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I had never heard of Flaubert’s Parrot or Julian Barnes (let alone Flaubert) when a teacher assigned this novel my senior year of high school. More than a decade later it remains one of the best and most influential books I’ve ever read, the novel that exploded my ideas of what fiction was able--was even allowed--to do. Ostensibly the story of a scholar searching for the stuffed parrot Flaubert kept on his desk, Flaubert's Parrot is actually a Frankenstein's monster of fiction, biography, and essay, a book that taught me postmodern playfulness and affecting storytelling (that is, my inner smartypants and my inner sap) can work wonders together.— From Sam