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Word Under the Street

Becca Janzen, 24, Ph.D. student

Book:The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

Janzen is an insatiable reader who likes almost every genre of literature under the sun, but prefers paper over pixilated books. “I’m doing my Ph.D. so I spend enough time looking at a screen.”

She flipped through The Heart of a Woman at a friend’s house and couldn’t put the autobiography down. “I had to go out and buy my own copy,” she said. “She’s a magnificent writer.”

The fourth in a seven-part series, The Heart of a Woman is said to be one of her most introspective autobiographies. It covers Angelou’s life from 1957 to 1962, including her move from California to New York.

William George, 29, cryptographer

Book: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

George, a self-styled “francophile” from Kentucky, has been chipping away at a French translation of Anna Karenina for a couple of years. Surprisingly, he found his copy in a used bookshop in Victoria, B.C.

Since he doesn’t understand Russian, he thought reading the classic in French would be the next best thing. “There’s a bit of an irony to that because one of the themes in Tolstoy is, like, these fake Russian nobles who pretend to be French,” he said. “I’m like a fake Anglophone who pretends to be Francophone.”

Grainne Holland, 30, Casa Loma employee

Book:The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

You could say Holland grew up in Middle Earth. Her mother started her on the Tolkien trilogy when she was little and Holland read it herself when she was old enough — again and again. “It must be my hundredth time now,” she said.

Some time ago, she went to New Zealand and visited Frodo’s house in the Shire movie set.

“I’m short so it’s OK, but anyone taller than me would have trouble.”

Amanda Pais, 28, insurance broker

Book:Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

The upshot of an hour-and-a-half TTC commute is that it gives Pais plenty of time to get through a 1,088-page doorstop such as Words of Radiance, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. She likes to get lost in big fantasy novels like this one, which describe surreal worlds in intricate detail. “It’s like delving into a different universe,” she said.

Sanderson keeps his readers hooked by teasing out the history of his fantasy universe, Roshar. “It’s not as sexy as Game of Thrones, but there’s a lot of fight scenes and killing,” Pais said.