbed in fighting evil, the less one is tempted to place the good in question”- Jean Paul Sartre- Anti-Semite and Jew

“…Slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time; erelong she shall appear to vindicate thee.”-Immanuel Kant

” one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy”-Aristotle 

“Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.”– Arthur Miller 

“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”Marcus Aurelius- Meditations 

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”Mark Twain- A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court   

Drop a couple of those into your conversation and you too can look smartified.